Con­trast­ing ta­ble set­tings by event stylists Jo Clar­avall and Cyndi Fer­nan­dez-bel­tran


The grandiose in­flu­ences of the Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian eras have al­ways been, and will al­ways be, the by­word in clas­si­cally el­e­gant home dé­cor. No mat­ter the chang­ing trend, now go­ing for stream­lined in­te­ri­ors that bor­der on the fu­tur­is­tic, the de­mand re­mains undi­min­ished for lav­ish designs that bring back Old World so­phis­ti­ca­tion and grandeur. Ta­ble set­tings, in par­tic­u­lar, con­tinue to play up the taste for or­nate or­na­men­ta­tion that so char­ac­terised the turn of the last cen­tury. Flo­ri­og­ra­phy—the lan­guage of flow­ers that was pop­u­lar in the 18th and 19th cen­turies—has been given new life by way of lux­u­ri­ous ar­range­ments that speak vol­umes about an oc­ca­sion, a fam­ily mile­stone or the life of an in­di­vid­ual be­ing fêted. Two de­sign­ers have cre­ated con­trast­ing set­tings that per­fectly cap­ture the look and feel of a by­gone age: one cap­tures the opulence of the Vic­to­rian age with a dark pal­ette and richly coloured blooms; the other re­minds of an Ed­war­dian gar­den basking in the sum­mer sun.


Event stylist Jo Clar­avall takes din­ers to an English coun­try manor in high sum­mer with what she calls Crisp Time­less­ness.

Here, the ta­ble is set for a lunch or af­ter­noon tea—but the meal and the cel­e­bra­tion can eas­ily spill over into the evening for din­ner fol­lowed by a se­lec­tion of pe­tits-fours and, per­haps, a fine co­gnac.

The set­ting here fea­tures a pris­tine pal­ette of white and cream with a cool touch of sil­ver; it is el­e­gant enough for roy­alty but re­tains some mea­sure of wel­come in­for­mal­ity given the venue.

Roy­alty was, truth be told, not far from Clar­avall’s mind when she built up her con­cept. “I would like to think that this would be some­thing that the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge would come up with,” she en­thuses. “Like Wil­liam and Kate invit­ing ev­ery­one to cel­e­brate Prince Harry’s en­gage­ment to Meghan Markle!”

The set­ting brings in a lit­tle of the great out­doors to the ta­ble. Clar­avall has cho­sen blooms and fo­liage that would evoke the feel­ing of sit­ting in a lush gar­den. The flow­ers, in par­tic­u­lar, give the im­pres­sion that the very clouds have drifted down from the sky to add a mag­i­cal nu­ance to the meal; Clar­avall has made use of mas­sive cab­bage roses, cloud-like hy­drangeas, frilly Queen Anne’s lace, dra­matic ma­ti­ola and pin­cush­ion flow­ers all in­ter­spersed with bright sun­flow­ers for a glow­ing con­trast. The green­ery is a mix of syl­van and hot­house el­e­ments as it fea­tures blue cy­press, ferns, eu­ca­lyp­tus and art­fully ar­ranged suc­cu­lents.

Place set­tings, on the other hand, feature an eclec­tic mix of an­tique china with etched glasses from France. Sil­ver is the dom­i­nant ac­cent to the over­all scheme, as the flow­ers are ar­ranged in el­e­gant urns and taste­ful bric-a-bracs are ar­ranged across the ta­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to Clar­avall, the styling is pol­ished and re­fined with a re­laxed and some­what au courant vibe—some­thing that would be con­ducive to fos­ter­ing a sense of ca­ma­raderie among guests.

“I feel it al­lows for good con­ver­sa­tion,” she opines. “The flow­ers are kept low and, while all the el­e­ments are beau­ti­ful on their own, they blend to­gether very well. You can see the ta­ble as a whole without feel­ing over­whelmed by any of the el­e­ments.”

Clar­avall has some ad­vice for those who want to add a re­laxed vibe or a touch of lux­ury to their ta­ble set­tings. “Charg­ers in­stead of place mats al­ways,” she says. “Also, do a beau­ti­ful cen­tre­piece... style your ta­ble with a lot of pas­sion! And be sure to build up the am­bi­ence by keep­ing the light­ing dim or us­ing can­dle­light. Plus, add your own per­son­al­ity to the mix and you can never go wrong.”

THIS PAGE Event stylist, Jo Clar­avall

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