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Entertaining: Tables that Thrill

Seven designers teach us how to spruce up those tables.

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This year’s event celebrated the centennial of Steuben Glass by incorporating the company’s stemware and sculptures into each table. The upstate New York-based company prides itself on balancing state-of-the-art technology with centuries-old traditional glassmaking techniques. Steuben’s trademark smooth, thick appearance reflects light through clear or etched surfaces and not with busy facets.

The seven local designers who participated chose Steuben sculptures and used them as themes for their tables. The inspirations varied quite a bit, including a glass frog prince figurine, a block of glass with an etched New York skyline and a Georgian-style vase. The results were amazingly inventive, taking on drastically different moods.

The judges chose Nita Enoch’s arctic fisherman-inspired table as the winner. Another fishing table, Janet Brown’s fly-fishing-themed spread, won the people’s choice award. The commonality: They both carried out their themes in unexpected ways. Enoch cleverly used the ice-fishing theme to design a table full of crystal, gold, silver and suggestions of snow and ice, without resorting to the overuse of the color white. She set the square sculpture up high, atop a snow mountain of carnations.

“I wanted to create a setting with the colors of winter and snow so I used the cool colors of gray and silver in the fabrics and the charger,” Enoch says. “The hard textures of crystal and silver suggest the icy surface. Really the only white I used on the table was the white carnations that the sculpture sat on to create a snowy bank.”

At each setting a chilled vodka shot sits on top of ice while silver mint julep cups, which served as red wine glasses, added an unexpectedly frosty touch. Enoch was not afraid to mix gold and silver: white tea cups with gold flecks almost look like falling snow and picked up the gold outline on the chargers.

Janet Brown’s interpretation of Trout & Fly was selected as the popular favorite perhaps because of the designer’s attention to detail. Brown also surprisingly mixed rough, outdoorsy elements, such as a burlap table cloth, with delicate antique trout plates and fish knives. She used twine and fishing lures to hold embroidered napkins, again mixing the rough and the refined. The centerpiece also was particularly breathtaking. The smooth, arched Steuben trout appears to jump out of a weathered flower pot. The green grasses dripping from the pot take on a waterlike effect. Pebbles and moss surrounding the pot almost look like the bottom of a river. Brown even went as far as to use wooden, straw-seat chairs with antique fly fishing basket backpacks.

The other tables varied in mood. Some were sophisticated like Gary Inman’s jazz-inspired dessert table. Others were whimsical like Mason-Butler’s pink-and-green frog prince table with a towering flower arrangement of berries and wispy greens. And still others stressed celebration, like Chris McCray’s New Year’s in New York table that incorporated the dropping New Year’s ball as an elevated centerpiece.

No matter what look you’re after, the key to a memorable table, according to Enoch, is to have fun with it. “I think most of all you should really enjoy creating a tablescape. It’s really a stage for your hospitality.” HS



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