Expert reveals how to create a beautiful tablescape for every summer evening

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We’ve been locked up for over a year with nothing to do, but as the number of people vaccinated in the US continues to rise, people are starting to get out and get their social lives back. Hallelujah!

Looking for a chic summer soiree?

Penny Murphy, President of Palm Beach’s First Luxury Linen Store Pioneer Linens, shares her top tips for creating a beautiful tabletop.

Penny Murphy, President of Pioneer Linens, the leading luxury linen retailer in Palm Beach, shares her top tips for creating a beautiful tabletop

When creating a tablescape, Penny advises approaching it the same way as when dressing. Ask yourself what is the occasion?

“Dressing a table should be a fun and creative experience,” says the expert.

‘Think about your menu, which dishes are you going to use? Want to be more formal or casual?

“Once you’ve made these decisions, you can start putting together your table.”

Penny suggests starting with a standard white lace-stitched tablecloth.  'Think of this as a basic linen dress - if you want to dress up a bit more, you can put on a sparkly jacket, crystal earrings and an amazing ring'

Penny suggests starting with a standard white lace-stitched tablecloth. ‘Think of this as a basic linen dress – if you want to dress up a bit more, you can put on a sparkly jacket, crystal earrings and an amazing ring’

She suggests starting with a standard white lace-stitched tablecloth.

Think of this as a basic linen dress – if you want to dress up a bit more, you can throw on a sparkly jacket, crystal earrings and a great ring.

“You can dress up your table with sparkling placemats, gold chargers, formal bowls, great napkin rings to place your napkin on (like a bracelet!) and some beautiful crystal cups.”

Penny likes to mix old pieces, like her grandmother’s dishes, with newer collections.

“Sometimes I recycle some old bud vases that are in most homes and fill them with cut flowers or fresh cut flowers from my garden.”

The expert places the vases strategically around the table.

Penny, a self-confessed candlestick junkie, says she has a nice collection of formal silver, both basic white and coastal themed (as a Florida girl) and a few others

Penny, a self-confessed candlestick junkie, says she has a nice collection of formal silver, both basic white and coastal themed (as a Florida girl) and a few others

'Today, placemats come in so many colorful fabrics and natural materials.  Choose placemats that you can mix and match with your dishes'

‘Today, placemats come in so many colorful fabrics and natural materials. Choose placemats that you can mix and match with your dishes’

‘When designing my table….. I like to think about how I want my party to go.

‘What do I want my friends to remember the next day? Was it the flowers, the food, the mood, the other guests they mingled with?’

For a more casual party, Penny recommends getting a pretty colorful floral-print tablecloth, then layering it on complementary colored placemats and plates.

‘Today, placemats come in so many colorful fabrics and natural materials. Choose placemats that you can mix and match with your dishes.’

For a more casual party, Penny recommends a pretty colorful floral-print tablecloth, then layered onto complementary colored placemats and plates.

For a more casual party, Penny recommends a pretty colorful floral-print tablecloth, then layered onto complementary colored placemats and plates.

'When designing my table…..I like to think about how I want my party to go'

‘When designing my table…..I like to think about how I want my party to go’

Shells, fruits, lanterns and tropical leaves are the expert’s favorite centerpieces.

‘I love making a table with lots of materials and colors to make it even more fun! Sometimes I like to just walk around my house and find objects from my travels to put on my table for interest.”

She suggests using seasonal flowers or cutting leaves from your yard to create a fun colorful arrangement.

‘Tropical leaves seem to be popular these days, but all white flowers at the center tend to be more formal.

“I also like to use lemons, oranges, or any fruit I have around the house in the summer as centerpieces. You can easily put them in a nice basket.’

Penny recommends keeping centerpieces and table decor at eye level so that guests can see across the table and chat without obstruction.

'Tropical leaves seem popular these days, but all white flowers at the center tend to be more formal'

‘Tropical leaves seem popular these days, but all white flowers at the center tend to be more formal’

Lighting determines the atmosphere.

“As I get older, I think I look much better by candlelight. I like to use small tea lights mixed with candlesticks,” says Penny.

A self-confessed candleholder junky, the Floridian admits to having an extensive collection that includes formal silver, basic white and coastal themes.

She is also a fan of tiki torches for an outdoor event.

'I love making a table with lots of materials and colors to make it even more fun!  Sometimes I like to just walk around my house and find objects from my travels to put on my table for interest'

‘I love making a table with lots of materials and colors to make it even more fun! Sometimes I like to just walk around my house and find objects from my travels to put on my table for interest’

'All white flowers in the center are also a bit more formal'

‘All white flowers in the center are also a bit more formal’

When hosting an outdoor party, Penny recommends having a plan B in case of inclement weather.

She suggests anchoring decorations and keeping in mind that the wind can blow accessories or candles off the table.

Music sets the mood, so make sure you have wireless speakers at hand.

A wobbly chair won’t make for a pleasant experience, so make sure your chairs don’t sink into the sand or grass, and keep mosquitoes and other flies at bay with a preventative candle or bug trap.

While there are so many cute paper napkins on the market, Penny is a fan of cloth napkins

While there are so many cute paper napkins on the market, Penny is a fan of cloth napkins

While there are so many cute paper napkins on the market, Penny is a fan of cloth napkins.

“They are much more environmentally friendly,” she said. “And with all those different soaps and stain removers, she thinks they’re easy to maintain.

Just throw the napkins into a large soap bucket or bowl at the end of the party or the next day.

‘Soak them with some liquid dish soap until you have time to put them in the washing machine.

“If they’ve been through the washing machine, check them for stains. If they still have stains, find a good stain remover. Dry them on low heat and immediately remove them from the dryer.

‘Then smooth by hand, fold and they’re good for another casual get-together.’

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