Fall is a season for layers—be it in our wardrobe or in our living spaces. We take our cues from nature, where thicker, winter coats grow on our furry friends, and falling leaves create the magically crunchy, layered blankets under our feet. And while the transition from summer to fall is very subtle in my neck of the woods, and “sweater weather” is a term all too relative, I take every opportunity I can get to create cozy, textural environments and make time for gathering with friends and family. One such opportunity was a recent dinner collaboration with some of my favorite local creative entrepreneurs. Read on for my tried-and-true tips for creating a perfectly layered, cozy, and inviting fall table—seasonal recipes and wine pairing resources included!
The creative team:
Creating a table like this may seem overwhelming, especially if looking only at the finished result. Here is the break-down, step by step.
1. DOUBLE UP ON BASE LAYERS
While a white picnic table doesn’t immediately evoke a sense of coziness, having multiple linen cloths to layer on top of each other often does the trick. In this case,natural fibers and linens in a light grey tone softened the bright white table top and provided a perfect neutral backdrop for the rich, colorful food. I used the signature FOLD hand-stitched cloth in heather gray and a solid version of the same cloth to cover the picnic table.
Stacking plates for each place setting may seem superfluous if you only end up using the top plate, but the stacking does serve a visual and textural purpose. It allows for more options for combining and alternating colors if you are mixing and matching plates, and the circle-within-a-circle look creates a dynamic and cohesive place setting pattern. For this dinner, each of us brought one or two (or three, or four) plates, and they all worked together beautifully.
2. GO FOR FLAT VS VERTICAL FLORALS
Vertical arrangements have their place, but unobstructed eye contact can be so valuable when sharing a meal. Laying flowers and greenery directly onto the table allows for food to be placed on top of them, too, without too much moving and rearranging of the flower vessels. It is no secret that I drive with garden shears in my car and forage whenever I can for wild flowers, herbs, dry grasses, seeds and pods. My mother-in-law has a gorgeous persimmon tree, and it is especially fruitful this year. When she told me that the fruit was so heavy that it was breaking off some of the branches, I knew I could put them to good use. And just like that, persimmon branches—with leaves and fruit attached—became the star of the show, cascading down the table in place of vertical arrangements. Seeded eucalyptus, dry yarrow, and fresh rosemary were scattered around to add an extra layer or texture. Seasonal fruit (Bosc pears, pomegranates, jujubes) and whole nuts added visual interest and punctuated the otherwise wild and free-form branch placement.
3. MIX UP THE STEMWARE
It’s hard to think of glassware as something warm and cozy, but adding different colors of glass to the mix—especially smoke glass or amber hues this time of the year—can add some dimensionality and extra sparkle to the festivities. I always combine tall stemware with short, stemless tumblers for a chic, bistro-like vibe.
4. THROW IN SOME BLANKETS
Having a few blankets on hand can go a long way both functionally and aesthetically, especially in an outdoor setting. If you are still reading, you’ll remember that the table we used was white, and so were the benches. “Work with what you have” was our mantra for the day, and casually spreading the three blankets over the two benches worked like magic for visually tying the scene together and providing an extra layer of comfort. Bonus point: they served as protective layers for hauling the dishes and other breakable pieces to and from the location.
5. GRAZE, ROAST, BAKE, REPEAT
While most fall days in California are too warm for me to turn on the oven, the food that’s made in the oven is undoubtedly my favorite this time of the year. I can’t imagine a cozy meal without anything roasted, baked, layered or topped with melted cheese, or all of the above. Our menu for this fall harvest dinner was off the charts in every category:
+ Grazing Board
+ Roasted Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
+ Root Vegetable Gratin
+ Red Wine Roast Chicken with Grapes and Herbs
+ Spiced Up Grape Apple Pie
Above: Spiced Up Grape-Apple Pie (recipe on Baking The Goods). Danish modern candlesticks: FOLD styling inventory.
While all the wines from Folded Hills were delicious, some were just spot on for each dish. Read Hana-Lee’s pairing notes on Wander & Wine. Cheers!
In the shop: