Out & About: Tablescaping at Frontgate With Denise McGaha

Franki Durbin Denise McGaha

If ever a designer lived and breathed her design confidence, it’s Denise McGaha. I’ve long been impressed with her bold interiors and personal style. And while I’ve spent a bit of time with her at various High Point or Dallas showrooms, October provided my first opportunity to see her give a demostration or speak at an event. The ever-popular Frontgate location near my home hosted an evening with Denise showing us how to tablescape like a boss and deck the halls with confidence this season.

Denise McGaha

I can speak for all of us in attendance when I tell you it was well worth the time on a busy weeknight to hear her wise tidbits and decorating strategies. More importantly, she sparked in all of us a renewed sense of confidence and empowerment as we prepared our homes for guests - or even decorated merely for ourselves.

Clearly, the Frontgate team felt the same. Denise now only transformed one table for the event - but four complete table vignettes plus the rear of the store featuring a massive hearth. Suffice it to say she was a hit!

If you’ve ever been to one of these showrooms it’s a wonderland of the prettiest home furnishings & accessories you can imagine. So in the hands of a master designer, the gold place settings, beaded runners & oak tables took on a new life.

But, back to the event…

As Denise toured us around the various scenes, she encouraged us to forget about fussy “rules” or stodgy guidelines for entertaining. Fresh eucalyptus stems in a water pitcher? Of course. Ornaments as place markers? Absolutely. A garden stool as a center piece? You bet. In addition to marvelous visual inspiration, Denise empowered every one of us to decorate with confidence and not worry about what was considered traditional. If you love it, it probably works.

In addition to marvelous visual inspiration, Denise empowered every one of us to decorate with confidence and not worry about what was considered traditional. If you love it, it probably works.

Her ONE rule (if you will): if and when you do use a tablecloth, please ensure it still covers the table once you add the leaf to your dining table. A “too short” tablecloth was her one “no” of the evening. Otherwise, she encouraged us to play, experiment and boldly innovate to create whimsical ways of decorating for entertaining.

Her first table was all about Christmas. Reds, silver, a mix of place settings and - of course - greenery. Right off the bat, she encouraged us to mix reds (yes, even of they were two shades off!) and have fun with differing dishes as well. Stack them, mix them, enjoy them. I love how she used sterling silver vessels for flowers, as sort of a cheeky nod to tradition.

Her next two transformation areas were less about the holidays, and more about infusing your tables - and your home - with classic pieces utilized in unexpected ways. Tall patio lanterns served as centerpieces stacked on a garden stool seemed perfectly chic the way Denise styled them. The lush magnolia branches (a southern favorite!) added a rich, luxurious feel to the scene. On yet another table she used chinoiserie canisters and hurricane candleholders to set the stage for entertaining.

My favorite, however, was her final tablescaping flourish: The GOLD & orange table! Who knew the humble “cutie” could be reimagined as a posh holiday table accent? From clear lucite obelisks (drool-worthy) to luxe gold beaded quatrefoil placemats, this scene had my name written all over it. I love how she played with height for maximum impact and set gold decorative trees on dessert pedestals for even more drama. This was a rulebreaker’s table if there ever was one. And I loved it. Look at those magnolia leaves cradling the spilled fruits? Honestly, girl. You’ve got game!

Who is Denise McGaha?

If you’re not familiar with her interior design work, prepare to be amazed. Here are just a few photos from one of my favorite projects. When I tell you she is a master of design, I am not kidding. I could go on ad nauseum about the architectural & design details in these photos, but her portfolio speaks for itself. Her work has been widely celebrated in the press, with every publication from Traditional Home to Modern Luxury taking notice of her masterful approach to design & living. Visit denisemcgaha.com for more and be sure to follow her on Instagram for daily inspiration.

Photography by the talented Stephen Karlisch.

Denise McGaha

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