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Formal or Keys casual – here’s how to set the table

Kimberly Flowers is like the Martha Stewart of the Keys. She’s been a local interior decorator for 20 years, styling the interiors and exteriors of Key Haven and Shark Key’s finest homes and most of the local galas. Before that, she styled Reba McEntire in Nashville, and spent time in South Beach and Tampa making homes magazine worthy.


For casual events, like backyard get-togethers and barbeques, Kim says don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out. “Indoor furniture softens the mood, and adds more casual seating,” she said, adding a couch from inside her home to the round table rented from Prestige Party Rentals on Truman Avenue.


She layers two linens and said even with a round table, rectangular linens will work. The oranges will bring out the colors of an orange chicken marmalade from the grill. She pulls natural colors with a vase filled with shells and antique oyster shuckers, and makes a centerpiece of palm fronds she found around the yard. “A little white spray paint on the fronds makes it pop in front of a natural background,” she said, adding the whole idea is to keep it simple.


For a more formal dining event, Kim suggests skipping the linens … depending on the table. Her farmhouse table didn’t need a linen so she anchored the centerpieces with a table runner she sewed years ago. Table runners can also run across the table under the place settings instead of down the center. “There is very little table real estate so you want to keep centerpieces concise and elegant,” she said of the two candlesticks and antique, gold-plated cups she used to hold fresh lavender roses. “Your glassware and silverware will do all the work, this is the time you want your finest china showcased.”


Kim mixes and matches her tableware. In one of her table settings, she’ll use silverware that has gold and silver accents and pair it with different style dishes with either gold or silver trim. She also recommissioned pieces like her 100-year-old saucers and used them as bread plates. “Formal tables are all about layering,” she said. “Use what you have.”


The side buffet would be perfect for a girl’s night-in potluck. “You want to make sure casual get-togethers are easy and carefree because the focus should be on friendships,” she said.


Here Kim repurposed her favorite wine bottles from Onlywood Pizzeria on Duval Street to hold flowers. “It’s a modern form of elegance to use the same items in repetition,” she said.

Kim’s top etiquette tips:

• Silverware is simple, always work from the outside in.

• Make fingers into a “b” and “d” — bread is on the left side and drink is on the right.

• Once finished, send the used silverware away with the plate.

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