Table Matters

Renowned designer Dan Carithers shares his table-setting secrets, just in time for the holidays

Entertaining should be fun and easy. That’s what design guru Dan Carithers wants amateur entertainers to remember. “Don’t think too much,” Carithers implores. Of course, that’s easy for him to say; his fall tabletop looks good enough for lunch with the First Family. But that’s the point. People tend to make table setting harder than it needs to be.

Where does Carithers begin? In this case, with the flowers. He spotted these cheery orange dahlias and hit the ground running. “I am totally driven by color and lack of color,” Carithers explains. He added a few ranunculus and sprigs of boxwood from his garden, tucked them into small spun-bamboo pots and the tone was set. The Creamware plates, from the notable collection that he’s amassed over the years, not only complement the flora, they also speak directly to two of Carithers’ passions: Creamware and collecting. “I buy what I like when I see it,” he says. “And that’s the way everyone should shop. If you buy pretty things that are good quality, it will all connect.”

Carithers has literally searched the world over during his extensive travels, and most of his possessions come with a story. The plates were made for him by an Italian ceramicist, the chairs he found in Paris, and he picked up the checked fabric in London. And the fruit cooler that graces the table between pairs of 18th-century candlesticks? It brings him back to a friend’s wedding in Norway and the antique shop he discovered while there. “I wanted everything in it,” remembers Carithers, who was still negotiating when he returned to the States. In the end, he netted 69 pieces of a Creamware supper set, all for an excellent price.



Don’t worry about the table looking appropriate for brunch, for fall or any specific time. Just make it pretty.

Mix and match patterns; there are no rules.

Keep centerpieces low enough for guests to see each other across the table.

Don’t be limited by an object’s intended purpose. (Carithers used a tureen for this centerpiece.)

Change things up from time to time; put some away, get others out and move the rest around. Don’t let anything become static.

Develop your own style by observing the best—people with a great sense of style as well as books about design and design elements. Follow these leads and you will develop your own style.
Dan Carithers, 2300 Peachtree Rd. NW, Suite C-120, Atlanta, 30309, (404) 355-8661


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