5 Tips for Setting a Tropical Table

Bring the tropics home by setting a table bursting with all things island.

My mind has been drifting lately; reminiscing about the beautiful scents, sights and flavours of Sri Lanka. We truly miss being there, so in lieu of the real thing, I'm bringing the tropics home. Here are some tips for setting your own tropical table this summer.


1) Big Beautiful Foliage

The first thing I think of when I am setting a table is the flowers, or fauna I want to use to evoke feelings of happiness, joy, nostalgia, or calm. My mother was a floral designer before she retired and did flowers for weddings and special events, which caused me to really appreciate the value of incorporating nature for setting the mood. I am willing to pay more for beautiful fresh flowers, leaves and stems of berries. I love visiting small independent florists, getting to know the owners, and picking their brains about botanicals. To set your tropical table, keep it simple and choose one or two big beautiful tropical leaves, place them in a large vase as the centrepiece. Use leaves like palm, monstera, philodendron, banana leaf, elephant ear or dieffenbachia; and for a pop of colour use one or two large tropical flowers like anthurium, birds of paradise or ginger lily.


2) Bring out the Eclectic Serving Pieces

I am also a sucker for beautiful ceramics, flatware, and dishes. I feel its as important as the food because when we see food presented in an artful way, it makes the experience of eating even more joyful. Look for unique pieces sold in antique stores, independent and boutique shops. If you see something really beautiful, start with buying just one and then build a collection. Some of my favourite places to shop include Paradise Road, The Cross, Little White House, Anthropology and Nordstrom Home. Choose dishes with intricate designs, and neutral tones to allow the colours and shapes of the foods to pop. (Image right: plate from Anthropology, flatware Paradise Road).


3) Bring Reminders of your Travels to the Table

When we travel to Sri Lanka, I am often drawn to the small lesser known shops off the side of the road. They usually have one-of-a-kind pieces, antiques, handy work, wooden crafts, and metal pieces. I feel pieces like this carry history or hidden stories within them. I also love visiting tea shops to find regional tea blends and locally designed teacups and saucers that I can bring home to remind me of my travels. If you have some unique pieces like this from your travels, use them! The small details serve as great conversations starters. (Above: Mlesna Sri Lanka teacup.)


4) Spice it UP


Sri Lankans like a bit of spice with everything, even their fruit. When I was in Sri Lanka as a young child I learned the practice of sprinkling spears of pineapple with cayenne, or with a bit of salt and pepper. My mouth waters just thinking of it! Use small cute dishes to hold condiments and spices that will add that extra bit of colour, texture, and wow!


5) It's All about Abundance

An island table to me a is all about abundance, whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. Serve stylishly, but generously; with beauty, but also a sense of relaxation. When setting a breakfast fruit table, include luscious fruits like papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, mango, avocado and pomegranate. Everyone should eat to their heart's content... and hopefully a well-set table will bring them back for more! It's the simple pleasures that can bring a sense of calm, inspiration, serendipity and joy.

(Above image: tropical fruits; bowl from The Cross)