Friday, March 23, 2018

Design This Look: How to Create an Elegant Garden-Green St. Patrick's Tablescape - with a Nod to Irish Ladies in Literature



Where to begin when setting out to design a green-themed, St. Patrick’s Day styled Tablescape?

Put on your emerald earrings and bracelet, of course!

Then, plan your tablescape outline. For me, this design was not to be a major presentation. After all, I wasn’t planning a dinner party or brunch for guests. It was for Bill and me.

It was to be a kind of transition from the more elaborate Lunar New Year & Valentine’s Day Ladies Who Lunch composition I created in early February (that post soon to follow) and to a full-on Spring and Easter tablescape.

In terms of a St. Patrick’s Day Tablescape, I wanted to pursue a design that was relatively cost-conscious. I challenged myself to get many of the elements from the grocery store or the second-time around shop in the small town where our country house is - versus shopping the emporium on Broadway, the floral district here in Gotham, or the internet, as I usually do.

I already knew I wanted to create a glamorous look that emphasized the Emerald Isle’s artful heritage (rather than all that green-beer, leprechaun-goofy insults to a culture that gave us great gardens, a patrimony of enduring, artisanal decor and design, and of course, world-class literature.

It was to be a natural. Irish tell stories like nobody else (except maybe for US Southerners, but in the end, even they claim it’s an Irish storytelling tradition). And tablescapes tell stories.
I just needed to create a narrative that would honor the Irish culture…

So here I had my outline or concept for this tablescape design.

And while (hopefully) most know many of the great Irish writers, I was willing to bet that very few would know of Ireland’s cohort of great female writers. I wanted to get some of their books to use as a prop or design element but more importantly to use as a conversation starter.

I started by researching the writers.

You can have your Brian Friel, Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Oscar Wilde, but this year, celebrating the Irish, I turned to those overlooked in the pantheon of world-class Irish writers.
Here's what I found:

Eavan Boland is an Irish poet.
Works Written: Object lessons, Three Irish Poets, After Every War +more
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Edna O'Brien is a writer.
Works Written: The Country Girls, Oh! Calcutta!, Girl with Green Eyes +more
Birthplace: Tuamgraney, Republic of Ireland

Marina Carr is an Irish playwright. Born in Tullamore, County Offaly, Carr grew up in a household filled with literature.
Works Written: By the Bog of Cats, The Mai, On Raftery's Hill Birthplace: County Offaly, Birthplace: Republic of Ireland

Patricia Lynch was an Irish author of children's literature and a journalist. She was the author of some 48 novels and 200 short stories. She is best known for blending Irish rural life and fantasy as in The Turf-Cutter's Donkey

Elizabeth Bowen was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
Works Written: The Heat of the Day, The Last September, Eva Trout and more
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Now, to implement the literal "look book" or "book look!"

I thought I’d get paperbacks of the literature to stack on the table. However, despite a number of online searches and phone calls to local bookstores, no books were to be found. Sigh.
The library yielded one book by a contemporary Irish female writer: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright. I took it.

Next, on to the grocery store to buy the flowers: baby’s breath and light green carnations to create a fresh green and crisp white look. I was already the lucky recipient of an oxalis, four-leaf clover plant that my Mother, Virginia gifted me. I had a sparkly green pot that worked perfectly in size and decor to hold the plant. This would be the centerpiece.

At the grocery store I was also looking for the gold coin candies to create a pot of gold but had to settle for gold-wrapped chocolates. I added real dollar coins to the gold, spray-painted “pot” to the final look and it worked. 
Pot of Gold and Special Spuds elevate the Irish Tablescape
What else in the green realm? Fresh, green, Granny Smith apples, of course! And kiwi fruit. With some edible orchids as a color and taste contrast.

Later, it was a treat to eat the green kiwi with the edible orchids and mandarin oranges.
Edible orchid and Green Kiwi 
I also got some pretty potatoes to use in the design as a kind of twist on a Irish trope. By “honoring” the spuds in a cut glass candy dish, it too worked - not only in good looks but as a conversation piece, which is a key reason for creating a compelling tablescape in the first place.

Next stop was the local second time around shop. Here, there are items that are a kind of curiosity shop discoveries that I can repurpose.
Rows and stacks of curious things just waiting 

And the staff is something out of Harry Potter!


I found green glass plates. But not a matched set of six or even four. When all seemed lost, I decided I’d just mix and match the two different styled plates. 
  

I found some pretty, inexpensive lace, doilies that would work for a mix-matched nod to the art of Irish linens.

I found a female bust I thought would be a delightful part of the female writer narrative. Yes! I was on a roll.
I sprang for a green glass vase. Can’t have too many flower showpieces, right?

It was time to head home and assemble the tablescape story.

I asked Alexa to play traditional Irish music as a mood influencer and made another pot of coffee to enjoy some Irish Coffee made with Baileys Irish Cream. Hey, tablescaping should be fun.

At the same time, I looked around my home “inventory” and dipped into the clutch of table setting items for sure, as well as looked around at other things - both decorative and performance - that I re-purposed. That's fun, too. (And you can kinda' purge at the same time!)

I love our antique dining table and try not to tablecloth it. And here, for the “wearin’ of the green,” I left more of the deep wood to shine out because the brown wood contrast with the elements of glass and green would be quietly dramatic. Further, I wasn’t setting the table for a full dinner party.

The flowers were placed in the clear glass place setting mini vases, grouped in a kind of holy trinity on each side of the table to balance off the centerpiece. The vases looked nice with the baby’s breath as halo to the green carnations. 

As an aside, I use carnations frequently - they last a long time, smell wonderful, are available in a variety of colors that play well with all kinds of decor from sophisticated to casual.
I put out some of our lace embroidered linen cocktail napkins to accessorize the look.  Overall, I prefer the “substance” of a linen napkin. Yes, they can be more work but this is entertaining - you want the best for you and your loved ones. Plus, you can readily wash them, saving the planet from all that one-time-use paper.  And the linens last for generations...

My green, silver and enamel demitasse cups - that look almost like jewelry - along with the gemstone spoons called out to me to join the party. Perfect!

As were the Waterford crystal glasses. If you don’t know, the crystal manufacturer is named after the city of Waterford in Ireland.

The piece de resistance? I had just received the crown music boxes that I’d ordered the first week of February -- that’s another story entirely! 


But they are gorgeous: little crosses on top, solid silver in appearance, dotted with “diamonds” - very regal and a perfect visual to help tell a story about Ireland and Irish knights and fairy tales and stories. Best of all, the music boxes open, where I can surprise my guests with a delicious amuse bouche when they pull back the top!


I saw our silver after-dinner cups that look like they were taken from a table at Camelot - and voila! They complemented the crowns like a Celtic cross!

I pulled two green candles that have a stenciled pattern on the glass. These beauties amplified the oxalis green centerpiece.

I went to our home library and pulled a few garden books that featured “green” in the title and that were written by women. I especially was drawn to my garden writer friend, Anne Raver. More conversation starters...

I liked the composition. The female bust highlighted the books at the head of the table. The green-leaf neck band that my niece Marissa made worked as a kind of "garden" at her base.
Bill liked the look too, and after walking around the table, he then suggested that “she” needed a necklace. 
The man has taste when it comes to jewelry. (Did you see my new Eternity ring?!) 
I scooted up to my jewelry boxes and found a Little LimeⓇ hydrangea-colored green sparkly necklace.
It is a perfect Finishing Touch. Along with that Irish Whisky from Jameson. Wink, wink. The pedigree and the green bottle is a fun design touch.

The table is inviting and pretty -- it’s a delight to just look at. It tells a great story. And it welcomes you and guests.
Enjoy the video walk-around (sorry about the tilting at the end.  But you'll get the idea and look)  




You can create a thoughtful, sophisticated, whimsical tablescape like this. The creative design doesn’t take a lot of time and uses cost-conscious grocery-store bought flowers, candy, vegetables, and fruit - along with repurposing items from your home. And it’s fun.
Entertaining should always delight you - and your guests.  And if you can't bring yourself to create such a composition - contact me.  It would be my great pleasure to work with you via Facetime or email to tell your own story and to create your own tablescape fantasy.


Sl├ínte! -- “To your Health” in Gaelic.

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