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7. Centerpieces

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Instead of flowers, D.C. floral designer Sue Bluford recommends arranging fruits, vegetables or gourds down the center of a dining table. Artichokes, ornamental kale, squash and mini pumpkins can be piled in bowls or fashioned as a free-form runner. The more you use, the more dramatic the look: For a recent party, Bluford amassed 200 mini pumpkins down the middle of a long table.

Later in the holiday season, switch to persimmons, oranges, tangerines and pomegranates (cut a few open to display the insides, but be careful not to stain your tablecloth). Other options: Go for a natural look by using pine cones, evergreens and magnolia leaves, or be decorative and use lots of monochromatic ornaments.

No fancy footwork is necessary to achieve these looks, says Bluford, "just lay them down on the table."

Another idea: Los Angeles designer Michael S. Smith suggests using amber votive candles on the table to cast a warm glow.

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