A Designer’s Guide to the Virginia Table

The holiday season presents boundless opportunities to be local. That’s why we’re offering inspiration from one of Virginia’s expert designers. We asked Paul Miller of Makenest Interiors, a purveyor of American and artisan-made furniture and home decor, to create a seasonal VAfoodie spread to serve up the best of local enterprise this holiday season.

‘Tis the season for friends to gather in the kitchen while we cook. If we’re lucky, they won’t each salt the gravy. Yet, no matter how much or little your favorite people help out in the kitchen, the point is that this room will be the center of activity at most of the parties this season. The lines that once divided cooking from serving have all but vanished from the way we entertain. As the good times have moved into the kitchen, the workaday elements of cooking have come to influence the way we design table settings. Grandmother’s serving bowl is still a classy choice, but the piping hot presentations of today are happening in the earnest curve of a hand-forged iron skillet. This folding of prep and serving rituals connects guests to the culinary process, something that warms the foodie’s heart.

The perfect setting can be knit together with simple and charming pieces that are made with heart by local artisans. When we set the table with the handiwork of our very own skilled neighbors, we support our community and we bring stories to the table as satisfying as any savory treat. Virginia creatives are crafting everything from kitchen knives to serving boards — each one authentic, useful, and handsome. 

Photos: Blanc Creative - Monolith Studios

Photos: Blanc Creative – Monolith Studios

Charlottesville’s own Blanc Creatives is making some of the most exciting artisan cookware out there. The subtle elegance of their skillets looks great on the stovetop, in the dining room, or serving up toasted noshes on the cocktail table. These are not run-of-the-mill tools, but useful works of art.

Likewise, the embellished knives of another Charlottesville maker, Monolith Studios, are crafted in-house from blade to handle. Carve up a delicious smoked Virginia Edwards Ham tableside to make your guests feel included in your foodie vision. 

Perhaps the best way to set a beautifully designed holiday table is to capture the spirit of the meal in the styling of the dishes. Complement a rustic cassoulet made from farm-fresh seasonal ingredients with earthenware bowls like the gorgeous pieces being made at Molly Sanyour Studio in Richmond. The tactile warmth and weight of clay perfectly captures the simplicity of this often reimagined French country stew, while allowing the heat of the dish to warm fingertips. 

Photos: Molly Sanyour Ceramics - Beeswax Candle Company - Flower Haus

Photos: Molly Sanyour Ceramics – Beeswax Candle Company – Flower Haus

The greatest favor you can do for your guests and yourself is to create soft, theatrical lighting at the dinner table. Oil lamps and candles add a golden flicker to the setting and fill in the shadows once the overheads have been dimmed. The tapers at Beeswax Candle Company in Lynchburg offer about eighty minutes of burn time per inch, allowing for hours of lingering over dessert and coffee, unpacking the universe with your very favorite people.

Wildflowers gathered in a birch bark vase like the regionally sourced bouquets offered at Flower Haus reflect the pastoral charm of simple and savory foods. Flower Haus offers gorgeously unique and local community-focused fresh flowers.

When the setting furthers the story of a beautifully-crafted meal, the entire dining experience takes on a little bit of magic. The meal becomes a gorgeous memory. 

We come together for the simplest of foods, for the drink and the communion. Today’s table setting style is authentic and relaxed. The most important designer advice is that comfort and good stories are what please guests the most – and some of the best artisan stories are being crafted with love right here in Virginia. Find more local products to love on our eat list.

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