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What Would Emily Do?
Jul 19, 2017
Katy B. Olson

Flora, fauna and other secrets to dining al fresco 

California-based stylist and New York Times best-selling author Emily Henderson is not only a social-media mastermind and down-to-earth resource for hundreds of thousands of design aficionados (including 600,000+ Instagram fans!), but also a consummate tabletop transformer. She sets the table for us on her Los Feliz outdoor patio, in Los Angeles, answers our burning questions on the flora that abounds in her locale, and offers up her tips and tricks for designing al fresco.

Emily Henderson pictured at her Los Angeles home.

What's your first step when setting an outdoor table?
Start by picking a color palette and sticking to it. If you already have some outdoor dinnerware, then let that color serve as your guide for adding more into the collection. I like to keep things casual by serving things family-style and also having the plates, flatware and napkins at one end of the table, and then allowing people to grab and go. It makes your life a lot easier and also allows for a more casual and intimate setting, versus having place settings for each person.

What's the difference between setting an indoor vs. an outdoor table?
Outdoor dining will always feel slightly more casual than indoor, so don't take things too seriously or make things too fussy when setting your outdoor table. A table runner, a few small arrangements and some dinnerware, and you are good to go.

Is there a way to bring the patio vibe inside for those folks without much outdoor space?
If you don't have space to entertain outside, then try to bring the outdoors in with some natural greenery or foliage on the table. I love using larger clipped branches on my dining room table, or more natural-looking foliage rather than formal arrangements.

emily henderson
Emily Henderson's outdoor patio.

Speaking of flora, what are your secrets for expertly arranging flowers?
When it comes to flowers, I like to make it look as natural as possible. That usually means grabbing two to three bundles of a few different types of flowers and then mixing them into a few different vessels or vases on the table. If you want to opt for a statement flower—like pretty peonies or ranunculus—mix them with a more simple, store-bought filler flower to make the arrangement feel special and organic.

How about your tricks for creating tablescapes?
When it comes to tablescapes, it is always helpful to have a few different visual levels that will allow your eye to bounce around. The plates and dinnerware count as one; your flowers would be another; then, add candles or some other objects in to create the third. Having the different elements will help the table feel special, but also visually interesting for you and your guests without it getting too fussy.

What are some tabletop trends you’re following this season?
Simple and refined tabletops are having a moment right now—especially after seeing so many that were heavily dressed and very decorative. I am loving the use of washed and frayed linens on tabletops right now, as well as anything that feels handmade, organic or antique.

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