When we were in Napa a few weekends ago, we had a couple different sets of friends come in over the weekend to hang out, grill up some goodies, and enjoy the sunshine. The house we were staying in had a beautiful garden, with plenty of options for outdoor seating and entertaining. I rummaged around the cabinets in the house and found lots of candles and placemats, which would’ve looked pretty good on their own. But, the garden had a large lemon tree, and after remembering Ina Garten’s tips on using them to entertain, I decided I’d make dinners a little special with a simple, rustic centerpiece featuring leaves and branches, lemons, and lots of candlelight (because everyone looks good in candlelight once the sun goes down!).
This was so easy to put together, and if you’re planning on doing any outdoor dining this spring or summer, you could easily re-create the look. Here’s what I did:
Gathering the supplies
To create the look, you’ll need your favorite votive holders, pillar candles, a few lemons, placemats and place settings, and a pair of scissors to trim branches as needed. You’ll also need a big bunch of tree leaves — I used lemon leaves since the tree was there (plus lemon branches have great angles), but you could also try magnolia leaves too, or even big cuttings of rosemary bushes (bonus: that would smell amazing!).
Arrange the branches in a zig zag or right angle patter by placing the cut ends of each branch end to end. Lemon branches are great for this because they naturally have some gnarly angles if you clip the branches in the right place, which makes arranging very easy. But there’s no right or wrong here — you want it to look really rustic and effortless.
You can arrange the branches as far down the table as you’d like, based on how big your table is, and if you have guests seated at the ends of the table.
Next, begin arranging the pillar candles and the votive holders in the inside angles of the branches. The house had these funky brass and star votive holders; if you had mercury glass votives, this would be the perfect place to use them (they’re my personal fave!). Don’t worry if you have some sparse looking spots with the branches — we’ll fill those in later.
Then, lay out the placemats and place settings. I also used some cloth napkins, though when I recreated the look to shoot photographs, they were all in the wash! I loved the look of these simple woven straw placemats. It just felt super earthy and elegant.
Now, grab the lemons and nestle them in between the branches. You can use them to help balance out any sparse spots.
Be sure to check the table from different angles to make sure you don’t have any big, gaping holes in candle placement or the branches. For me, there were still some sparse spots after placing everything, so I grabbed a few more lemon branches from the tree and clipped trimmings of leaves to tuck into the naked spots, like at the end of this candle:
And there you have it! A very easy, warm, and elegant look for any outdoor fÃªte. What do you think? If you end up re-creating the look at any time this summer, be sure to send me a photograph or Instagram!!