Mum’s the Word/Zen Garden

I’m taking a break from the buffet tables I have shared the last couple of weeks to bring you something a little different. I have a goofy rule about not buying anything unless I can think of at least 5 ways to use it in under 30 seconds. Sometimes that’s a real challenge. Other times, however, the ideas just flow.

I recently conducted an exercise in my “Art of Tablescaping” class that engaged the students in looking at a centerpiece item and brainstorming about all the different ways it could be used. The genesis of these two tablescapes is that exercise, along with napkins & matching placemats I bought year-before-last at Burlington. The white flowers remind me of Fuji mums, and the gentle nature of the design makes me think of a quiet Japanese garden. I figured I could bring out a little or a lot of that Asian feel depending on the additional elements used, but that both looks would work well for a Spring tablescape.

IMG_4760WMI remember sitting in the aisle with the napkin on my head (the inspiration seems to come quicker for me that way!) with possibilities shooting out from every which way. (And yes, I often sit there for long periods of time making purchase decisions that have more to do with “How much trouble will I be in for spending this money?” as opposed to “How many ways can I use it?” Don’t judge me! ;-))

What you’ll see here are side-by-side comparisons of how switching just a couple of elements can change the whole look and feel of a tablescape. See if you can spot the subtle differences. “Mum’s the Word” on the left would be great for any “business casual” get-together, and “Zen Garden” on the right would work well when serving something fun like sushi or takeout Chinese food.
(Click to enlarge any photo.)

Besides the robin’s egg blue placemats and napkins, both place settings utilize Z Gallerie’s “Delfina” china with its glossy white center, chocolate brown rim, and sophisticated silver edging.

Making the napkin look a little different is as easy as changing the napkin ring. The napkin on the left has a silver-rimmed faux mother of pearl ring (I bought them at Old Time Pottery, but Z Gallerie has them, too), while the ring on the right is a natural rattan (Pier 1).

The setting on the left uses clear glass everyday glassware from Old Time Pottery. The setting on the left replaces the all-American stemware with a simple white sake cup from World Market.

The flatware on the left with faux mother of pearl handles is distinctively different from the stainless bamboo on the right which evokes a more deliberate Asian feel. (Both from Target.)

The elements of the unusual centerpiece remain the same for both tablescapes. A stripped natural manzanita branch from TJ Maxx (yeah, that’s right, TJ Maxx…who’d have thought?!??!) mimics both the color and curves of the branch on the placemat. Soothing white Fuji mums in clear glass Hobby Lobby cylinders stand alongside silver Revere candlesticks with chocolate brown candles. (Note: Fuji mums will last for a couple of weeks if you cut the stem on the diagonal, change the water every couple of days, and maintain a comfortable room temperature.)

The overall look of the buffet is altered by the simple addition of extra elements that steer away from the more austere look of simple candles and florals as pictured on the left.

The simple white World Market sake set and teapot (T.J. Maxx) definitely lend Asian influence.

The melodic sounds from soothing Japanese chimes can be used to gently alert your guests that a feast awaits.

Subtle differences can make a world of difference!

Other posts on this site with an Asian feel:
Mandarin Bling
Copper Zen
Year of the Rabbit
Peaceful Peonies
Mikasa Daylight” (Design #2)

I am joining Susan and many other talented tablescapers from out there in the world for Tablescape Thursday again this week. Also hooking up with The Style Sisters for Centerpiece Wednesday. Hope to see you there!

41 thoughts on “Mum’s the Word/Zen Garden

  1. Ahh, I love your twist on these two themes! Great examples of how you can use some of the same table elements to achieve more than one look!
    I saw that same manzanita branch at our T.J.’s but unlike you I couldn’t see what I could do with it so I passed it up! Your clever use of the white fuji mums accented differently really works! The napkins rings, flatware and glassware all made a big difference! You certainly get an A for creativity!
    Now, I’m still visualizing you at the store contemplating whether you should buy something or not with a napkin on your head!! 🙂


  2. Both designs are beautiful. The image of you in the store with a napkin on your head is priceless! I am going to adopt your rule of imaging how many different ways I can use something since I tend to accumulate alot of one use items. Dianne


  3. I love the challenge of the “how many ways can I use this” exercise. It really gets your creativity flowing. Lovely table, love the soft blues and very Zen.
    XO Cindy


  4. This table is absolutely stunning. I can just see you sitting in the aisle with a napkin on your head. I am usually doing the other thing, trying to figure out how much trouble I will be in if I buy it.

    The china is so perfect with the linens, and all your other touches are just incredible, especially the chimes thingy.



  5. Martha Stewart had nothing on you! It is beautiful and peaceful. I love all the thought into the various aspects of the design. And I sharing your shopping/ purchase philosophy. Hope you class is going well- I I know it is! Delia


  6. I love these tables! That icy blue is one of my favorite colors right now and the contrast with the chocolate…perfect. Really like those pearl look handles on the flatware. I was cracking up thinking about you with the napkin on your head…but I can also see how that would make you think better! I am like you though in my thought process, but not the 5 different ways to use it. My thought process usually goes more along the lines of where can I stash this when I get home so I can pull it our several weeks from now and reply ”this old thing” when Scott says “when did you get that!” yes…it happens a lot in our house, and no, he doesn’t fall for it anymore. Some women wish their husbands would be observant of the little things…Scott will even notice if I have on a new pair of earrings! And let’s just say, there is more jewelry than dishes. But he hasn’t kicked me out yet, so I guess I’m in the clear! HA.
    Have a great week!


  7. Alycia, LOVE the versatility of this style! Both versions are beautiful!! Love the Fuji mums! What a great flower, with such an impact!! You know ZGallerie is one of my favorite stores; and their tabletop pieces are just awesome! You did a great job!


  8. Alycia…you are the magician of tablescapes!…You are able to add or delete a few items and make the table have an entirely different feel..

    Ah, zen..huummm…yes, I know a lot about “zen” as my mother is Japanese and my dad was Irish..what a combo!!..My dad has passed away, but my mom lives a very active life for her age..I really think it is her “zen” personality!…

    The tables you presented today are wonderfully enchanting and of course ah-so, zen.


  9. What a cool exercise, Alycia!! The changes are indeed so subtle, yet they create a completely different feel. Both are lovely, though, because of the details–the chimes, the flatware, the sake set and teapot on the buffet…both lovely. Very fun! ~Zuni


  10. I think it’s wonderful you can create different themes from the same china and changing a few accessories. Mums are great as you said, they last a long time.
    Your students will learn a very important lesson.
    I love Zgallerie…I just popped in there yesterday and didn’t buy a thing…..
    Your blue color is so lovely. TJMaxx, World market and Marshalls are have great bargains.


  11. I chuckle each time I think of you sitting in the aisle with a napkin on your head. Obviously it works. You conveyed the intended mood and its gorgeous. I may cop a squat the next time I’m in TJ Maxx!


  12. Both are beautiful, and very zen. I will send my four gkids over to play those chimes for you! Not so zen!
    So now, let’s see, I put the napkin on my head and 30 ways to do a table will come to me? Will they ask me to leave the store? 🙂
    Great job as always!


  13. Hi darling, yes it’s raining in our area, you however know how to bring a bit of brightness to a cloudy dreary day. I love the way you changed out the flatware and napkin rings to bring a different feel to the table. Drawing us in ever so slightly to your beautiful buffet. Hope you’re in and staying dry, I have to leave in a bit to make a meds run. Hugs ~lynne~


  14. Wonderful job, I do love the placemats and napkins and so interesting to read as you show your simple changes in each tablescape. The branch is great too, I do go to TJ Maxx every week and always seem to find several interesting items and must decide what to purchase and how I can use it in more than one tablescape or vignette.


  15. I love the napkin on the head decision making process ha ha….I am with you on only buying something if you can use it in many ways! Such great ideas and tips you have shown here! Simple changes can make a big difference…thanks you so much for sharing all your ideas with us on Centerpiece Wednesday!

    Karin 🙂


  16. Now see, this is one reason that I love coming here. I feel as if I learn a little something on top of the inspiration. Here, I saw the differences a subtle change can make. I really loved the side by sides and enlarged them so I could get a better look.

    And then.. there’s the napkin on the head thing. I visual image that I have is hilarious to me. The stuff ya learn from Alycia… The stuff you learn from ALycia…


  17. Hi lovely lady.
    I love Both designs so beautiful. The image of you in the store with a napkin on your head is priceless! I also always look at my Tablescapes with other flatware, and mix my dishes for a new look. Thanks so much for your sweet comments on my Easter Tablescape. I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend with your family.
    XXOO Diane


  18. I remember a post you did on how you organize your table stuff, so I know you have lots of options. But I reuse tons of stuff all the time and somehow end up with a dramatically different look. You do a good job of demonstrating how! So nice you came by to see me! I appreciate the fun feedback!


  19. This was such a fun and interesting post. I really enjoy all your tips and this was a great way to show how easy it is to change the “feel” of a table. Those dishes are just beautiful and I’m sure you can think of more than 5 ways to use them!

    Robin Flies South


  20. Alycia, 5 ways to use it in under 30 seconds? You are blessed! Both designs are beautiful! Do you write your ideas down while they are fresh in your head? Have a nice weekend ;o)


  21. HEY, that was FUN!!! It really proves that small changes can do a lot to change the look and feel of a table. To me, that’s why every LITTLE element is as important as every BIG one!

    I’m glad to hear that I am not the only one always making rules for myself. Mine are a lot simpler, like “do I love it?” which, come to think of it, gets me in a LOT of TROUBLE!


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