Photo: Love, the Nelsons + Styling: Kaitlin Holland + Invitation: Simply Jessica Marie 

Photo: Love, the Nelsons + Styling: Kaitlin Holland + Invitation: Simply Jessica Marie 

Flat styling is definitely an art, which means it takes practice. At the live online class, "Styling 101: What Every Creative Needs to Know to Style Like a Pro," I will be diving deep into the fundamentals of design as related specifically to product and paper flat lay styling.

Today, I'm sharing three tips for styling a strong, beautiful flat lay to get you ready for what's to come on 4/26! 

Tip #1: Let the pieces direct you. 

Rather than forcing a preconceived plan on your flat lay, allow yourself to be creative and take a cue from the products and pieces you're working with! What might be a great approach with an invitation suite might not work as well when styling food. Look at the lines, shapes, colors, and textures of the pieces you're working with and then trust your eye! You will naturally be drawn to certain arrangements and elements based on your design eye and preferences.

Tip #2: Pay attention to tone and color.

We will talk more about working with colors and tone in the online class, but pay attention to how your color and tone are interacting. Does one side or portion of your composition feel weighted down compared to other areas? Is one portion heavy with a specific color? Is this intentional or accidental? Squinting your eyes to look at the tones rather than colors is also a helpful trick when trying to balance your palette! 

Tip #3: Practice, practice, practice!

I can never say this enough to the students at our workshops - if you aren't practicing you will not see improvement! At the Styling 101 class you'll receive even more insight you can begin to put into practice, along with built in work time. But whether or not you have additional training, you have to practice styling flats in order to develop your personal aesthetic and voice and strengthen your design eye. 

Happy styling, friends! I hope to see you at the Styling 101 class - Early Bird tickets end tonight at 11:59 pm! (Grab your seat here!)


TSOS Richmond: Day One


Whew! This series of posts may be my longest to date. Why? Because so much goodness happened over the course of the three days we spent in Richmond. And it was so beautifully captured by Rachel Linder of Blue Barn Photography! Each workshop is so unique, and this was no different. The energy of this workshop was invigorating and inspiring! I'm so thankful to know each and every person who attended, spoke, and contributed.

Before we jump in, I have to first recognize the amazing team of Paisley & Jade. P&J went out of their way to make it an incredible and seamless week for us. It was hands down the easiest set up and tear down experience we've had as a team thanks to them! They hosted and furnished the entire week, so if you see something beautiful, chances are it's from them.

Sweet Root Village did the amazing flower installation (hello, English garden!) and really brought the workshop vision and aesthetic to life. A little rule of thumb when it comes to greenery: you can never have too much. 

Every attendee had a beautiful welcome box awaiting them at their seat. Simply Jessica Marie did all of the hand-lettered details for the week, including the custom gift tags. In each box was a Rifle Paper Co. notebook, a Scarlet & Gold print, a pack of Malvi Mallow (so good, y'all), and a spool of ribbon from Honey Silks & Co among other goodies.

We began the day with introductions and a few sessions! Shanna Skidmore, Morgan Montgomery, and Emily Thomas began our week. Emily's session was a fun hands-on flat styling session, so the attendees were able to play with their own compositions. 

Simply Jessica Marie is the creator of all of the beautiful paper details, Wax Seals provided the seals, and Verde Studio sent the most beautiful vintage stamps!

At the end of the hands-on session, attendees gathered in smaller groups to discuss their work and others. It's so vital to talk about what does and doesn't work in our compositions so we can continue to grow as artists and designers. 

After our sessions finished, we moved into the next room for cocktail hour and a little thing I like to call speed dating :) It's such a fun way to quickly have mini conversations with other attendees that can be continued later in the week!

And how lovely is that floral backdrop By Brittany Branson created?! It was such a stunning piece.

Mosaic Catering took such great care of us all week long (just wait until I show you our final dinner!!), and the cocktail party was no exception. Sitting underneath the cluster of chandeliers with new friends was definitely a highlight of the week for me!

Check back tomorrow for a recap of day two with even MORE beauty (if it's possible!). A big thank you to our wonderful photographer Rachel Linder of Blue Barn Photography for capturing the week perfectly!



 Outdoor Wedding Reception Tablescape Inspiration. The School of Styling - How to Style a Beautiful Table. Photo by Maria Lamb.

Kaleb Norman James is the founder of Kaleb Norman James Design, a full service event design firm that specializes in wedding planning, floral design and event decor. Today he shares his top four tips on how to style a beautiful table!

Whether you are throwing a fancy dinner party for a few close friends or you are designing a wedding for a client, knowing how to style a table is a must-have skill.  And more than it being a great skill to have in your back pocket, it is so satisfying being able to create something beautiful!  The reason for making a table look amazing goes beyond getting a positive crowd reaction.  When we style a table, we want each person to gain an experience where they feel like they are important enough to be treated like royalty.  This means that the small details are the most important ones.  And often times are the things that make a person feel most loved.

Before talking about the actual process of styling a table, we always come up with a theme and color palette.  This will be helpful for you in the occasion that you are stumped on which piece of decor you should use or which flower choice you should go with.  You can always come back to the original theme and color scheme, which will give you a seamless design.  It is important that all elements of your table flow together.  This doesn’t mean you are prohibited to mix and match!  But, be mindful of the style of things that you are putting together.  In order to successfully relay to your guest what theme you are going for, things need to coincide with each other.

We will break it down into four main components that are necessary pieces in creating a stunning tablescape.


First of all, take into account the setting you are designing in. Are you designing al-fresco, for an outdoor patio, or are you in a formal dining room? Are you working with a rustic, exposed wood table or something more elegant with a floor-length linen? These pieces are the foundation of what you are building off of and should ultimately set the tone for your theme and color palette. You want the decorative pieces you add to your table flow, so it feels consistent and intentional.

In our world, flowers are a key piece in creating a tablescape.  It is such a natural decoration that brings life to the table. One of the things we like to create is some sort of floral arrangement that goes down the center of the table.  This makes a natural divider between the two sides and also makes the table look more complete. If you want a table to look lush and full, have your arrangements set between each of the place settings across from each other. So for a table of 8, you’d have 4 mini arrangements down the center, in between each set of plates. We love adding different heights to our centerpieces. It gives a nice contrast that especially looks brilliant in pictures. Put together a few shorter flower arrangements, paired with tall candle sticks interspersed throughout and you have your first part finished!


The second key component are your place settings. We have a serious addiction to incredible plates and chargers here at KNJ. There is something about a stunning tiered stack of plates, mixed with unique glasses and a custom menu card that just gets us excited. We like to add a personal touch to each person’s seat, whether that be as simple as a hand written place card or as detailed as their favorite treat. This small gesture shows that you thought of them amidst creating this space.  

To break down what we think a top notch place setting includes, we will start with chargers.  A lot of people underestimate the beauty of a charger. This is the larger plate that your dinner plate actually sits on. Chargers can make even a simple white plate look fancy!  Next we have the dinner plate. Depending on your color scheme, find a fun patterned plate that will make the table pop!  Since every seat has a charger and plate, you want to make sure that the design of them is the main color in your palette, due to the fact that there are so many of them.  To top off your plate, finish it with a folded napkin and a menu card. The menu card should always make a great statement and match well with whatever piece makes the loudest statement. If you have a bold color in your dinner plate, re-introduce that color in the menu card. If your napkin has a floral pattern, have your menu card tie in the same colors. Nothing should compete with each other, but rather enhance it.


One final piece you will need for your place setting is your flatware and glassware. Don’t let your mind be fooled in thinking that coordinating your theme stops at the flowers or chargers.  Even your flatware and glassware have the potential to complement the rest of your table. Our personal favorite for flatware is going with something that is different than the usual silverware you have at home. Flatware can be so boring and typical. We love using mismatched vintage silver, or finding more ornate pieces with pearl handles or wood accents. These add character and charm in an unexpected way. Next we have glassware. Glassware is really fun to play around with! We are always a fan of mixing different types. Our recommendation for finding these gems is looking high and low at your local antique shop, or even browse through places such as eBay. We’ve found some of our favorite pieces that way. We love it when we come up to a table and every setting is cohesive, but features mixed-and-matched elements. It’s like each guest is sitting down to their own piece of art, and it causes your guests to take the time to look at each place and take in the entire design.

Overall, a well designed table really comes down to how you choose to pair the items you have available. Make sure you combine pieces that make a bold statement with items that don’t overwhelm the design. If you wanted vibrant plates, we recommend choosing a softer toned tablecloth. If your plates and chargers are on the muted side, this makes room for the tablecloth to have more color or a fun pattern. Don’t be afraid to throw in some personal elements and play to your guests. They’ll love that and remember the efforts.

We hope that these tips are helpful for styling your next tablescape! Remember, it is so much more than pulling off an incredible event or well put together table. Your friends, clients and guests are going to feel so loved by the time and thought you put into the design and style of your table.  

Happy styling! We love hearing the style and ideas that other people have. Comment below with your favorite style of table or your next event that you are designing!


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