Entertaining friends and family need not cost the earth — you can create the most stunning table on a budget.
All that is needed to create an impression, according to artisan Barbara Finsness, is a few unique signature pieces.
Mrs Finsness is the owner of The Island Shop, where shoppers can find a rainbow of giftware, glass work and ceramics.
Not only does the store feature her own hand-painted tableware but she sources beautiful pieces from the US and Europe.
Mrs Finsness says the younger generation and those on a budget tend to opt for more casual, colourful table settings.
There is a trend to buy dining sets from stores like Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel and then add a few eye-catching centrepieces.
“A lot of young people today prefer more casual table tops to the more formal ware such as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton,” said Mrs Finsness.
“You might see plain white ceramics with a colourful serving platter to brighten up the table.
“People also like the idea of having unique, hand-painted items.
“Guests want to be entertained by what they are looking at. It’s not just about the food, it’s also about the presentation.”
Mrs Finsness’ own designs feature Bermudian scenes such as cottages, marine life and nautical motifs.
“Most of my themes reflect the island in some way, such as the palm trees and architecture, the flora and fauna, and wildlife.”
She added her tree frog, seahorse, lobster, turtle and other marine designs can bring “a fun, whimsical touch” to any table.
For the budget-conscious among you, you can now buy her colourful designs without splashing out on the ceramics.
This summer she brought in a melamine dinnerware range featuring her Bermudian cottage designs. At $35 for a salad bowl and $24 for a tray, the items have proved very popular.
Mrs Finsness said her hand-painted glassware also sells “very well”, particularly her $36 wine glasses featuring hibiscus flowers, frogs and turtles.
“People are looking out for something a little bit different,” she said.
Her ceramics are produced in Italy and the glassware hand-painted in the US and Poland.
The Island Shop also stocks linens with her colourful designs.
“If you want to make a statement you could put down one of the tablecloths with coordinating placemats,” said Mrs Finsness.
“You could have a turtle or a seahorse theme, or hibiscus flowers. It’s fun.”
Linen tablecloths retail for $60-75, placemats for $12 and napkins for $10.
A set of four cork placemats is $48, and matching coasters $18.
The Island Shop also stocks hand-painted wine stoppers for $18 and decorative napkin rings.
Mrs Finsness said: “I started out with my cottage design and have expanded to include other designs. My newest is the turtle.
“I have a bright palette and most of my designs lend themselves to summertime.”
Although Bermudians love to entertain alfresco in the warmer months, Mrs Finsness said towards Christmas they will focus more on dinner parties.
Candlesticks add not only colour but height to a table, as can decorated glassware and bottles. The Island Shop stocks Barrick Design candles from Pennsylvania in a variety of seasonal colours, for $25 each.
Centrepieces include garlands, silk flowers, candle votives, table runners, woven baskets and giant glass champagne flutes which can be filled with baubles and other decorations.
“I try to find things which are unique and hand blown,” said Mrs Finsness.
Whether it is yellow, apple green or turquoise, the store has glassware and votives in all the colours you can imagine.
There are coral-shaped candles for a marine theme, or you could choose African-patterned tableware for an ‘ethnic’ look.
“Entertaining is also about entertaining visually, and your table can be a centre of creativity,” said Mrs Finsness.
She said people tend to go for brighter colours in the summer, such as greens and turquoise blues, whereas the Fall brings more burnt orange and brown shades to the fore.
Over the next few weeks she will be selling reds, greens and creams for the holiday season.
Mrs Finsness said: “I cater to all budgets in my price range. You could spend as little as $10 on a candle votive or $200 on hand-painted ceramics.
“If someone comes in with an idea for a table top we love to help.”
Michele O’Connor specializes in helping people to pick out objects for their table — a process described as “great fun”.
“It is best they choose a colour scheme first and then we can play with that,” she said.
At the Irish Linen Shop owner and director Elaine Murray is also busy bringing in festive-themed table decorations.
Ms Murray said the store’s Mariposa collection is “very popular” at Christmas, with its range of holiday motifs.
It features recycled aluminium trays in bauble, snowflake and Christmas tree designs. There is also a cute serving platter with a toy train along the circular edge and Christmas tree in the middle.
The Irish Linen Shop also has handwired topiary Christmas trees by Salzburg Creations, for $425.
There are linen napkins and placemats in festive colours, such as red napkins for $35 each with lurex and gold fleck edging.
The store also has red, green and cream beaded napkin holders by Deborah Rhodes of New York, for $38 each. Or you can choose the ‘holly berry cluster’.
Another popular item is Mariposa napkin boxes featuring a ‘weight’. These weights have motifs ranging from skis and Christmas soldier ‘nutcrackers’, to turtles and dragonflies reminiscent of summer.
“These are really popular hostess gifts, and retail for $56,” said Ms Murray.
The Michael Aram collection is also a big seller, with its decorative candles and recycled aluminium trays, serving spoons with coral motifs.
The Irish Linen Shop also sells glass decorative hurricane lanterns and baubles filled with shells and sand ($45) for a coastal theme.
For a stunning centrepiece, beautiful Lifetime Candles contain silk flowers or shells, for $270.
Ms Murray said that when it comes to entertaining, Bermudians like to spend money on unusual, eyecatching items.
“Bermudians are extremely refined and eclectic in their tastes and like to have their home reflect their own personal style,” she said.
“But they don’t want to see their neighbours having the same thing they do. They like to be unique.”
The Irish Linen Shop also sells a variety of linens, placemats, napkins and coasters.
Deborah Rhodes of New York supplies Bermuda-themed hibiscus napkin rings.
These are specially made for the Irish Linen Shop and cost $35 each.
The Island Shop, 3 Queen Street, Hamilton. Contact 292-5292.
The Irish Linen Shop, 31 Front Street, Hamilton. Contact 295-4089.