February 13, 2011

Terrific centerpieces are a lot like great party guests. They add an extra jolt of energy to the room, attract the eye, and spark interesting conversations. Best of all, they don't make a great deal of demands on the hostess. With summer's abundance of ravishing flowers and fruits, anyone can easily assemble an arrangement that's lively, provocative, and unexpected -- sure to be the guest of honor at any party.

One of the best ways to get inspiration for centerpieces is to look to your table -- the napkins, the glasses, the food you plan to serve. All can spark ideas. You might reiterate the rich blue of a tablecloth with bunches of hydrangeas, emulate the design of a plate's edge, or spotlight the same fruits you're preparing for dessert.

On Second Glance

The more you look at this centerpiece, the more clever it seems. [See image 2 above.] Actually an assemblage of several smaller and more manageable arrangements, the setup offers an easy way to tame a fresh-from-the-garden mix of roses, hydrangeas, delphiniums, lady's mantle, scented geraniums, and potato vine. A pitcher in the center gives height, while kitchen crocks (sugar bowls, eggcups) allow the inclusion of short-stemmed beauties. Using a monochromatic scheme of cool blues and contrasting the floral abundance with geometric place settings balances the romance with a little modernism.

Turn It Loose

Centerpieces don't have to be perfectly balanced and precisely composed. There's beauty in letting flowers and vines be their riotous, sprawling selves. [See image 3 above.] For these groupings of trailing sweet autumn clematis, passion-flower vines, and figs, a row of cake stands and pedestal candleholders shielded by hurricane glasses lets the greenery -- and heady perfume of summer -- flow.

Free Floating

There's no need for the elaborate and the excessive. What could be easier than floating a few fresh garden roses, nasturtiums, and phlox in small bowls of water? [See image 4 above.] But that's more than enough when they're placed upon a platform of pretty vintage tiles that serves as both a table runner and a trivet. The patterns and shape of the tiles are echoed by block-print napkins, and additional tiles are used as bread plates.

Cue the Sunset

With the right candlelight, a few natural references, and a little human intervention, an outdoor table can compete with even the most majestic scenery. [See image 5 above.] The components of this centerpiece include candleholders wrapped in punched paper to evoke white coral and driftwood done up with spray paint to emulate branches of red coral.


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