Delegate the Décor: Produce Perfection

As much as I love flowers, I also love an unexpected centerpiece, and Host & Toast Luxury delivered in spades for my most recent tablescape. Host & Toast is a concierge hospitality service based in Nashville, and the owner, Anne Elizabeth McIntosh, can do everything from grazing tables to candy boards to food styling. She created this amazing, farmers market centerpiece and I’m totally obsessed – it’s the most brilliant inspiration to carry into fall entertaining.

I love the idea of an edible spread because you can either use the produce later (no waste) OR make it a self-serve crudité bar that doubles as decor. Either way, it’s a clever (and budget-friendly) alternative to flowers which, while gorgeous, don’t last that long. I can’t help but think of Thanksgiving – how fabulous to create a cornucopia of fall produce down the middle of the table! Lucky for us, Anne Elizabeth has kindly shared her how-to’s for styling a food-based centerpiece so you can recreate this at home. Read on for all of her advice, plus a few thoughts from me on how to round out your table design with the perfect place settings.

THE CENTERPIECE: Tips & Tricks for Styling a Farmers Market Haul

  • Approach this as you would a floral arrangement: you want some elements of height + different colors and textures to keep it interesting.
  • Style your “big” elements first: bunches of herbs, heads of cabbage, and substantial veggies such as eggplant and butternut squash. These large elements anchor your basic shape and then you can fill in with smaller produce.
  • You can always use bowls, baskets, or ramekins to corral “runaway” produce such as blueberries, cherry tomatoes, or mini potatoes. Water glasses, stemless wine glasses, or mason jars can hold bunches of herbs like basil.
  • Choose in-season produce as the colors are the brightest. There is so much late summer and early fall bounty now that the selection is fantastic.
  • Similarly, you want produce that’s at the height of ripeness for a “picked from the garden” look. Don’t worry about every piece looking perfect – a slightly unusual shape (a curved zucchini, for example) or something like a multi-colored bell pepper adds depth and interest.
  • Incorporating tomatoes is one of the easiest ways to get a visual bang for your buck because they come in so many sizes and colors. Bright red, purple, green, orange, striped…it’s like eating the rainbow. Take advantage of it while we’re still in tomato season!
  • Looking ahead to fall, zucchini and yellow squash are perfect “transitional” veggies that look as great in August as they do in September/October. The green and golden yellow work well for fall color palettes, especially when paired with pumpkins.
  • Remember that some veggies are even prettier on the inside. A sliced butternut squash brings a great burst of orange, for example, and pomegranate halves (with seeds exposed) look gorgeous.
  • Unexpected produce such as purple cauliflower or dragon fruit are a fun way to add extra pizzazz.
  • Anne Elizabeth incorporated several dips into our table and I love this for a few reasons. First, they add beautiful color (e.g. green goddess dip, or anything beet-based) and second, it makes for built-in crudités.
  • She suggests slicing veggies such as cucumbers, zucchini, and carrots vertically for dipping (it’s a chic change from the usual “rounds”) and pairing with anything from hummus to tzatziki to artichoke dip.  You can plate these veggies as appetizers (similar to what we did with the bowls of cherry tomatoes on this table), or encourage guests to “dig in” to your centerpiece!

SETTING THE TABLE: Modern Blue & White

As y’all know I worked with Lenox on this table (paid partnership); they’re a favorite resource of mine because of the quality and price point (everything I used to style the table can be found here). I chose a blue and white palette because the shades of navy are such a great counterpoint to all of the vegetables. There isn’t a ton of blue produce so the plates stand out on their own, but still pair nicely with the riot of color in the centerpiece. The overall effect is almost ROYGBIV-esque! I also think a more natural, modern vibe is perfect for a table design like this. It’s a farmers market theme, after all, so there’s no need for fancy linens. The wood table is a great backdrop and I like that the place settings have a somewhat organic quality. Anything too flowery would compete with the produce, so the rustic feel + geometric motifs work perfectly. Just a few things to consider if you want to recreate this at home!

  • Dinner Plates: Profile Collection (in navy, also available in white)
  • Salad Plates: Blue Bay Collection
  • Bowls: Blue Bay Collection
  • Serving Pieces: Profile Collection (platters); Blue Bay Collection (wood tray with ramekins)
  • You can find all of these pieces on the “Mary’s Top Picks” page at

*All photos courtesy of Lele Fain Photography*

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