Ask The Expert: Caroline McDonald from Ballard Designs on Creating the Perfect Outdoor Table

Tips on mixing patterns, perfecting color combos, crafting a gorgeous centerpiece and more.

5. What is your favorite way to personalize your table?

No matter the occasion, I always do place cards. Otherwise guests will always ask where to sit, and they inevitably ask while I’m running around trying to get everything out on the table. Plus adding your own handwriting to the table definitely shows your guests you’ve thought of them.

place setting with hand-written place cards
Images courtesy of Ballard Designs

If you’re not a fan of place cards, add something that’s one of a kind like a set of accent plates from your mother or salt and pepper shakers you found at an antiques store.

If all else fails, I love to have something in the center of my plate. At Christmas, maybe that’s an ornament. In the summer, maybe it’s a sprig from the yard with a place card.

6. What makes a table inviting when your guests see it?

Image courtesy of Ballard Designs

Low lighting (if it is nighttime), a pretty centerpiece, and place cards are my necessities. A centerpiece is so important because it creates a focal point on your table, which draws guests into the space.

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