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Table Dressing

Creating an unforgettable evening



Photos by Rana Faure

Throwing a dinner party for family and friends is one of the few times we can indulge in pure theater, with the dining table your stage and you as the director. Forget formal matchy-matchy rules. A mix of patterns and styles, antiques and HomeGoods bargains, combined with a dollop or two of whimsy, adds up to blockbuster appeal and a truly memorable meal.

A Midwinter Night’s Dream
“There is no greater compliment than to invite people into your home for a meal—it shows how much they mean to us,” says Bedford interior designer Brittany Bromley. “People feel special when they see you have worked to create an elegant atmosphere, a visual feast, as well as a repast.”

This visual feast starts at the front door and extends throughout the exquisitely restored circa-1795 house, a highlight of last year’s Bedford Holiday Homes tour. Every mantel and doorway is festooned with fragrant cedar garlands accented with lemons, radishes, and other colorful adornments. Orchids and paper whites frame the dining room windows, and the table is laden with two majestic amaryllis, begonias, ranunculus, parrot tulips, obedient plant, caldiva, and Western and incense cedars, topped with a fanciful bird cage.

“I wanted people to feel as though they had walked into a Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in December,” Bromley says.

Indeed, even the place cards are set for Puck, Titania, Oberon, and company. The stunning Quadrille tablecloth and napkins were custom-made, and Bromley paired her grandmother’s Champagne glasses and hot pink and gold china with her own wedding crystal and blue and white plates. In addition to the old and blue, Bromley added something new: chargers, flatware, and glassware rented from La Maison Fête, a local event company. 

The Mix Master
Journalist and author Jill Brooke is known for her frequent soirées and this Chanukah/ Christmas tablescape doesn’t disappoint with its brilliant mix of high end and low, tradition and new finds. “When I was editor-in-chief of Avenue Magazine, I was parachuted into a world of the best designers and hostesses,” she says. “And I also take inspiration from Ethel Kennedy, who once said, ‘You can’t control what is going on in the outside world, but you can create a celebration inside your home.’ I want our house to be a place that is fun and happy for our kids, and a festive table does just that.”   

Brooke always includes elements of nature and likes to incorporate religious symbols and family mementos into her designs: The pomegranates represent the 613 commandments of the Torah; bar and bat mitzvah cups are used to hold sprigs of berries and flowers; an heirloom tea service is filled with white blossoms. A big fan of Pier One, she loves pairing their inexpensive plates with red-stemmed Amen Wardy wine glasses, horn flatware, and her mother’s antique napkins brought over from Austria. Inexpensive red-glass balls serve as place cards; Brooke tucked them in Star of David ornaments she spray-painted gold, neatly encompassing two holiday customs.

Smoke and Mirrors
Waccabuc residents Terry Goodman and Jane Paccione believe that every social occasion—holiday dinners, birthday parties, showers, and graduations—should feel like a celebration. So it’s no surprise that they are often tapped to help friends, neighbors, and even the Katonah Museum create festive events, regularly pooling their resources for just the right effect.

They also draw upon each other’s collections for their parties at home, so who could blame their husbands for asking “Are these dishes ours?” as they sit down to dinner. Another part of the fun: coming up with the unexpected. “Everyone loves going out to a new restaurant—enjoying the music, flowers, lighting, and food,” Goodman says. “I want people coming to my house to have that same sense of discovery, the delight of a new experience.”

For this New Year’s Eve party, they created a separate pre-dinner tableau in the living room to prime guests for the main event. It’s hard to beat original Louis XV and XVI family-heirloom mirrors over the fireplace, complementing a funky mirror from Silk Road in Bronxville, reflecting a mirrored HomeGoods tray, for setting an eclectic ambiance!

After a glass (or three) of Champagne, the party moves to the dining room where Lenox wedding china is layered on Pier One chargers and beaded placemats from HomeGoods. Cream-handled Laguiole France steak knives pair effortlessly with inexpensive gold-trimmed stainless flatware. It’s a classic Goodman-Paccione production.

Entertaining tip: “People sometimes think twice before purchasing an expensive tabletop item, wondering how often they would actually use it. I say buy it! It will give you pleasure each time you bring it out and help make your party—and you—memorable.”

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