Styling a Secret Supper with Christiann Koepke
Christiann Koepke is a photographer and recipe curator based in Portland, Oregon. For the past few years she has been an integral part of Secret Suppers, working within a small team of creatives and cooks to host extraordinary dining experiences in unforgettable locations.
For Christiann, gathering around a table with family and friends is the most special of events. "I love the warmth that it brings. The beauty, the peace" it's felt all around a table as you sit with a glass of wine in hand, candles lit and hearts full." Inspired by a youth spent cooking and eating family dinners in Montana, Christiann began holding her own dinner parties at college, recreating the warmth and wonder that she had always found around a table. This love for food and hosting is what led her to Secret Suppers.
Secret Supper guests are treated to a unique dining experience. They are given the location of the dinner just 24 hours before it begins. The shores of a beach "fog clearing to reveal a beautiful sunset“ the atmospheric interior of an early 20th century boathouse or the sun-dappled shade of a forest clearing have all served as venues for these most extraordinary of occasions. Each experience is carefully crafted so food, styling and location work together to create a harmonious whole and leave a beautiful imprint in the mind of each guest.
With a heap of experience styling unforgettable suppers, Christiann is well-placed to offer her advice for hosts wanting to make their own occasion extra special. Here she shares her thoughts on how to style the perfect dinner party table:
"What makes a great dinner party? First and foremost, the people at your table. Secondly, the food you serve. Thirdly, the atmosphere you set. All of these elements work together to create a one-of-a-kind experience shared between friends" the type of experience you just can't get at a restaurant.
"For me, the following elements are all integral to the atmosphere of your gathering. Choosing how to combine them provides endless creative possibilities and allows you to make your dinner party truly unique:
Where you host your gathering has a huge impact on the feel of the evening. I feel that special moments with family and friends are best created in your own home or, like we did for the Suppers, out in the middle of nowhere, where we were able to set the stage as we wished.
Pick a palette that fits the vibe you're going for. Warm colours are best for a hearty autumn feast while pastels and lighter shades might be better suited to a springtime tea party or a mid-morning brunch. Pick complementary colours for your linens and props to bring everything together.
PLACE SETTINGS AND PROPS
The actual pieces you use to style the table create a very specific feeling and sense of the event. A great place to start when sourcing these elements is to look at what you have around the house. Perhaps you have some old passed down candlesticks in a hidden drawer that need some dusting off? Or some beautiful wildflowers growing out in the garden? Items like these can help to create a really unique table setting.
Textures should play an important role in your styling. Are you going to use a tablecloth? Are you going to use linen napkins or paper? A table laid with a natural linen tablecloth, white crockery and old, worn silverware is a particular style favourite of mine. There's also the option to strip things back with a bare wooden table, black ceramics, gold silverware and linen napkins. Both entirely different looks, but beautiful in their own way.
Sometimes, a bright, fresh setting is best suited to your theme. But candlelight is, hands down, my favourite option for lighting. It gives everything a warm, intimate feel that encourages good conversation and a feeling of togetherness.