How to Master "Simple" Design
One of the most difficult things for a designer to be today is restrained.
It's so easy when you're designing a space or a table to want to introduce just one more element. Add another color. Throw in another detail. Squeeze in just one final touch. But those "design details" are often added out of insecurity; the focus is less on if the design is well-composed and more on whether or not the table makes enough of a statement. It takes a little bit of design confidence to scale back and learn to say more with less.
This table on the Gadsden House porch in Charleston is one of my favorite. I have an affinity for black and white and the power that contrast creates. It's a classic, bold, well-bred combo that is both refined and welcoming.
For this table, we focused on the concept of essentialism—only keeping things on the table that provided value. Forks, plates, napkins. Things our guests would actually use. By doing that, the table feels purposeful and functional—a consideration that is so often an afterthought. I can't tell you how many times I've watched guests sit down at tables, careening to get a word in between the giant forest of flowers in their face. Or looking for a small tidbit of land to place their wine glass. Between the candles and plates and shakers and place cards, there's hardly anywhere suitable to set their drink.
But don't worry: focusing on the purposeful and functional doesn't meaning abandoning the beautiful. Instead, we selected design elements that could stand alone based on their own design merit. Textured, layered tablecloth, runner, and napkins from La Tavola — pieces that look quality and feel amazing to the touch. Slightly misshapen, organic dinnerware whose quirk adds interest. Modern, thin flatware, and bold iron candle bases for our Creative Candles pillars.
The crown jewel though was the chairs. Our classic French Josef Chairs that have a beautiful tan caning that pops just slightly against the black and white base. The caning adds that touch of texture and pattern that keeps the tablescape from feeling too simple and complacent. It gives it that touch of special.
Take a tour of the final design below and the accompanying lounge vignette. And next time you're setting the table, challenge yourself to scale back and focus on the power of functional beauty.