Photography by The Ingalls

Published on March 19, 2020

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There’s no better day than today, the first day of spring, to be reminded that after it rains, the world will come alive with blooms again. And when it does, some serious celebration will be in order. 

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Earlier this month, before terms like self-isolating and super spreaders were part of the vernacular, friends joined Moon Canyon‘s Kristen Caissie to celebrate her new book, Gathering: Setting the Natural Table. Photographed by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls, Gathering is full of tabletop inspiration, from garlands and centerpieces to vessels and candles, all in Caissie’s signature dreamy California style. “When a table is set with intention, even the smallest occasion becomes a memorable one,” she points out.

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At its heart, the book is a love letter to friendship, community, and creating beautiful backdrops for cultivating deeper connections. To mark the occasion, Caissie collaborated with home goods designer Heather Taylor and caterer Annie Campbell on a ladies’ lunch in Taylor’s Laurel Canyon backyard. Taking inspiration from the verdant setting, Taylor’s green plaid linens set the stage for Caissie’s floral palette of creamy neutrals. “I like all the fairy flowers this time of year,” says the florist. “They are so fleeting and ephemeral.” 

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As guests, including Margaret and Katherine Kleveland of Dôen and designer Jenni Kayne, arrived, they were welcomed with tequila cocktails punctuated with floral ice cubes. Once seated, Campbell treated them to her green goddess salad with edible flowers and family-style platters of roasted vegetables, farro, and salmon. “I had never done anything like this for myself before,” says Caissie, “so I thought I’d set a table for my friends and practice what I preach.” We got a behind-the-scenes look at how that tablescape came together. Try these ideas at home now, or hang onto them for your next gathering.

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Use Bud Vases Like Building Blocks

Bud vases require only a few stems to fill them and can set a big mood with minimal effort. “They are a great way to create a simple tablescape of garden cuttings,” says Caissie. Her loose guidelines for pulling off the look, found in Gathering

  1. If you choose vessels that are consistent in material in various shapes and sizes, play with a variety of florals.
  2.  If you go with an eclectic mix of vessels, streamline your choice of blooms and use the same flowers in each vase. 

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Live That Layered Linen Life

When it comes to creating a cozy, considered table that feels set expressly for the occasion, follow Taylor’s lead and pull out all the linens. “Keep one element consistent, whether it’s the color, texture, or pattern,” says Taylor. Here, green, in all its glorious shades, is the common thread. “And from there, have fun with it,” she adds. Make tried-and-true tablecloths feel fresh again by doubling up, using a larger solid-hued one as a base and a smaller size (Taylor chose cheery checks) to top it. At every guest’s place setting, arrange a folded napkin in between the plates so each element stands out—think a ceramics sandwich.

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Pick Tableware That Does It All

To set a table that’s both full of charm and high functioning, Caissie recommends starting with a foundation of simple dinner plates (she likes Heath) and adding in artful pieces for flair (think: botanical salad and side dishes in two colorways). “I’m a ceramics freak and I love handmade items that feel unique and special to me,” says Caissie. Her other multitasking must-haves: wood cutting boards. “A long one in the center of your table layered with food and florals makes an extremely beautiful centerpiece,” she notes.

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Serve Up the Season

While a mountain of greens can feel like an obligation, a salad course can actually be an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the time and place by using ingredients of the moment. “Little Gem lettuce is so beautiful in Los Angeles, so that’s my favorite place to start,” says Campbell. To make her salads really sing, she always adds some crunch—“often in the form of a radish, cucumber, or snap pea,” she notes. And don’t forget a bit of salt. She recommends flaky Maldon: “It makes a huge difference.”

See more entertaining inspiration:
Virtual Dinner Parties Can Be Glamorous, Too
We’re Serving Up Spring Pastels, the Southern Spanish Way
A Four-in-One Pan That Can Cook Just About Anything

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