Dinner Party Shortcuts
Flip through our editors' picks for quick dinner party decorating and table-setting tricks.
Send each guest a card with a different fresh herb attached: Punch small holes in the top of plain note cards and thread a sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme or tarragon through the holes. Ask guests to bring a dish made with whichever herb is on their invitation.
Daring designer Genevieve Gorder works decorating miracles on The Learning Channel's Trading Spaces, and she did the same with this month's centerpiece: Her arrangement comes together for about $6! The ingredients: a cheap bunch of supermarket flowers, a bag of colorful dried beans and some tall glasses from your cabinet. Fill each glass with a 2- to 3-inch layer of beans and add a few tablespoons of water. Trim one flower stem to fit inside each glass, then arrange the "vases" down the center of the table.
Buy cloth napkins at a local discount or dollar store and stamp or stencil each with a guest's initials.
Make a hole in a small seashell, string it with raffia and tie it around the base of a wineglass.
Designer Vera Wang is well-versed in unfussy elegance -- just ask any bride she's dressed! She brings that same understated beauty to her Simply Vera Vera Wang line for Kohl's. So when we asked her to create a spring table for us, she dreamed up something fresh, clean and chic. Her idea: Pluck large leaves from your backyard and place them in bowls and pitchers. Add a few sprigs of sage and rosemary, and you'll have a centerpiece that's easy to love all season long.
Tie on some seasonal ingredients: String cinnamon sticks, fresh herbs or cranberries on kitchen twine or ribbon and wrap them around napkins.
All Bottled Up
Dina Cheney is an expert on showing you how to throw cheese tastings, honey tastings and other food-sampling parties. When we asked her to design a centerpiece, she came up with another tasty idea: Fill Glass bottles with assorted extra-virgin olive oils and add supermarket ingredients like rosemary sprigs, fresh chiles and citrus peel. You can give away the decorative oils as parting gifts.
Now and Zen
Create a spalike setting with foliage and earth-toned tableware. Scan the store for chopsticks, candles and stones (usually sold in small bags) to round out the look. You don't need a tablecloth -- just cover the table with brown craft paper!
Jonathan Adler -- interior designer and consummate tastemaker -- has three words for anyone who's facing a bare dining-room table: Arrange with attitude! His idea for this centerpiece involves nothing more than bowls and vases (use what you have), a piece of foliage, green apples and walnuts. Organize as you wish -- try symmetry (two vases, one bowl), or a random cluster. His arrangement comes with an added bonus: Your guests can snack on it after dinner.
Place a letter stencil on a brownie square and dust with confectioners' sugar.
Buy herb plants and repot them in small glass jars as a table decoration and parting gift.
In place of after-dinner coffee, bring out mugs filled with bags of coffee beans for everyone to take home.