Collecto founder Federika Longinotti Buitoni’s summer table set with plates from Vista Alegre Castelo Branco plates, Ferrone Design wine glasses, and Stories of Italy glassware.
Photo: Victoria Wall Harris

7 Tabletop Designers Share Their Secrets to Setting the Perfect Summer Table

These entertaining experts talk to Galerie about how to create gorgeous seasonal tablescapes

As entertaining slowly returns to a pre-pandemic level, welcoming friends and family around the table has taken on a renewed enthusiasm. Vibrant tableware, exuberant centerpieces, and brightly colored linens help create a joyous atmosphere for a thoughtfully curated meal.

Here, some of the design world’s top talents share photos from their own seasonal get-togethers and their suggestions for creating just the right atmosphere.

Photo: Alessandra Branca

1. Alessandra Branca, Casa Branca

Casa Branca Cestino and Rigato plates, made in Limoges, France, are great for layering together. I love to start with a base of white and then add some colorful dessert dishes and salad dishes. I wouldn’t say I have go-to colors—it’s whatever suits the occasion and room. My centerpiece also varies; if I’m entertaining outside, I like some nature, whether its big branches from a tree nearby or shells from a beach walk that day. If it’s inside, my go-to is collect objects and things that I have. I don’t like a single arrangement—I like collections of things, mainly because we do big tables, and I love arrangements that are like a garden on the table.”

Photo: Emily J Followill

2. Beth Webb

“I tend to be tonal and textural; pattern and texture take the lead and create layers of interest. As it pertains to color, I let the floral and food do the talking. I am bit of a tabletop hoarder. I have nine different collections. I have my mother’s and grandmother’s beautiful Hermès dessert plates. A new discovery is all the tabletop from RW Guild and March. I also use pieces by Simon Pearce or Gien. I love using sterling daily. I may have six sets! I am a firm believer in using your fine china and silver. The menu steers the design. Is it buffet or being plated? I think about what I am serving and I do plan well ahead. In the summer, you can make a lot of meals beforehand like Barefoot Contessa’s corn salad and chilled cucumber soup.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Invisible Collection

3. Isabelle Dubern, The Invisible Collection

“I don’t believe you should ever be limited to the constraints of ‘matching.’ I love to buy antique tablecloths and linens; I’ve also tried my hand at dying them to bring further life and color to the setting. I’m very drawn to pink, dark blue, green, and tea colors at the moment. I love the Diptyque x Lobmeyr glasses, and also all the vintage glassware in our Dîner en Ville boxes. I love to organize drinks and pretty Murano glasses from Diptyque or Dior on my Jorge Zalszupin trolley from ETEL. For the centerpiece, little candles close to bouquets of flowers scattered across the table give a more dramatic ambience.”

Style  +  Design

Meet the Sisters Turning Their Passion for Italian Hospitality into Two Collections of Artisanal Tableware

Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga’s table set with pieces from her handpainted Chinoiserie collection of plates, Napoleon rose wine glasses and green water glasses.

4. Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga, Vio’s Cooking

“I am absolutely in love with my Chinoiserie collection, which is entirely hand painted by artisans and made to match with hand-painted glasses. I usually do prefer to mix and match colors together. As I was born a painter, I love playing with colors. I start from the color of the plates and tableware, shifting then to the hues and flavors of the menu. Green, pink, and lilac are my go-to colors for my typical tablescapes, giving it an enchanted touch. For centerpieces, I love to create different flower arrangements, depending on the mood. I also like to add figurines, for example little birds, butterflies, or parrots. My tables are always reminiscent of exotic atmospheres.”

Photo: Courtesy of Summerill & Bishop

5. Seb Bishop, Summerill & Bishop

“For me, being at the table is to be present with those I’m sat with. I personally prefer small intimate dinners, where I can get to know the people I’m dining with. Laying a table is a form of art. I usually fall back on my mother’s Falling Flower design as my go-to. Pieces by Astier de Villatte have an unrivaled way of making the moment or occasion feel extra special and elevated. In summer, I like to use the brightest, happiest linens I can find. A colorful, tonal table always resonates with me but black and white with a touch of silver can be equally as beautiful, timeless, and elegant, especially if you pair it with the right flowers. I think it’s important to incorporate nature somewhere on the table. I’m fortunate too, that my wife is an incredible ceramicist, so often, our family meals are enjoyed using plates, bowls, and serving ware that she’s handmade. My kids will handwrite the place settings too—everyone contributes in some way and so it feels unique to us as a family. For me, the most beautiful tables are always the ones that feel most personal, so whether you achieve that by colorful, memorable place settings or something simpler, the end goal is to get your guests talking and to create a place where they’ll want to sit together for hours at a time.”

Collecto founder Federika Longinotti Buitoni’s summer table set with plates from Vista Alegre Castelo Branco plates, Ferrone Design wine glasses, and Stories of Italy glassware. Photo: Victoria Wall Harris

6. Federika Longinotti Buitoni, Collecto

“I like vibrant tables, getting creative with different and often unique color combinations. Whenever I design a tablescape, I discover new combinations that work very well together but I also have seasonal favorites, like vibrant greens and blues during the summer. However, a monochromatic tablescape is absolutely exquisite if done right. For plates, Haviland Parlon’s Lexington collection is one of my favorites. Each plate is hand painted with a subtle gold rim that gives it an edge. I often use them as a charger or dinner plate, and a fun printed dessert plate from another all-time favorite, Laboratorio Paravicini. Dinosaur Designs’ serveware is handmade from a natural resin and have an eclectic, festive feel. They are truly statement pieces. I love a vibrant tablescape lit with candles to create a festive mood. I also like using rare fruits and vegetables as centerpieces. Not only do they add a fresh touch, but you can eat them afterwards. The menu usually goes hand in hand with the season and mood, so in the end, it all comes together in a natural way. There’s something about entertaining in the summer that is just too fun to miss.”

Photo: Tina Vaia

7. Tina Vaia

“I like all different pieces. It depends on the kind of lunch or dinner; something that is fine like Astier de Villatte is special. I have different sets of colors to dip into. I have a collection of blue and white, which is easy to add to. Terra cotta and white which are great for summer. When I lived in New York, I got obsessed with Heath plates. I’ve been collecting Natalie Lete plates for a few years, which are more fun for lunch. I always choose table settings around the food that I’m serving. I like bright salads against white clay, red gazpacho soup in a black clay tureen, curries in terra cotta. I also love centerpieces. My collection for MatchesFashion (launching June 10) was designed around a centerpiece—one big serving bowl to have that wow on the table.”

Cover: Collecto founder Federika Longinotti Buitoni’s summer table set with plates from Vista Alegre Castelo Branco plates, Ferrone Design wine glasses, and Stories of Italy glassware.
Photo: Victoria Wall Harris


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