From the December/January 2015 Issue:

Table Setting 2: Rustic & Refined

    Writer: Meg Fox | Photographer: Patricia Burke |

Design La Jolie Maison & Cording Landscape Design • Occasion Holiday Barn Party • Location Tewksbury Township

Article Photo
enlarge | A chandelier fashioned from twigs and twinkling lights creates an intimate atmosphere over a table decorated with country plaid accents and nature-inspired touches. An area rug warms up the expanse of wood and helps ground the table arrangement, designer Laurie Finn says.
Back to main story

Getting ready to host a holiday gathering with family and friends? Designer Laurie Finn and La Jolie Maison & Cording Landscape Design serves up a festive table setting to spark the imagination and celebrate the magic of the season. Whether you are planning a small, intimate occasion, a formal affair or a casual get-together, they lay it all out on the table, sharing best-dressed scenarios, tips and strategies for making it memorable.

Party Plan
Set back off one of the few remaining dirt roads in Tewksbury, this 1850s-era barn—restored by owners Marie and Tim Newell and now used primarily for social gatherings—proved to be the perfect venue for a festive holiday gathering for friends.

Designer Laurie Finn, owner of La Jolie Maison in Morristown, and her team members Mary Divino and Christine Imperato collaborated with landscape designer Dan Chomuk of Cording Landscape Design in Towaco to create a rustic but refined setting that honors the two-story barn’s faithfully restored features: pine floorboards and beams, cow milking stanchions, horse stalls and hay loft.

Shopping expeditions to Morris County Farms in Denville and stores such as HomeGoods, Pottery Barn and more produced many of the accents that launched the woodland scheme, which can be re-created easily without spending a fortune, Finn says. A burlap tablecloth laid the groundwork and provided a neutral base for plaid accents. “Plaid goes well in a barn-like” venue, Finn says, and burlap—an inexpensive and versatile cloth—comes in handy for a variety of design schemes, she adds.

Article Photo
enlarge | Candy cane “trees,” copper accents and a mix of live and artificial greens —all at varying heights—bring eye-appeal to the buffet table.
Setting the Scene
Dishware featuring sprigs of berries and pine needles boosted the theme along with birch-like candles, a scattering of reindeer bells, and wise owls and fluffy birds that peak out from tall trees whose trunks are lined with burlap. “We tried to bring in as many natural materials as possible,” Finn says. Table accents include moss-covered goblets and deer made of bark.
The fragrance from fresh evergreens also permeated the air. “Dan Chomuk did a wonderful job helping us stage the barn with trees and garland,” Finn recalls. He also made the twig chandelier, which he suspended from the rafters to accentuate the dining table. “Don’t be afraid of your own creativity or bringing in the unexpected,” she says. Finn also suggests setting the table about two weeks in advance “to see where the holes are” and what you may still need.

Article Photo
enlarge | A corner stall, set up as a bar serving zone, displays some of the jugs and bottles unearthed during the barn’s restoration. Twig balls and greens are a fun and simple way to repurpose urns for the winter. Wreath bows are embroidered with reindeer and snowflakes, a subtle nod to the woodland scheme.
Leaving an Impression
For full, long-lasting table arrangements, the designers combined fresh garland with artificial. “The quality of the artificial is so important,” Finn says. “You could literally go up to these greens and not know what was real and what was fake.” The glow from twinkling white lights, softly lit lanterns and candles—all battery-operated—added to the magic of the season, as did floodlights that were used to backlight the trees.
Homeowner Marie Newell was pleased. “We loved the Christmas decorations and use of the barn space that Laurie and Dan designed for a holiday gathering. It gave me more ideas on how we could play with lighting and greenery to create a festive look.”

Details Make the Difference
A Father Christmas figurine with fur-trimmed hat, a carved owl and a mini lantern on berry-and-pine-needle-themed dinnerware add festive spirit.

Table Talk with Laurie Finn

Think Outside the Box “People don’t always think of professional landscapers as a source for party planning. They are so talented.”

Rent vs. Own “Rental chairs can get expensive,” especially if you entertain frequently or have large gatherings, Finn says. She invested in her own collection of bamboo folding chairs from Target. She started with 10, but as her entertaining needs grew over the years so did her collection of chairs, which now numbers 48.

High & Low “Vary the height of the tabletop accents” for visual interest.


Design, Laurie Finn, Mary Divino and Christine Imperato of La Jolie Maison in Morristown; twig chandelier, trees and other live greenery, Dan Chomuk of Cording Landscape Design in Towaco; bamboo chairs, Target; carved deer accents on the table, large pinecones, decorative wire ribbons, moss goblets, reindeer votives and artificial greenery, Morris County Farms in Denville; plates, woodland Santa, holly-themed table runner and plaid tablecloth and napkins, HomeGoods; tree ornaments (carved woodland owl and fluffy white bird), round glass votives, twig balls and battery-operated table lights, Pottery Barn; tree lights, Restoration Hardware; candy cane trees and seeded wine glasses, Crate & Barrel; area rug, Bokara Rug Co. in Secaucus; barn restoration, Oliver Moyer of Oliver Buildings in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)