Perfect tables are a cinch with the help of these NoVA experts


After more than a year of Virtual Thanksgiving, Pandemic Christmas, Hanukkah via Zoom, and New Years Eve spent alone watching the ball drop, raise your hand if you’re feeling rusty being with other people, without talk about entertaining you. But don’t be afraid. You can once again bring friends and family together in your home, whether it’s to mark a vacation or just to see faces you’ve missed, with minimal stress. If you’re looking to wow your guests as they sit down for a night of incredible camaraderie and delicious meals, follow these pro tips for the perfect cutlery.

Boho bash

Glory Barbaris, Founder and Creative Director of Sterling-based Wildflower Hill Co., used decor that draws inspiration from earthy elements and textured neutrals to create this natural look. His approach? Mix and match items to create a clean and airy vibe, perfect for NoVA’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

Photo by Michael Butcher

The settings
Barbaris layered in cutlery from Amazon, vintage cut glasses from Wildflower’s rental collection, and plates from Bed, Bath & Beyond. A chiffon runner from Amazon creates a sense of movement.

The audience
Your diners should feel comfortable at the table, so Barbaris suggests adding cushions and soft blankets for a relaxed and comfortable aesthetic. (She usually gets affordable items from HomeSense or HomeGoods.) Drape them over the backs of chairs or fold them over each seat. This will get people to linger and keep them warm during the colder months.

Dried materials are synonymous with bohemian flair, so Barbaris made sure to pair them with fresh flowers throughout its setting – a mix of garden roses, butterfly ranunculus, amaranth, rabbit tails, wheatgrass, bleached scabiosa, seeded eucalyptus and astrantia. She bought them, along with the pillar candles, at the Chantilly metro flower market.

Business cards
These designs from the team at Wildflower Hill Co. enhance the table setting, giving it a touch of formality with assigned seating, especially important if someone has dietary restrictions.

Modern Art

Hosting gives you the opportunity to get creative, just like Falls Church-based Bellwether Events Founder Janice Carnevale did for this contemporary broadcast, in which every element becomes a work of art.

contemporary table decoration
Photo by Michael Butcher

The table runner
Carnevale worked with Arlington-based painter Brittany Branson to come up with this personalized table runner, although it can be an easy DIY project. Take out a few brushes and try an abstract drawing freehand. “Just be sure to mix your acrylic paints with a fabric binder,” Carnevale explains.

Art objects
To add dimension, Carnevale used mini canvases and easels to create small-scale 3D artwork. (Branson also brought his painter’s brush to these pieces.) Fresh flowers were springing from the canvases and the candelabras were also filled with flowers to add interest. Carnevale picked them from Potomac Floral Wholesale in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Because the event industry is experiencing a shortage of flowers, Carnevale advises keeping flowers to a minimum and incorporating plants instead. Maybe you already have some at home. “Botanologica in Falls Church sells some of the finest plants and containers that can easily go from your windowsill to your centerpiece without a second thought,” she says.

The parameters of the place
“Using layers of plates, napkins, and stationery can create a welcoming and exciting first impression when your guests arrive,” notes Carnevale, who leaned on products from DC Rental in Shirlington and Select Event Group at Tysons Corner. “Don’t be afraid to mix up patterns and styles, as long as you stay consistent with the color scheme.”

Glammed Up

Woodbridge-based Perfect Planning Events Founder and Creative Director Tara Melvin started out in a sentimental location for her sophisticated broadcast. She wanted to celebrate what she calls “black girl magic,” or the connection between close companions and their culture. “Imagine yourself and your best friends at an elegant table that represents your inner and outer beauty,” she says.

elegant table
Photo by Michael Butcher

On a whim, Melvin picked up these antique diamond-cut vases from a DC flea market, knowing that she would eventually find a reason to use them. “Don’t ignore the flea markets,” she advises. “You will find some of the most perfect gems. “

Napkin rings
Not only do these ivory agate napkin holders from Amazon add a touch of sparkle, they also symbolize calm and peace, perfect for a party with friends. Melvin says they work well because they can be dressed up or down, for formal or casual dining.

The small details
When it comes to decorating your party, take a tour of your home, says Melvin. These ornate decorative balls, for example, were taken directly from her personal decor – she uses them in her living room, office and bathrooms.

Wine glasses
Here, Melvin used an oversized bubbly red wine glass. “I recommend using a red wine glass, especially when you don’t know which wine your guests will prefer,” she says. Sticking to one type also eliminates excess on a crowded table. Find options at places like Evolution Home in Alexandria.

the candles
Amplify the drama with multiple candles, like Melvin does here. (Look for them at local stores like Gift & Gather in Occoquan.) She incorporated black and gold tapered designs to complement the porcelain and harmonize with the bold and vibrant tabletop landscape. “They set an elegant tone and energy,” says Melvin.

The plates
Melvin bought these black and white patterned pieces for a friendship dinner with his friends; she bought them at Walmart, although she advises you to find special plates at The Old Lucketts store in Leesburg. Think about how you can reflect your guests in the decor: the inset shapes, for example, represent the tenacity and will to succeed of friends.

This story originally appeared in our November issue. For more stories like this subscribe to our monthly magazine.


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