Grouping objects in a pleasing arrangement is the goal of a vignette. Designers work hard on their tablescaping game, creating small compositions layered with texture and color that draw raves on Instagram. We asked some local designers to describe their process.


Susan M. Jamieson’s dining room at the 2017 DC Design House in Potomac, Md. The Richmond designer found a dramatic antique concrete clamshell to fill with succulents as a table showstopper. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The easiest way to start planning a table setting is to go with the season, says designer Susan M. Jamieson of Bridget Beari Designs in Richmond. She suggests bright colors for spring and summer, and rich earth and jewel tones for fall and winter. Tableware and flowers can take their cues from the room's decor. Layer shapes, such as round plates on square chargers, and don't be afraid to mix china patterns and glassware.

A centerpiece can be a starting point for conversation (first, make sure guests can see over it). Fresh-cut flowers are romantic but last only a few days, so consider potted plants. The dining room she decorated for the 2017 DC Design House has a 10-foot table that needed something major in the middle. Jamieson went with an antique concrete clamshell brimming with succulents. The effect is blown up to match the scale of the show house, but a smaller version would bring a fresh, organic element to any dinner party. "I like the natural feel of the succulents against all the navy and gold in the room," Jamieson says. The green succulents, with their different shapes and textures, are a contrast to the formal china. The gold flatware has a shell motif, relating it to the clamshell.

Jamieson picked up two $40 succulent bowls at Lowe's that included assortments of aloe vera, sedum, tiger tooth, echeveria and others. She separated the plants and put them in individual small pots with cactus soil and perlite. Gravel was poured on the bottom, and the pots were added and covered with moss.