Whether gathered in your formal dining room to feast on a gourmet meal amidst gorgeous place settings or hovered over takeout boxes shared in your eat-in kitchen, the sentiment is the same: breaking bread with friends and family nurtures the connections that we all crave as humans. Put that way, it may seem dramatic, but truly – laughter, conversation, and sharing create an intimacy that can be easily misplaced in today’s harried world. What better way to tend to your soul than to gather those closest and host a classic dinner party?

 Whether formal or casual, it all leads to a great gathering. From sentimental china pieces mixed with luxurious linens to a well-planned menu and thoughtful atmosphere, it’s true that all you really need to create connection is each other. But, a pretty set-up doesn’t hurt. And a beautifully executed tablescape can convey a message of caring and engagement with your guests.

Renowned Charlotte-based designer Barrie Benson of Barrie Benson interiors created the perfect dinner party tablescape in her clients’ newly designed dining room and has a few tips and inspired looks to share with you for the holiday season.

Designed by architect Sam Greeson of Meyer-Greeson- Paullin-Benson, this jaw-dropping dining room is a traditional stunner highlighted by beautiful windows, perfect scale, and spot-on panel dimensions.

“This de Gournay wallpaper would be pretty in any space, but it is especially striking in a room with such gorgeous architecture like this one,” Benson says. “While this is a more traditional formal dining room, we added a few modern nods like the ebonized credenza by T.H. 

Robsjohn Gibbings and a geometric rug from Merida.” Using a natural palette of green and white, she mixed moss-colored candles in vintage Swedish candelabras with boxwood topiaries in varying sizes and small arrangements of white roses with forest berries. “We wanted the design to complement the room, not distract from its interest,”Benson explains. Richard Ginori Fiesole china is placed at each seat with Georg Jensen flatware, William Yeoward crystal glasses, and vintage embroidered linen napkins passed down from Benson’s mother. “The Fiesole china dressed the table in a way that felt timeless, in keeping with the room,” Benson says, adding that the brass birds added an unexpected element, as well.

Benson makes creating a tablescape look easy, but the skill is in thoughtful preparation. Creating conversation pieces and bringing personal elements to the meal can spark dialogue and even inspire connections on deeper levels. Serving a nostalgic dish, for example, is a great way to personalize a meal. “When hosting a formal dinner party, I love to bring back an old-fashioned favorite from my childhood like chicken curry with sides of peanuts and coconut shavings,” Benson says. “It’s unexpected and intriguing, and it usually triggers warm conversation.”

Benson also suggests using your table design to engage guests, noting that you could use a modern fabric for table linens mixed with your more traditional china or include a family heirloom or a unique flower arrangement as the centerpiece. “Also, while large, dramatic floral arrangements work in some cases, it is important to keep in mind the line of sight when seated,” Benson says.

In the end, however, being prepared can remove stress and distraction, leaving a smooth and enjoyable evening for you and your guests. “Have all of the china ready, linens ironed, silver polished, and candles lit so that you can focus on your guests,” she says. “I have found it is so important to have everything set ahead of time, so as soon as your guests arrive, you are ready to welcome them. And if you are still in the shower, it looks pretty when they arrive, even if [you] do not!”