Who says autumn decor can only feature shades of orange and brown? Not Kelley Nan Lopez, Georgia-based tablescape designer, blogger (kelleynan.com), and Southern girl by her own admission, who comes from a long line of hostesses and ladies who love to entertain. “People tend to take a season or holiday quite literally when they design their tables,” says Kelley Nan. “I like to think about how the season makes me feel. Or, what I associate with a holiday table or family dinner [from] when I was growing up. Then I use those thoughts to put a different spin on my table setting.”
In this case, Kelley Nan turned to an elegant blue-and-white theme with gold and brass accents. “I always remember going to my grandmother’s for formal dinner and seeing her table set with her blue-and-white dishes,” she says. “It was my first experience with a classic color palette. My table is my way of paying homage to her and her lovely tradition.”
Kelley Nan tends to use a neutral palette for any occasion, but then adds color and character with linens and accessories. She suggests that the first step in creating a tablescape is to go shopping. “Not for something new!” she explains, smiling. “I mean ‘shop’ your house. I look in my basement, on bookcases, in different rooms. I take inventory—like what color ribbons I have on hand or what decorator garlands or napkins I might have used in the past that would work for this table.” She also recommends buying napkins, accessories like charger plates, or even decor items when they are on clearance. “I like Pottery Barn, Pier 1, or World Market, and they have great sales,” she adds.
The designer and blogger’s china is a mix of heirloom pieces and items that she has collected over the years. “I tell my readers that if you’re buying your first set of china, buy classic white. It is universal and can work with any accent color,” she says. “I still combine my original white salad plates with blue-and-white dinner plates that I inherited from my grandmother.” She feels that a mix of china works beautifully and pieces can be changed out for different occasions. Simple glassware and white dishes provide a perfect base for a variety of color themes.
“I love creating big, elaborate centerpieces as a statement,” says Kelley Nan. “I want that first impression to have a wow factor!” She adds that the centerpiece can always be moved to the buffet so guests can see each other when seated for the actual dinner. She also loves mixing metals. “Here I used brass and gold tones in the flatware, candle holders, and charger plates on the table, but then used a silvery touch on the buffet,” she explains. “These napkins have a thin gold thread running through them in a simple geometric pattern.” The napkins are folded to hold menus that Kelly Nan printed on her computer. Sometimes she personalizes menus with the name of each guest. “That way they also serve as place cards,” she says. “I like to incorporate something special . . . something memorable in each of my tables.”
Napkins, even though they are relatively inexpensive, can make a world of difference in a tablescape, according to the multifaceted designer. She says they can become the color inspiration for the whole design and that layering table linens adds interest. In this setting, she put down a base of blue-and-white patterned runners along the length of the table, then crossed them with white runners to help designate places. She bought the white runners from Ikea and says they are her favorite items.
The major color impact comes from seasonal touches like live flowers, fruits, or vegetables. She buys her flowers locally, often from Costco. Both hydrangea and sunflowers are plentiful in Georgia in November. For an autumn look, she added pears, small and large white pumpkins from a farm market, and gold-touched leaves that she took from a faux garland she found in her basement. The brilliant yellow of the sunflowers and the glittery leaves pick up the gold and brass tones of the accessories.
Kelley Nan incorporates a mix of pattern, color, and texture in her designs. Heirloom china meets with fresh seasonal flowers. Used garland bits brighten simple, clearance-rack napkins. And straightforward white dishes mix with a multitude of patterned dinnerware . . . as Kelley Nan creates her own tradition with each table design. Written by Carolyn M. Runyon. Photography by Kelley Nan.