Published on October 12, 2018

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and ProductionPhotography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production

A tired tabletop is one way to send all your guests into a surefire snooze. Sure, everyone’s really there for the food, but if the dining table doesn’t back the evening’s fabulous meal, your fellow dinner companions may quickly grow bored—no matter how good your cooking is. Want to infuse a little life to your dining room? In lieu of a traditional holiday setting, this season, we’re loading up on alternative patterns and unexpected colors that stray far from your standard display.

For all our maximalist entertaining needs, we asked the team at David Stark Design and Production for their most inspired and color-charged ideas for the dinner table. Reinventing six different colorways, the renowned event producer and decorator extraordinaire shares his rules for crafting a layered and cohesive tablescape. Take a look.

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Tablecloth/fabric: Pierre Frey, Mil Neuf Cent Vingt; Dinner plate: East Fork Pottery dinner plate in UtahGlassware: MoMA Design Store, ombre juice glass in orange/pink Flatware: Barney’s, Julia Stainless steel 5 piece place setting Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production

Repetition Is the Secret to Cohesion

Not unlike putting together a wardrobe, Stark approaches table design from a layered perspective. His advice? Think of your table linens as the outfit, or defining base for your composition, and the glasses, napkins, and centerpiece as your accessories. Often, the tablecloth becomes the linchpin of our color story, creating the canvas for a tablescape’s palette,” shares Stark.

Echoing the concentric circles of Pierre Frey’s multi-colored “Mil Neuf Cent Vingt” fabric, here, Stark and his team incorporated plates and glasses that subtly mimic the existing forms. When designing around a powerful range of rainbow-bright hues, repetition will tie the varied palette together.

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production Charger plate: M.Crow, ceramic charger plate in gloss black; Salad plate: Nicholas Newcomb,  8” spokes design; Napkins: Gregory Parkinson, Mixed Pattern ikat napkins with hand block printed voile reverse; Glassware: Laurence Brabant & Alain Villechange, Black and white swirl, and Amici Home, Calyspo Hiball

Play Up Classics With Woven Textures

Putting a contemporary spin on a timeless color pairing, Stark and his team revamped this classic color scheme by introducing graphic movement and woven textures into the picture. From the tablecloth to the napkins, each piece plays with this iconic marriage in a shapely way, while natural details extend a sense of softness to the abrupt contrast.

“Black and white is always timeless and cool but adding hand-made or natural elements to the mix takes the look from ’60s mod to bohemian-chic,” explains Stark. “Whether incorporating a gloss, black ceramic charger that is softened by its exposed, natural edge or glassware with a hand-woven, basket casing, these natural additions ground the geometric patterns on the table and keep the decor from becoming retro.”

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production. Table cloth/fabric: B and J Fabrics, cotton ikat; Dinner plate: Scully and Scully, Mottahedeh Sacred Bird & Butterfly; Water glass: Artemest, Striulli Vetri d’Arte, Azzurro Murano glass; Wine glass: Amara, Reed Tea Glasses; Flatware: Alain Saint-Joanis, Mito boxwood

Go Big, But Think Small 

Be it a lavish peach or rusty apricot, of all the colors we’re craving right now, orange comes in at the top of our list. Love the look of a striking, monochrome set up? When working pattern into an already strong color scheme, be sure to pay attention to proportions.

“Mix patterns of various scales together. A small floral with a larger woven ikat, or a geometric pattern that complements—there are no rules. Color can link and unify the various, disparate elements beautifully.”

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production. Dinner plate: Zsuzsanna Nyul, Indigo Roses; Glassware: Neiman Marcus, Juliska Arabella Delft-blue tumbler; Flatware: Sue Fisher King, Africa black wood

Pair Down Your Busiest Prints  

Speaking of scale, the same principle applies when introducing high-impact motifs to the scene. If there’s a wild print you really love, don’t be afraid to bring it to the table—just do it in smaller doses. When scaled down to its smallest size, a heavy print will take on the form of a neutral base.

“Although on the surface, a pattern can be deemed quite ‘busy,’ when it’s of a minute scale (as is the case with the Japanese indigo fabric used as the tablecloth here), it reads more as a rich monochrome of color,” suggests Stark. “Thus, it’s not a problem to mix other larger-scale motifs like those of the plates or napkins with it as they all are simpatico.”

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production. Tablecloth/fabric: Penny Morrison, Green fern tablecloth; Dinner plate (bottom plate): Penny Morrison, blue crisscross plate, Dinner plate (Right side plate): Stoneware & Co., 11” rimmed plate in bachelor button; Glassware: (water glass) M’oda ‘Operandi, M’O Exclusive striped Murano glasses in blue; Napkins: Gregory Parkinson, Mixed Pattern ikat napkins with hand block printed voile reverse in cobalt

Incorporate Contrasting Florals

Table florals aren’t there just to look pretty. In fact, depending on their color, texture, and movement, fresh florals can add a sense of visual intrigue and build on the depth you’ve been working to create.

“A centerpiece often completes a monochromatic statement,” says Stark. “Color and flowers, though, can also be used effectively when contrasting to your table setting—like the hot dahlias juxtaposed to cool tableware here. A vibrant, unexpected punch of color says ‘opposites attract.’”

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Photography by Corrie Hogg and Susie Montagna for David Stark Design and Production Dinner and salad plates: John Derian, Sylvie Saint-Andre Perrin; Glassware: mix of vintage and NasonMoretti, colored two-tone glass; Flatware: Nilufar, Baciocchi Associati stone flatware; Napkins: Deborah Rhodes, reversible check napkin in green

Embrace Cliches

While certain prints can get a bad rap, don’t write off any “dated” patterns just yet. Take plaid, for instance. When complemented by a range of casual shapes and marbleized waves, the straightforward print takes on fresh meaning.

“Plaid has certain connotations—school uniform, lumberjack, even Scottish Highlands—but it can also feel less rigid when paired with the flowing forms of marble, batik, and other materials that either show the heartbeat of the artists’ hand or the natural imperfections of organic elements,” suggests Stark.


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