Story by William Lynch | Photography by Catherine May Taylor
When it comes to home entertaining, my partner Chase and I both bring a lot to the table – literally – combining our talents and career backgrounds to create an occasion that is always special and memorable. I’m originally from Cleveland, where I started and ran a floral and event design business during high school and college. Some of my clients have included Khloe Kardashian, “Entourage” star Jerry Ferrara, and Geraldo Rivera. Chase has been around design his entire life. He went to High Point University for interior design, and when he’s not working with me on projects, we’re both working with Chase’s mother, Martha Peterson, designing and flipping houses. Entertaining is one of the many things that brought us together; after living together for a year and a half, we’ve become known by our friends and family to have some of the best dinner parties.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, it’s time to start planning for holiday dinners and parties – and that really calls to our creativity both in design and in cuisine. Like so many people around the country, Thanksgiving, or “friendsgiving,” is one of our favorite holidays to entertain guests, and every year we host a friendsgiving party with our close friends. Naturally, we’re also always called upon to help our families decorate and plan for Thanksgiving. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility, but we love the challenge of coming up with great ideas that will really create a great moment, especially with regards to the table.
When we start to think about any dinner party, especially Thanksgiving dinner, we always start with the tabletop. We tend to stay away from the typical brown and orange table setting and do something unique and different each year. This year, our spin on Thanksgiving led us to deep purples and gold. Unexpected? Perhaps. But nevertheless, it really accomplished the goal of being truly stunning and absolutely distinctive.
As I always do a few nights before any special occasion or dinner party, I began to work on the flower arrangements. Inspired by a beautiful damask linen, we brought in deeper colors and tones from the linen when selecting the flowers. Though I love arrangements that have no greenery, when I use it, I always start with a base of greens. For this dinner, I used magnolia and seeded eucalyptus. After I framed the shape of the centerpiece, I added the florals: deep burgundy cymbidium orchids, sexy black calla lilies, and clusters of fuchsia and lavender roses. I tend to lean toward more modern design by clustering flowers together. It makes the design more impactful rather than scattering flowers here and there. In addition to the traditional floral elements, because Thanksgiving is a holiday so focused around food and the earth, I added cut pomegranates and kale to the centerpiece. It’s important to remember to be careful when adding pomegranates to the centerpiece, however, as they drip juice. Needless to say, Chase was not happy when some red pomegranate juice dripped on the white napkins!
After we selected the linens, design, and florals, it was time for Chase’s favorite part: setting the table! Chase loves over-the-top traditional tables. For this table, we started with glittering gold beaded glass chargers. When we set them on the table, we started to second-guess the entire table, as it started to look like something more suited for the Far East rather than an American Thanksgiving. As Chase started to panic, I reminded him to take a deep breath and stick to our vision, as it always comes together in the end! We added a simple white dinner plate to the top of the charger, some gorgeous blue and white china that was Chase’s grandmother’s, and simple white square napkins. Finally, it started to look more like Thanksgiving. We love mixing antiques with new, modern elements, and the blue and gold pattern of the china blended nicely with the gold accents of the table and the deep blues in the room.
As you’re decorating for any occasion, it’s important to add little touches to a table that make your guests feel special. This Thanksgiving, we used mini pumpkins that you can find at any grocery store, spray painted them gold, and placed them on top of the napkin—a little touch to make the table feel more festive. If you like to do assigned seating, adding the name of the guest to each pumpkin with a Sharpie marker or pen is a great place card. I also love adding some sort of small gift for the guests, even though guests tend to forget them before they leave. For this table, we gave each guest a mini bottle of prosecco and wrote the date of the Thanksgiving dinner on the bottle as something small to remember the dinner.
When we entertain, we love to think about the whole experience, not just the dinner or the table. We want our guests to feel festive from the moment they walk in and certainly don’t want them to have to wait for a drink, so we love doing a signature entrance cocktail at our parties. This Thanksgiving, instead of serving a glass of champagne, we served a Thanksgiving mimosa. Our recipe called for adding a splash of apple cider to a glass of champagne and garnishing it with a small apple slice. Presentation is everything! And while Chase would love to have someone standing at the door with a tray of glasses, that’s not practical (unless you have a full house staff or have hired a catering team), so we added a simple vase of greens with magnolia leaves around the tray to dress it up.
As we’ve learned through our many occasions of entertaining, when planning Thanksgiving or any dinner party it’s critical to everyone’s sanity to always give yourself more time than you think you will need. We constantly go back and forth on timing, as Chase loves doing everything at the last minute, and I would much prefer setting it all up months in advance. Impractical and impossible, of course, but it would certainly make things run so much more smoothly. But even with the most precise planning, you must realize that, when setting up for a dinner or party, something will always go wrong. Something almost certainly won’t be exactly how you pictured it, but it will always come together. In the moment, it can seem like life or death, but at the end of the day, it’s all about being thankful for the wonderful friends and family that are seated around the table. Remember that while you plan. And most importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy it!