How To Dress Al Fresco Dining Tables With Paul Thomas-Jeffreys

How To Dress Al Fresco Dining Tables With Paul Thomas-Jeffreys

Paul Thomas Founder & Creative Director, Paul Thomas-Jeffreys gives his top tips on styling flowers for outdoor entertaining this summer.

Words by Paul Thomas-Jeffreys
Photography by Shaun James Cox

Paul adds the finishing touches to a candlelit dinner in the garden at his Oxfordshire home, photographed by Shaun James Cox.

One of the lessons we have learned during the past year is the importance of marking the moment, even when we have been unable to go out. As the general uncertainty continues, there’s every reason to elevate and celebrate the everyday. Why not give your best china an airing and go all out with the candles, even if you’re having a simple supper at home? We can still enjoy special and memorable times together and flowers are a great way to create atmosphere.

“One of the lessons we have learned during the past year is the importance of marking the moment, even when we have been unable to go out.”


However, transforming an empty table on a terrace or garden patio into a beautiful setting for dinner can be a little daunting so I have listed a few ideas to show just how easy it can be and that it does not have to break the bank.
Rather than creating a ‘set piece’ floral arrangement in the centre of the table, try using a selection of small vessels – these can be beakers, bottles, sherry glasses or even shot glasses – anything that holds water! Place these along the centre of the table and add a few stems of flowers and or foliage however you like. This way, the flowers are spread more evenly along the table and this idea also works beautifully as a grouped centrepiece on a round table. This look is really lovely for modest flowers cut from the garden but a simple bunch of ‘bought’ flowers can also be divided between the different vessels. The one thing to remember is not to leave flowers too long as to get in the way of people seeing each other across the table.
Here, our Rainbow Drops British Zinnias bouquet has been simply arranged in a selection of mismatched vintage ink bottles for a casual setting.


For additional drama for evening dining, place single candlesticks amongst the flowers along the length of the table and little nightlights spread randomly in between. Candlelight creates such a lovely atmosphere and the flickering flames look so beautiful amongst the flowers. If you are dining outside regularly, perhaps invest in some small hurricane lanterns which protect the flame from blowing out and stop the candles burning down too quickly.
The Mantel bouquet from the Summer Collection has been split into a trio of etched glass goblets and elegant taper candles have been placed throughout in cut crystal holders along with tealights in glistening, ridged glass votives.


Don’t be afraid to use your best china! What is the point of it just being in a show cabinet? Dress your table up with beautiful porcelain and perhaps even place small ornaments amongst the flowers as well. Use smaller vases to carry the floral theme amongst the cruet sets and glassware.
The fresh, summery tones of Italian Spode complement the baby blue and lemon flowers of The Sezincote from our Timeless Collection. Using a full dinner service adds a sense of occasion and filling little bud vases with daintier blooms helps to spread the flowers across the table.


Use napkins to help dress the table, preferably fabric ones with napkin rings. The prettiest silver rings can easily be found in antique shops or on online auction sites. Alternatively, tie the napkins with a ribbon and finish off the look with a little flower head slotted in.
Even a simple breakfast table setting can benefit from the addition of fabric napkins in a complimentary or contrasting colour to the tablecloth. Here, informal linen napkins have been laid on the plates joining The Orwell from the Summer Collection arranged in a milk jug as a centrepiece.
“The golden rule is to remember there are no rules.”


To be honest, the options are endless. For me, the golden rule is to remember there are no rules (perhaps other than to be able to see each other!). Just be creative and feel confident to use what you have to hand.
Liquorice Allsorts British Sweet Williams arranged in a pair of vintage Wedgwood urns for afternoon tea in the garden.

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