4) Layer and Mix You dress in layers for fall, so why not set your table the same way? Layering gives a great texture to your table and a real wow factor when those dining room doors are thrown open. Here, the layering was contained mostly to the individual place settings, keeping much of the rest of the table free. Who says you can't use a placemat (here, oval and woven) and chargers? I've even layered napkins... a great way to look indulgent, without a lot of outlay. Plus, it's practical for multi-course meals: whisk the first napkin away with the soup bowls, and everyone has a clean, fresh start for the main course.
As you layer, make sure to consider what you're already working with, and draw from similarities to what you've already got going on. The flatware pattern was chosen for its plate-echoing raised-bead detail, making the beaded-edge napkins also a perfect choice. Playing up the bird theme started by the salt and pepper shakers, I added the woven decorative quail, nest-y chargers, and even that woven centerpiece basket. The pheasant feathers tucked in with the napkins share a banded effect with the woven placemats, the tiny pussy willow relate in color and beaded pattern to the dishes. 5) See Past the Season As tempting as retailers make it to snap up holiday- and seasonally-themed plates and platters, I prefer to select pieces that have life past the season. Bird-nest inspired chargers would be perfect for an Easter table, and the heftier woven wicker chargers could find their place at any summer picnic. The dinnerware itself, while Thanksgiving-perfect, is a truly neutral starting point. 6) Splurge on a Centerpiece Sure, you can run out to the deli or flower market and grab a bouquet, but I think special occasions deserve special flowers. And if you save elsewhere, like I did with the tablecloth and runner, you can splurge on a made-to-order centerpiece (or if you're florally-inclined, you can whip up something yourself). But here's a way to keep costs down, even on your big floral splurge: take your own container to the florist, and have them make the arrangement in your bowl, basket or vase. It also helps to assure your completed arrangement will be the right scale for your table if you start with a container you already own. Even though you're using a professional, don't be afraid to "art direct" the arrangement, giving the florist ideas about how elegant, formal or casual you want the final arrangement to be, and what colors you're planning on. Also, talk more color than favorite flower — let them use what's seasonally available, in your preferred palette, and you'll save again. It's also important to convey where you plan on placing it (at the center of the table, or as a focal point of a buffet, for example) to help determine the final height. You can even bring samples of your napkins or other elements you plan to incorporate. You'll end up with a table that looks coordinated to your focal point, and not like you plunked down the flowers your great aunt sent in from out of town.
Even though there is a great centerpiece bowl that's part of this particular line of dinnerware, here's a case where it's more stylish to mix, not match. The piece I gave the florist was a woven ceramic serving basket lined with moss, tying in to the chargers and playing up the overall avian theme with its bird's nest-evocative shape and design. After this arrangement arrived, I tucked in feathers and mini faux pussy willow, to tie in the individual place settings. Don't be afraid to add your own touch to the delivered arrangement, like adding fresh garnish or your own spices to a store-bought side dish. The non-traditional palette of the flowers came from the table itself — deep romantic reds, raisin. That dash of true purple keeps things fresh and a tiny bit modern. It's also a great way to incorporate a color from your interior onto your table. (Images: Linda Greene/Lenox)