Our Top 4 Elements of a Tantalizing Tablescape

Recently, our own Jill McKenzie was quoted for a holiday tabletop article for the AJC by Merlisa Lawrence Corbett. The article shares some fantastic tips and ideas for creating the perfect setting for all of your holiday tables… And, as you’re surely aware, we’re in crunch time for holiday gatherings!

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In this luxe tablescape, we used Royal Crown Derby china, Baccarat glassware, Reed and Barton cutlery and vintage brass candlesticks.

So, if you’ll be hosting any seasonal soirees, read below to learn what our top four elements to any tantalizing tablescape are:

  • THE Tablecloth – it’s the base of your entire tablescape and sets the mood for the entire gathering. Anything from fine linen textiles to an antique quilt may be used. Just make it interesting and make it YOU.
    • An easy formula for a classic tablescape is to begin with a white or cream tablecloth then dress it up or down with runners, squares, etc. Le Jacquard Provence Strawberry square
    • Linens from Le Jacquard Francais, such as their 69″x69″ squares are a fantastic addition, when placed as a “diamond” in the center of the table. The offer wonderful color and interest!
  • Individualize Place Settings – add a personalized touch to your table by using different pieces at everyone’s place. And be sure to pull out the fancy china for these gatherings! After all, what are you saving it for?!
    • It’s also a smart idea to use little place cards, especially for a larger group, as this makes selecting a seat effortless and you can assist with the flow of conversation by specifically selecting who will sit where.

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  • Considerate Centerpieces – the formula for a sensational centerpiece is simple = keep it low or very high, not in between. You want to ensure your guests can see each other across the table!
    Teak and resin candle holder - use with taper candles or votives!
    Teak and resin candle holder – use with taper candles or votives!
    • Add a “wow factor” with fabulous candle holders and candelabras, mix in natural elements and create a few simple floral arrangements with grocery store flower or even greenery cuttings from your own backyard.

      Ivory and gold "fishnet" tapers
      Ivory and gold “fishnet” tapers
    • OR, if you have simple candle holders, a fabulous set of taper candles may be all you need to add a bit of oomph to your table!
R. Wood's Chartreuse colorway
R. Wood’s Chartreuse colorway
  • Unexpected Colors – add a third color into your holiday tablescapes to shake things up a bit… Try green, red and gold or green red a silver. OR, consider a unique hue of green. We love R. Wood’s super saturated chartreuse color, which really adds a lot of brightness to a tabletop.

*BONUS TIP: Set your table in advance – at least a day prior to your event. Take this opportunity to play around with your tablescape and even “audition” different centerpieces or serving pieces. Layout a place setting then walk away. As you move throughout the space, you’ll know how you like it or how it could be improved.

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This New Years Eve buffet is fit for a celebration, thanks to the beautiful Match Pewter, stunning (yet care-free) acrylic glasses and original works by Steve McKenzie.

As our favorite, festive time for the year quickly approaches, an organized mindset will be your best friend. So, get to organizing those holiday tablescapes now! See other inspirational ideas in the AJC article and for some hands-on assistance, come into the steve mckenzie’s showroom today, where our team can help guide you to a sensational seasonal tablescape for your gathering.

5 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Cards + a Minted Giveaway

Who’s ready to choose their Christmas cards. What?? I haven’t put away my Bermuda shorts yet, you say! As a corporate wife of a Berkshire Hathaway company CEO, mom of an active family of now young adults, and all that entails, I’ve learned a few things over the years and would like to share some words of wisdom with you.

Playful holiday card idea

Planning ahead will save you time, money and avoid stress. Plain and simple.

Read on for my helpful tips and a Giveaway from Minted.com!

Since you may need some time to pull together photos, addresses, etc, it is really smart to start thinking about this holiday tradition now.  To help you with holiday cards, here’s my easy action plan, aided by Minted.com, which provides unique images from independent artists.

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  1. First, what card suits your family this year? Spend some time thinking about all the fun events, birthdays, milestones for your family.  There are so many options these days – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s.  Was there a special occasion in your family this year, perhaps a wedding or big trip?  Now that we’re Empty Nesters (I think that’s defined by what’s in your fridge these days which are mostly condiments, cheese and wine), holiday cards take on a different look. No matching smocked outfits, less time all together as a family, school, work and their own families happen, so there are fewer photo opportunities. If you’re going to be taking photos with the extended family at Christmas, perhaps a Happy New Year’s card suits you best.
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  2. Schedule 15-20 minutes for a few days to go through your photos. Are the family photos on your phone? Your spouse’s phone? Did someone take a good couples photo of you at an event? Save them in a universal spot like Google photos or iPhotos.
  3. Delete bad photos.  Never a better time than now and it frees up more space to capture new memories. ribbon-wrapped-by-casey-hooper
  4. Now that you have an idea of what the contenders are, in terms of images, develop a game plan to fill in the photo blanks.  For instance, here’s my current photo summary and game plan…
    • I have 0 photos of me and spouse – Someone needs to take a cute pic of us!
    • Good quantity of SM, me and child #3
    • Cute photos of our married kids sent to me already
    • I need photos of this year’s college graduate.  Who has one?
    • Plenty of photos of Duke the Shop dog!

      English Springer Spaniel
      Duke the Shop Dog
  5. Now for the fun part – browse your favorite online stationery source.  I’m super-excited about Minted.  Save your favorite unique designs with their handy heart symbol, download your photos and see how it looks in each design.  Minted has a handy “Find It Fast” button where you can see your photos in several cards, making it easy to choose your favorites.
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Minted.com makes it easy to send holiday sentiments!

My goal is to have narrowed down my choices to three by late October and an order goal of November 5th. I’ve learned what works for me – plan ahead and diminish the panic feeling as we head toward Thanksgiving (my mailing date goal).  Enjoy this time thinking about your family, and the dear friends who will enjoy your special cards.  ~Jill

Bonus = A Giveaway!  Minted has generously offered to share their unique designs from independent artists with a $100 Giveaway toward holiday cards.  See the latest trends and updated classic holiday card designs.  Click here to enter to win $100 to shop Minted!  No purchase necessary and giveaway ends midnight Nov. 2nd.

This post and images (except Duke’s photos) are sponsored by Minted, but all text, and opinions are all my own.

Tablescape Thursday: Love is in the Air

We had so much fun pulling together these Valentine’s table settings, and we think you’ll have even more fun pulling them off for yourself and surprising your loved one with a special dinner at home this holiday!

Sure, there’s something about a night on the town, but does it have to be on Valentine’s day? The crowds, prix fixe menus… We suggest saving the big night out for another evening and celebrating at home. After all, it’s more cozy and comfortable and with the right tablescape, you can set the mood however you like!

We’ve created three designs here – one more casual, another a bit fancier and a third setting that sets the stage for a true holiday celebration:

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First up, a casual supper setting.  Perhaps you’ve just started dating, so you don’t want to go overboard just yet. This place setting featuring Libeco linens, a Match Pewter Dinner Plate, R. Wood Studio Dessert/Salad Plate all topped off with a silver heart ornament (could double as a sweet gift!) by Eric Cortina, offers a sentimental feel where a classic french bistro meal such as croque monsieur and a simple salad would be perfectly suited.

Also featured in this setting is an R. Wood Studio Small Scallop Bowl, Two-Piece Salad Set, in red glitter, a Tart/Pie Server, also in red glitter, a simple red spreader, an Acrylic Dolce Vita Water Goblet and Tumbler and Vintage-Style Flatware.

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With this setting, things are getting a bit more serious… Although they’re kept casual with the Acrylic Lente Tumbler and Highball glasses and white Vintage-Style flatware. The le Jacquard Francais tea towel, turned place mat and Libeco Linen napkin, both in tones of strawberry and red give a nod to the holiday celebrated. But it’s really the Match Pewter Convivio dinner and salad/dessert plates that elevate this setting. The three heart ornaments by Eric Cortina offer a little something special, while also doubling as a gift.

A creamy lemon shrimp risotto would be an ideal compliment to this setting, and would certainly impress your loved one! Take a bit of the stress off your plate by turning to a local bakery for dessert…

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Finally, with our third setting, we’re looking at a proposal-ready tablescape, so beware! This is your classic Valentine’s surf and turf place setting… It’s grounded by a tea towel place mat by Le Jacquard Francais and an April Cornell Essential Napkin in pink. The dinnerware is a combination of Match Pewter Viviana Dinner and salad/dessert plates and a bread a butter plate in Royal Crown Derby‘s Mikado pattern. This tablescape’s crowning glory is the Royal Crown Derby, Mikado coffee/tea service – it’s even more stunning in person!

Also featured in this table setting are the Acrylic Dolce Vita Water Goblet and Wine Goblets, and Vintage-Style Flatware in Black. Add a few flowers and some candles, and this tablescape will be over the top!

And there you have it – three table settings that are sure to knock your loved one off their feet! Plus, those recipes = a guaranteed success of a Valentine’s dinner! Pop into the steve mckenzie’s showroom today to pick up a few of these items to help create your perfect holiday tablescape, and maybe even the perfect card for your special someone…

Chill the champagne, it’s almost time for the countdown!

Can you believe we’ve almost made it to 2015?!? Where has this last year gone???

Well, we can tell you, we’ve spent a lot of time moving… Not only did we move the showroom to our new location, we moved from the suburbs to a condo in the city and helped all three of our children move in the past year. Phew! I think we’re ready for a quieter 2015, but we’ll see.

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In the McKenzie family, everyone gets in on the NYE fun… even the dogs!

 

This New Year’s Eve, we’re looking forward to a casual celebration in said new condo – we’re having so much fun christening it with holiday soirees! The view from our new place is pretty spectacular, so we feel pretty confident we’ll see some fireworks at midnight.

view from the new condo
View from the new condo – perfect for NYE fireworks viewing!

 

In our younger days, we tried all the prix fixe fetes, and while they were totally indulgent and holiday-worthy, we actually have come to appreciate the holiday at home. We invite friends over, cook and play games; it’s a hoot!

A staple on our New Year’s Eve menu is crab cakes. In the past, we’ve picked them up from The Red Bar, off 30A in Florida, and cooked them at home. This year, we may look to the Fresh Market for a cook-at-home solution, or if we’re feeling really adventurous, perhaps we’ll whip up our own batch for the crowd.

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Classic crab cakes = a must on our NYE menu.

 

And, of course, there’s champagne. Perhaps we’ll be sipping out of these fabulous new flutes, which we’re carrying in the showroom…

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Fun new flutes available in the steve mckenzie’s showroom.

 

***Hostess tip from Jill – If you forget to pop the champagne in the fridge earlier in the day, don’t fret – simply fill one side of your sink with ice and cold water (it must be slushy) and put a few bottles in; they’ll be perfectly chilled in 30 minutes flat!

As for the games, try Ellen Degenerous’ game “Head’s Up!” for some fun and laughs. It’s similar to what she plays with her celebrity guests, only now we can play with our friends at home.

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Or, LCR (Left Center Right), is a super fun dice game that would be great to play with a group on New Year’s Eve!

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Please share, what are your ideal New Year’s Eve plans???

The Art of Holiday Dis-Decorating

Sure, you may have your tried and true methods of decorating for the holidays, but did you know there can be an art to the way you dis-decorate? It’s true, take it from our own organizational maven and Wonder Mom, Jill.

Jill award
Okay, so this award isn’t for her organizational skills (it’s actually our Best of ATL Tabletop award), but it may as well be – Jill’s THAT good :-)))

Here are a few of her tips to make dis-decorating as painless as possible, and hopefully we’ll help you improve your decorating process for the next holiday season!

  • If you don’t already have one, get yourself a label maker. It’s Jill’s favorite toy. There are so many options available, and many are less than $20! Then, get to labeling all of your storage containers!
  • 41x99jCgrWL._SX425_Select one storage container and label it “OPEN FIRST,” our open first box contains our stockings, plastic Christmas glasses, paper guest towels, kitchen towels and aprons; all useful items that signal to us it’s time for the holidays. This box should contain no fragile items and will be what your kids help you to set out first next year. This way, if they’re young, you’ll have no worries of the kids breaking vintage ornaments, etc.
  • Only put away working lights/light strands. Trust us. Sure, it’s inevitable, you’ll have to make a few repairs next year, but don’t pack away light strands with the intention of fixing them next year, it just won’t work.

packawaylights

  • Use pieces of cardboard to wrap your lights around, and then place each wrapped strand into a plastic shopping bag. Hopefully, this will mean far fewer tangles in future years.
  • If you use faux trees or greenery, wrap them in sheets, or plastic sheeting, to ensure they’re dust-free when you unpack them next year.
  • Always keep bubble wrap and tissue paper on hand when dis-decorating. This way, you’ll always have packing supplies on hand for the breakable items you’re putting away.
  • Label everything – okay, this one’s a repeat. But, it’s well worth it now that you have your label maker!

And Jill’s #1 holiday dis-decorating tip:

  • Enjoy it! Dis-decorating doesn’t have to be a melancholy event. Warm up some hot cocoa, put on some tunes and make a little family party out of it. Everyone can help. And at the end of the day, order in take out and veg-out, you’ll deserve it after all that work!

Good luck everyone! Do you have any special dis-decorating tips??? We’d love to hear them…

Special Pieces… Just for your holiday table.

Have you begun breaking out your traditional holiday linens and tableware and realize you may need to spruce things up a bit this year? You know, nothing a new set of glasses or napkins couldn’t fix. And they could be just the refresh your celebration tablescape needs… Take it from us – after all, steve mckenzie’s was recently awarded the “Best of Atlanta – Tabletop” by Atlanta Magazine!

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Enter these beautiful, hand embroidered Libeco holiday napkins, $32. If these won’t be the star of your place setting, we don’t know what will be! Create a set with the stag and snowflakes for a winter look that will last all season long, or keep it classic for Christmas with the Noel, Joy and Christmas embroidered napkins.

Do all the same, or create a table full of fun by mixing and matching – these are so pretty, your guests won’t want to dab their fingertips on them. What’s even better, is a portion of the sales of these napkins goes back to the African women who do the embroidery. A win-win!

 

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Next up, these sculptural red acrylic (yes, acrylic!) Milly Tumblers, $25. These will do double duty for you, as the glistening jewels on your table, and even on the kid’s table, since they’re not crystal or glass… These unbreakable, acrylic glasses will go far for you this holiday season, but can also make a reappearance this summer season when you’re celebrating the 4th of July!

Grab a few more than you’ll think you’ll need and use them as mini vases, vessels for your buffet’s utensils, so many options! Everyone will want to know where you found these unique tumblers, as they’ll add a perfect punch to your tablescape.

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Finally, these Blackfriars Check napkins by Libeco, $23, will add a touch of drama with their deep hues. Although the pattern allows these to blend with traditional holiday decor. The Blackfriars Check napkins will make an especially lovely addition to a holiday brunch table and would line bread baskets equally as well.

There are so many ways little touches such as these can blend seamlessly with the decor you already have, adding the ideal fresh touch needed to dress up any holiday table. Add a few sprigs of rosemary to the napkin rings, and you’re ready for a celebration!

Come into the steve mckenzie’s showroom today to select a few items from our selection, voted “Best of Atlanta,” to adorn your holiday table and see what an impact a few new accessories can add… And don’t forget, these would all make fabulous gifts for the entertainer or hostess in your life, and with complimentary gift wrapping by our team, what’s not to love?!?

Place Settings for Every Thanksgiving Table

No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance there’s a great meal involved… And a great meal deserves a great place setting. After all, they do say, you eat with your eyes first!

Now, we’re not necessarily talking about a super-formal setting, with eight pieces of flatware that you have to be an etiquette expert to know how to use, we’re suggesting you simply think about your meal and the style gathering you’re hosting, and create a place setting you and your loved ones will be comfortable with.

To help with this, we’ve created three different place settings to share as examples – one for a casual buffet style Thanksgiving dinner, another for a nicer, family style feast, and the final one, which lends itself to a more formal meal:

Buffet Style Thanksgiving Place Setting

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This place setting is ideal for a casual, buffet-style meal and features acrylic Mario Luca Guisti drink-ware – perfect for those more clumsy relatives; 🙂 no broken crystal here! A Match pewter charger and R Wood plate, in our exclusive Red Clay colorway, adds a festive touch. And that fabulous Road salad plate is only $10! To mix it up, and bring in a fun, seasonal element, we’ve added a pair of vintage turkey salt and pepper shakers from Steve and Jill’s personal turkey collection (pretty cute, right?!?). The TAG place mat and napkin will transition beautifully to Christmas – we love double duty items like these!

Family Style Thanksgiving Feast Table Setting

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If you’re planning a meal that’s more family style in nature, you can get a bit more detail-oriented with this place setting, as everything’s done at the table, i.e. your family and friends won’t be milling around filling their plates and glasses. This setting features a Match Pewter charger, salad, bread plate, and glasses, which all add a bit of sparkle to your table. The plate and coffee cup are by Royal Crown Derby Mikado, in their cantaloupe colorway, which brings in some needed warmth to the overall look. The placemat is a round shagreen acrylic placemat, which makes for easy care – something we can all use more of around the holidays! Finally, the napkin is Libeco linen. Here, we’ve added a special touch of whimsy with another Vintage turkey item from the McKenzie’s collection, and “planted” a faux orchid in it to bring some life and greenery to the table.

A Fabulously Formal Thanksgiving Table Setting

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Here, we’re really setting the stage for a spectacular meal with a place setting that will be equally as fantastic. We’re using Julie Wear China, inspired by their home state of Kentucky; the salad plate is from their Bluegrass line and the dinner plate and charger are part of the Cheval collection. Agate coasters from Rab Lab make the perfect perch for some special glassware. Even with our most formal setting, we’ve taken the opportunity to introduce one of those vintage turkeys Jill and Steve love so much, this one bringing out the deep tones in this beautiful china. To help set off the darker brown of the linen napkin and place setting, we opted to go with a tan, round acrylic place mat (who says fancy dinner cleanup can’t be made easier?!?).

And there you have it, a place setting for each type of Thanksgiving meal!

If you’re looking for more inspiration for your Thanksgiving table, the folks at Veranda magazine published an article a while back all about setting the perfect table. You can find it here. It offers an organized way to consider the overall tablescape, and which elements make the most impact.

Finally, we’re in the midst of finalizing our own holiday menu, but wanted to share a delicious sounding recipe for a stuffed mushroom appetizer, from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa’s Thanksgiving 2.0 episode – click here for the goods.

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YUM – we can’t wait to taste those! Let us know which new recipes you’ll be trying this year.

We hope these place setting ideas inspire you to create something beautiful for your loved ones this year – and help to make your meal even more special… And from our steve mckenzie’s family to yours, happy Thanksgiving everyone!