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Lord & Taylor just opened a new home department in their flagship store in Manhattan (39th and 5th).  I stopped in at their grand opening this week and snapped a few shots.  Furniture and furnishings are by Ralph Lauren.

Blue-and-white dinnerware complement a plaid-patterned tablecloth and chairs. Designer: Philip Gorrivan

A trio of wolves stalk a well-laden table under a canopy of green. Designer: Brad Ford.

Fall colors dominant with leafy branches,tall branchy candle stands and fringed table cloth with window-pane check. Designer: Garrow Kedigian.


Serving a buffet-style dinner this Super Bowl Sunday?  What seems like an easy dinner party idea can be quite an excercise in logic and organization! Buffet–style serving, especially to a large crowd, can put you at risk of buffet gridlock or other food-serving chaos. So here’s a compilation of the best tips I could find to keep the buffet line moving… and guests coming back for more next year!

1. For a buffet party over eight people, lay food out on both sides of the table, rather than along a one-sided sideboard. For a buffet party over 18 people, repeat the same food dishes on both sides of the table. Remove the chairs around the buffet table so traffic flows easily.

2. Serve drinks in a separate area – a cart, separate table or sideboard will keep drink traffic out of the food lanes. Group bottles of soda or cocktails together with glasses, an ice bucket, small napkins and a bowl of lemons or limes.

3. Better yet, allocate or hire someone to serve drinks. It could be a child or a neighborhood friend. People will have to get up less often and it’s really rather hospitable! Your party will be talked about for weeks!

4. Serve drinks, or make them available, right when guests arrive. It’ll put less pressure on guests to balance plates and glasses in the buffet line.

5. Use large plates and oversized napkins. Avoid flimsy paper plates unless they’re hefty, hearty and able to withstand weight and moisture, at the same time. A large napkin that completely covers the lap (when open) will be appreciated.

6. Avoid serving food that requires a knife; buffet food should really be spoon-friendly or fork-friendly only. Even if you’re not weak at the knees, It can be precarious to balance a plate on them while performing food feats with a dangerous weapon.

7. Place clean plates and cold items at the beginning of the line, hot entries last. Place silverware and napkins at the end of the buffet, rather than at the beginning.

8. Roll a napkin around a fork and spoon, so they’re one item to carry.

9. Use a hot plate or warming tray to keep hot things hot. Buffet-warmers have become a hot item, meaning they’re also more affordable than ever. They also have a polished, restaurant quality!

10. Avoid food that requires time or talent to get from serving dish to plate. A block of cheese can be a thing of beauty, but cutting off a piece with one hand is quite a feat. If using cheese blocks, pre-cut part of the block. And pre-cutting smaller branches of grapes will avoid guests walking off with half of them, without wanting to!

11. Poke a toothpick into items that are tough to pick up, or to pick up without touching everything around them. Or invest in a few small tongs for biscuits or hand-picked items. In an age of killer flus, everyone will thank you.  

13. Label food or ingredients that aren’t easily recognizable, including food with nuts or a choice of sauces or dressings. Better yet, label everything with a folding card or a flag. It’s restaurant-like and helpful. Plus, there’s nothing worse then when people have to smell something to see if they want to eat it. Except, maybe, a guest being rushed to the hospital at halftime on account of a food allergy you didn’t know about.

14. Serve desert, tea and coffee on a tray or rolling cart you can bring to your guests. Once guests are settled in place, sometimes it’s an effort for them to get up again (… and risk losing their prime seat location!).

15. Create an abundant-looking table.  Avoid unforutnate gaps by taking the leaf out of the table, grouping food at one end, drinks at the other, or placing a large floral or food display arrangement at the center or end of the table. Also, vary the height of items on the table. Add a large centerpiece, or place some serving plates higher than others. (An easy way to do this is to pile books under select plates, then cover the entire table with a tablecloth).

A few final ideas…

Lay out out the serving table plan ahead of time, even the night before. Place post-it notes where things will go; it’ll be one less thing to think about on the day of the party… and help out those who want to help you in the mad rush right before dinner is served.

If, or when, you’re in the market for new dining room furniture, consider a buffet or sideboard rather than a china cabinet. They’re versatile if you like buffet-style eating and make a great place to serve drinks. Also, look for one with a marble top; they’re plentiful these days and perfect for buffet parties – they can handle heat and are easy  to clean!

Pistoulet, from Pfalzgraff

It’s no surprise that 2010 will see more of us eating at home rather than going out. And it seems the tableware folks are coming to the table, so to speak, with new patterns and colors in dinner dishes to make it all a little more exciting.

Here are a few 2010 tableware trends to look out for…

More ‘wow’ pieces. Gone are matching place settings where dinner dishes vary only in size. We’re starting to see more variety within a place setting, with each piece making a design statement on its own. A 5-piece tableware setting might include variations in shape and a different pattern on each piece.

More personal statements. With dinner dishes, bowls and mugs within a place setting each being unique, there’s more freedom to mix things up a little and pull together the table in our own way. With a wider variety of patterns, we’re also able to pick patterns that say something about ourselves as a person. Call it eclectic or eccentric… it’s all about creating options, or doing things our own way.

Casual looks. A less disposable generation is driving a desire for beautiful dinner dishes they can be used every day… and simpler flatware with less decorated looks (cleaned up a little rather than outright contemporary). Metallic finishes are also being toned down from bright silver to burnished, brushed and hammered finishes.

Folk influences, especially from Europe. From Provence to Uzbekistan, western and eastern Europe are inspiring everything from flowers and fleur-de-lys patterns to embroidery-like stiches and densely packed swirls. Less-known locations around the world are inspiring new decorative ideas that are proving quite Bohemian.

Redefined formality. A more casual lifestyle is entrenched today, but there are traces of a growing desire for a little more formality.  The trend is less about ornate patterns on dinner dishes and more about a growing appreciation for quality and interest in the right way to serve and eat food. For example, we’re spending more time and money finding the right glass for the right wine or beer, the right serving platter… and wine decanters are becoming a must-have for a growing generation of educated wine drinkers.

Hard to believe, but this Norman-Rockwell style Christmas village is a display on my sister-in-law’s dining room buffet table. I coudn’t resist snapping a few photos this year.

Connie collected each of the village buildings over the years, enough to fill the entire length of her buffet cabinet. The skating rink with skaters on the far right (below) can be switched on to rotate and play Christmas carols!

She uses a white table cloth to simulate the snow (it really works!). Set against the dark taupe wall  in her dining room, it’s quite dramatic.

Enjoy a few more photos!


Another simple idea for your Christmas table… place a small holiday ornament or sprig-like decoration on each plate. Ornaments that combine fruit, satin-covered balls and/or greenery work well.

If using an ornament like the ones I used here (with a stem) use a wire cutter to cut the stem shorter.

You could use matching ornaments on each dinner dish at your Christmas table, or mix it up a little and use coordinating, but not matching pieces…

For more holiday ideas, click on Christmas table settings tab (under tags) on the left hand column.

For home decorating ideas, visit

Happy Holidays!

Saw these Christmas windows displays at Berdorff Goodman in Manhattan this week.  Apparently foxes eat well. Check out their Christmas dinner dishes!

Here’s a great way to dress up your Christmas table setting without spending a lot of money. I picked up these rolls of  wrapping paper on clearance after Christmas last year. I loved the damask-like pattern on the one, and the Merry Christmas words on the other. There wasn’t any doubt that they’d look as gift wrap, but I wanted to see if they’d also make a great holiday decorating idea.

Good quality wrapping paper makes a great runner for a Christmas table setting. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit the entire table – it just needs to run down the center of the table, like a holiday table runner would, though the advantage of using paper is that you can create a wide runner and really make a statement! (Fold the edges or ends under to get a clean edge, if needed.)

Another great thing about a paper table runner is that you don’t have  to worry if it gets stained – just toss it out.

Choose wrapping paper that’s a good quality and weight – a raised surface or flock adds texture and dimension. Avoid overly bright gift wrap (unless it’s a solid color) or overly patterned gift wrap that will take over your table!

For more ideas, click on the christmas table setting tab (under tags) on the left-hand column.

For home decorating ideas, visit

Jerry could’t resist getting right in there to help me with my Christmas photography this year.

His brother, Ben, had absconded a big Christmas bow at the time, or they’d both be in there…

I love looking around the house for everyday items to use in new ways.

For the Christmas centerpiece shown here, I hauled a winter scarf out of the closet for the table runner. Winter scarves make a great Christmas table runner because they’re wam-looking, long, narrow and can be washed easily.  Just make sure  they’re fairly flat (the one shown here is chenille) and wide enough to hold your centerpiece.  I especially like a plaid pattern for Christmas, but whatever coordinates with your dishes will work, even a solid color. 

For the centerpiece, I used a shallow, narrow wood tray. I added three small glass candle votives, pine branches and layered a few Christmas ornaments in colors that matched the scarf.

A great look!

For more ideas, click on the christmas table settings tab (under tags) on the left-hand column.

For home decorating ideas, visist

Here’s a fun holiday decorating idea that’s quick and inexpensive… use christmas gift wrap bows for a centerpiece on your Christmas table.

Look for really nice bows (cheap bows won’t look very good). I really like Christmas bows layered with patterened ribbon, like the ones shown in the photo to the left.  Or bows that use a textured or unusual ribbon. For a dressier Christmas table, use large gold and silver bows. 

Just place a collection of these Christmas-themed or sparkly bows into a shallow glass bowl or a glass bowl on a pedestal. Turn the back of the bows inside so they don’t show. You could also scatter a few bows outside the bowl for fun.

For more ideas, click on the Christmas table settings tab (under tags) on the left column.

For home decorating ideas, visit