Homes & Design Photo Credit: Barry Calhoun

How to Style Your Dinner Party Like a Designer

Designer Stephanie Brown shares the design secrets that keep the dining room looking chic and the conversation flowing.

It’s true that the tablescapes at Dinner by Design can sometimes veer towards the experimental: designer Stephanie Brown‘s 2016 display, for one, will be a mashup of modern, traditional and organic elements, balancing glamorous furniture with a table surface comprised of live greenery. Brown’s the first to admit this might not be a “take-home” look. “It would be hard to translate this one to a normal dining room,” she laughs.

But even in the wildest DxD tableaux, there are lessons to be found. You won’t get to see Brown’s tablescape debut until Thursday night at Dinner by Design, but here are our takeaways from her design that will instantly elevate any dining party environment–whether you’ve got a living table or not.

This Mount Pleasant condo, designed by Moss and Oak, mixes and matches chairs for a casual-cool vibe. (Photo: Tracey Ayton.)
This Mount Pleasant condo, designed by Moss and Oak, mixes and matches chairs for a casual-cool vibe. (Photo: Tracey Ayton.)

Skip the matchy-matchy.

Break the barriers of what a “traditional dining room” looks like—you don’t need to have head chairs, or matching dinnerware. In fact, creating an eclectic mix of seats and tabletop decor creates an intimate, relaxed vibe. That being said, there should still be some element that pulls it all together, like a repeating material. “If your table has a metal element, maybe your chairs have a metallic accent, or the cutlery is in the same tone,” says Brown. “Every well designed space has to have some common threads.”


MORE: 3 Dinner by Design Looks We Love


Evoke Dinner by Design
This Evoke-designed table from the 2013 edition of Dinner by Design featured a variety of thrift store objects spray-painted white, perfect for sparking conversation. (Photo: Barry Calhoun.)

Create a conversation piece.

Forget the traditional single centrepiece: for a lively dinner party, scatter the table with interesting objects for interaction, incorporating little sculptural pieces or interesting geometric objects in the form of miniature styled vignettes.

dinner by design sophie burke
This Sophie Burke-designed table features a row of bottles with sprigs of greenery, rather than one big floral centrepiece. (Photo: Barry Calhoun.)

Go linear with the centrepiece.

“Think outside the box and pick up tons of greenery or leaves to create something more linear, or something that works in smaller groups,” says Brown. “That way people can interact with it and enjoy it no matter where they’re sitting.”

Find more dining room inspiration at Vancouver’s Dinner by Design, on September 15 and 16.

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