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Fresh ideas for summer entertaining
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Plant flowers or herbs in tea cups for a fresh splash of color - photo by Photo Contributed

Bright flowers are blooming, nights are turning warmer, the days are getting longer: ‘tis the season for outdoor entertaining. Design insiders say you can make summer sizzle by throwing a great dinner party without breaking the bank. Simply start with two sources - your china cabinet and Mother Nature.

“With the higher gas prices and tough economy, many people are looking for ways to dazzle their guests without spending a lot of money,” says Keith Winkler, product marketing manager with Replacements, Ltd., billed as the world’s largest retailer of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. “Start by rethinking how you use your tableware. So many people only use their fine patterns for special occasions and then they’re locked into thinking you can only use a certain piece for its intended purpose. By thinking creatively, you can find so many more uses that aren’t only pretty; but also a great conversation starter.”

Winkler says iced tea glasses are perfect for parfaits or fruit salads, while sherbet or champagne glasses are great for serving ice cream or other desserts. Martini glasses make fantastic shrimp cocktails. And don’t be afraid to use larger serving pieces, such as a punch bowl or soup tureen, for holding bread or buns at a cookout; you can also fill those with ice to chill wine and other drinks.

Think fresh

If you need a little inspiration to get you going, look no further than outside your door.

“So many of us work really hard on our flower gardens and unfortunately those tender blossoms just don’t last all that long,” says visual merchandiser Dubravka Vujinovic. “Whether you have large flower beds or just a window box, it’s very easy to let nature be your guide and take advantage of the vibrant seasonal colors and textures by adding flowers and other greenery to your dinner table.”

Fill a clear vase with lemons and add water and fresh flowers. You can even use double old fashioned glasses to create floral arrangements for individual place settings.

Place smooth stones in the bottom of a clear glass pitcher, and use those to anchor a large fresh flower, such as a Gerber daisy. Fill with water for a fantastic accent - you can even float a candle for evening entertaining.

Plant fresh flowers or herbs in cups and saucers to go around the table or kitchen. This not only adds a splash of fresh green color, herbs are handy for healthy cooking.

Another quick summer decorating trick is to place fresh leaves or blossoms flat on a dinner plate, then place a clear glass luncheon or salad plate over the floral design. You can use various colored plates, leaves or flowers to create unique designs for each guest.

Arrange candles and flowers or even sand and sea shells on cake stands to use as table centerpieces or accents for any room of your home.

Vujinovic says you can easily give your table a fresh look by simply using colored glass plates, or adding an accent plate you can change seasonally to complement your everyday dinnerware. Hot color trends for summer 2011 include bright vibrant colors such as coral, turquoise and honeysuckle.

You can find more of Vujinovic’s design tips on Replacements’ YouTube Channel, or the company’s website,