The spring holiday season kicks off in just a couple of weeks with one of the prettiest of all celebrations, Easter. For advice on decorating a memorable holiday table, we turned to chef, stylist, and planner extraordinaire Annette Joseph, whose Picture Perfect Parties has become an instant classic on our bookshelf.
Annette gave us the lowdown on creating a simple, beautiful, and family-friendly Easter table and party that will leave guests smitten—and that can mostly be pulled together from items you already have. Scroll down for even more product picks from Annette, sourced especially for us, plus a Pine Cone Hill table linens giveaway!
And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Picture Perfect Parties to get all the details on creating this look—and some incredibly tasty recipes—for your Easter table. Better yet, check out Annette’s class schedule, and learn how to style your party-food photos like a pro. And don’t forget to enter our giveaway for two sets of Pine Cone Hill napkins, hand-picked for spring by Annette! (Scroll to the bottom to enter.)
Fresh American: What are the basic elements of setting a great party table?
Annette Joseph: Really nice linens are important. I like to start with a good white tablecloth—it always makes for a crisp, fresh table. And fresh flowers are lovely. I keep all the centerpieces low so people can talk over them. My pet peeve is a big, over-the-top centerpiece on a dining table. Save it for the buffet table!
FA: What’s the best way to edit the selection of what you already have for a party, so you’re not always buying a lot of new things?
AJ: As a stylist, I’m a hunter and a creative repuposer. I’ve been known to pull artwork off the wall to use it in a shoot! I recommend you walk around your house and try looking at things in a different light. You might find a cool basket in the guest bath, or a great tray you’re using to hold books on the coffee table. Once we have things in our house in a particular way, we tend to forget they can be used in different ways. But take those books out of the tray, put some parchment paper on it, and place an appetizer on it. Your guests will love it.
FA: What are the secrets to setting a great Easter or spring table?
AJ: Go for something fun and bright—it’s the first sign of spring! I stick to pink, pale blue, and yellow for a palette. Sometimes I put the appetizer right in the middle of the table on a lovely gardening tray—this way, the food becomes the centerpiece, and it’s a great way to wrangle everyone to the table.
FA: What was your inspiration for the Easter table in your book?
AJ: I wanted to get kids involved in the setup, and splatter paint is easy—you can do it outside, so there’s no mess. I covered table with white tablecloth and then a roll of splatter-painted white craft paper. We also splatter-painted some hard-boiled eggs and white napkins. I really like to make things look pretty, but I love a casual table.
FA: This table doesn’t rely on a splashy centerpiece to make a statement.
AJ: You don’t always have to do the classic flowers. It’s really fun to use several different objects that are a nod to the holiday or theme. Try placing objects on different levels, like cake stands. Put attractive water bottles on decorative plates. Design your table in an unconventional way.
FA: Should you ask your guests about dietary preferences in advance, or just plan to make at least one recipe each that can appeal to vegetarians and meat eaters?
AJ: In this day and age, it’s very important to be tuned in to lifestyle choices and food sensitivities. Definitely ask about intolerances and allergies, especially if it’s a small party. And I always go heavy on the vegetables, anyway.
FA: What’s your philosophy on using new or complex recipes for parties?
AJ: I’m a no guts, no glory girl, so I just go for it! But it depends on how comfortable a cook you are. If you’re a tentative entertainer, I would not try out any new recipes. If you’re an accomplished cook, you should try something new. It’s always a fun conversation, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned. It’s about being super sweet and a real person to your guests—warm and welcoming and funny, not “perfect.”
FA: How much of the prep for this Easter party can you realistically do in advance?
AJ: You can do the decorations weeks in advance—plan it as a Sunday activity with your kids. I pull out each platter and piece and figure out what’s going to go on what, and even set the table to see how it works. The day before, make the hard-boiled eggs, the faro salad, the grilled vegetables, and the stuffing for the lamb. The morning of, wash and prep the ingredients for the lamb and kale salad, and make the sauce for the trifles. Then make the lamb and kale salad just before service, and assemble the trifles while the lamb is cooking.
FA: Do you have any tried-and-true good cleanup tips?
AJ: I’m a clean-as-you-go person. Whether I work in a photo studio or in someone’s home, I have to keep things tidy. That said, guests love to help, especially if you’re like me and hate potluck and asking people to bring food to the party, so this is a great way to involve them.
Get set for Easter because Annie’s giving away two sets of spring-ready Encaustic Fuchsia/Orange napkins from Pine Cone Hill! Check out the Rafflecopter entry form below for 4 easy ways to enter! Contest ends on Monday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m. EST. View the full details.
Congratulations to our winner, Catherine from Virginia!
Annette’s Easter Table Picks
- Pine Cone Hill Chevron Fucshia napkins
- Pine Cone Hill Encaustic Fuchsia/Orange napkins
- dBO Pomegranate Ceramic Serving Bowls
- Anthropologie Half-Dozen Egg Crate
- Anthropologie Point Duchesse Platter
- Dwell Studio Wooster Street Bowl
- Anthropologie Fleur-De-Lys Tumbler
- Ballard Designs Eliza Small Serving Bowl
- Horne Hungry Casserole Dish Small
- Horne Capacious Hungry Bowl
- Horne Mud Nest Bowls
- Decorative Bird Nests
- Ballard Designs Vivian Two-Piece Serveware Set
- Jimmy Beans Wool Fibra Natura Sensational Yarn