Dinner With A Mermaid – Beach Tablescape


Beach Tablescape for Coastal Decorating Style

How to have dinner with a Mermaid

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Here’s my suggestion for a Mermaid themed dinner – acquire the beautiful painting, “The Mermaid” by Rob Hartshorn, hang it in a prominent location your dining room, create a lovely ocean inspired tablescape, and then invite 5 or so of your best friends over for an evening of food, fun, and dreams of the sea.

Every year I decide to participate in one fun, creative, local design event to support our Cleveland design scene. Two years ago I created a serene Zen tablescape (won an award – yeah,) last year I dressed a mannequin featuring my Belgian linen, porcelain flowers, and white feathers for “Project Runway” at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and this year I was invited to participate in The American Society of Interior Designers, Ohio North Chapter – Art, Wine, and Design show. Anything with the word “wine” in the name must be fun, right? I’m in!
The concept for the show was collaboration – combine a local artist’s work from the 78th Street Studios in Cleveland with an interior designer to create an art inspired design vignette. The participating designers were to select an artist’s work and create a space based on that art piece. Being the beach addicted girl that I am – I found inspiration in a painting by Rob Hartshorn named “Erie Storm.”

Painting Erie Storm by Hartshorn

Erie Storm by Hartshorn

Living on Lake Erie I thought the dark moodiness of “Erie Storm” fit the local lake vibe and I could immediately “see” the whole room by just looking at the painting.
That’s how design often works for me – I can see an item, then I have a little spark in my mind and voila – I can visualize a whole room– from just one inspiration piece.
While researching Rob’s art I toured his main Tremont art studio where I discovered what I think is a visually stunning piece, “The Mermaid.” I instantly knew she would be just right for my beach inspired vision. It is a large format painting so the placement would have to be just right to properly display her in my narrow 8×16 space – but I just had to use her, and kindly, Rob agreed!

I wanted my space to be dark and stormy…atmospheric… yet inviting. In a dark space we are drawn to a point of light so lighting the vignette and the painting would be critical.
With the sea and beach as my design theme, I set off with my wonderful design girlfriend, Lisa, to collect driftwood from Lake Erie for the chandelier above the table. We found some great pieces at a local beach, loaded up my little car, and I headed back to the studio. Driftwood was laid out and screwed together, I added lots of crystals for contrast against the driftwood, three chunky rope lights and viola – I had a show stopping chandelier.

Driftwood Chandelier by Feathered Cottage

Driftwood Chandelier by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage - Kohree String Lights

Feathered Cottage – Kohree String Lights

Really, the chandelier and “The Mermaid” painting stopped people as they walked by and then magically drew them into the space. Lighting is key. To complete the lighting component of the design I ordered a set of multiple strand lights that are suspend down off a main wire for around $30. Great effect for not a lot of money. Shimmering sheers were layered over the lights to create an element of sparkle and mystery.

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

I knew that combining my beautiful white Feathered Cottage ceramic tableware by Montes Doggett with the earthiness of my Libeco Belgian linens would create the perfect table setting for a casual beach inspired tablescape.

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape – Montes Doggett

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage Tablescape

I did need a great table to anchor the space. Something earthy and rustic. Dan Quinn with Kiowa to the rescue.

Feathered Cottage - Dan Quinn Table

Reclaimed Barn Beam Table by Dan Quinn

Dan made a custom trestle table just for the Art, Wine & Design show – what a super, nice and talented person! Dan’s business is reclaiming old barn beams locally and then in his downtown workshop he re-purposes his rustic wood into wonderful new furniture. I LOVE THIS! In Ohio we lose a barn a day, Dan helps our historic barns live on in a new and beautiful way.

Feathered Cottage - Kiowa Reclaimed Barnwood

Feathered Cottage – Kiowa reclaimed barn wood

To give the space a modern vibe I purchased clear poly-carbonate chairs from Zuo Modern. I love these chairs. The Anime chairs are clear so they visually open up a space. I think they look simply fantastic with everything. While they are not the classic “Ghost Chairs,” they are very similar and work perfectly. I love the Ghost Chair style so much I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to Ghost Chairs.

Anime Chair by Zuo Modern

Anime Chair by Zuo Modern

Feathered Cottage - Coastal Theme - Urban Floors

Feathered Cottage – Coastal Theme – Urban Floors

The concrete floor in the open gallery just wouldn’t work for my theme – I needed a wood floor with a casual beach vibe to warm up the vignette. The Cleveland Series from Urban Floors provided a great base layer for the casual theme with its slightly distress feel and light sand colored tone. The pieces went together easily and the feel was just right. It took two people about 1-1/2 hours to lay the floor – a big thanks to my sister for all her help!
My next challenge was finding fabric to cover the sidewalls and a sheer for back wall. I wanted a blue fabric to pull in the water feel. I needed 40+ yards of a blue drape fabric and 30+ yards of a sheer fabric. After much fretting and searching I found the fabric in a vendor’s clearance site. Score! It was quite an investment to purchase 70 yards of fabric for a 4 hour display – call me crazy – my husband does all the time!
We employed a suspended cable system to mount the drapes. I made tie backs with 1” rope – super fun detail I think. The ceiling was draped with black tulle for effect. Love, love, love!

Feathered Cottage Table by Arhaus

Feathered Cottage Table by Arhaus

Of all the weird last minute hang ups – and there is always something in a project that doesn’t come together easily – I struggled with finding a console table that I liked. It needed to be slightly rustic, natural, long and narrow, and just the right height for the paining “Erie Storm” to hover above. In a last minute panic I purchased two urns and a marble slab for the top; I just couldn’t settle in with the look though. You know the feeling – you buy something because it is crunch time and you need it but you just don’t love it – I hate that! Yes, it happens to professionals too.
Two days before the show I found a clearance teak table at Arhaus Furniture. I called and pleaded with them to let me have the piece with a rush delivery and Arhaus agreed. Thank you Arhaus!!! The 7:00 am delivery was perfect. They walked the boxed table down the drive way to my car and I drove off to set up.
Assembling the vignette took two days with help from my Sister, my friend Lisa, and my patient and kind husband, Steve. We had about 1,500 people visit the 10 art themed spaces. Food, drink, art, and design – what fun!

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

“The Mermaid” was glowing from a spray of light cast by an adjacent floor lamp from RW Shea. She looked stunning. While I was taking a long exposure photo of “The Mermaid” the painter Rob walked into the frame. Cool effect – Rob shows as a shadow with his art.
“The Mermaid” has another admirer in town. One visitor came to see her at the show concered because “The Mermaid” was missing from her usual spot at Rob’s Tremont gallery space. Photos cannot do the work justice – Rob’s art is truly beautiful and

-I would love to have “The Mermaid” hanging in my dining room, joining me every day for dinner – now that would be magical!

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape – Sandy & Lisa


Guide for a Romantic Lobster Dinner


Sharon Cummings Lobster Poster

Romance and lobster just go together! I’m a big list person – here is my list for this year’s romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two.

The Music
The Beverages
The Table
The Tools – crackers, picks
The Lobster
Lobster & Side

The Music
Set the mood with music! I keep it simple and use Spotify or Pandora. Spotify has a nice Valentine’s Day Playlist that’s filled with love songs to set the mood. For cooking/dining, the Brunch station on Pandora has a good mix.


Spotify – Valentine’s Day Playlist


Pandora – Brunch Station

The Beverages
Lobster can be served so many ways. I opt for a simple boiled lobster which will pair nicely with a chilled Chardonnay or Champagne. Here is a quick guide for pairing wine with lobster.


Which Wine With Lobster – A Guide

The Table
Keep it beautiful and romantic with a few flowers and real candles! Candles boost the romance! Add a pretty tablecloth, cloth napkins and crisp white dishes to accent the red of the lobster and you have an inviting backdrop for the main event.

Candles - photo by Isari Flower Studio

Candles – photo by Isari Flower Studio

The Tools.
We eat lobster often so we have invested in good tools. William Sonoma carries a nice collection of picks and crackers that make the lobster cracking and serving job so much easier. You don’t want to be struggling with your dinner –  tools are key.


William Sonoma Cracker


William Sonoma Picks


Stainless Steel Italian Lobster Pliers William Sonoma

The Lobster
Gee…how many pounds each? That’s always our big question. 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. is an average size for a lobster. This year we are splurging and getting 2 lb. lobsters. Can’t wait!  Boil 9 minutes for the first pound and then add 3 minutes for every additional pound in the pot.
We called our order in to the local grocery store yesterday, (they are happy to special order for us) and our live lobsters will be in after 2 p.m. today. Easy. When they get home the lobsters go right into the fridge.

Loads of videos on how to crack and eat a lobster on YouTube.


Lobster image will take you to Dan the Lobster Man showing us how to crack open a lobster

I want our lobsters to take center stage so I am keeping the appetizer simple and light. We’ll have skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Other light app options could be cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto or a light salad. Some folks recommend a cheese biscuit – too heavy for my taste.


Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Reduction

Lobster & Side
This time of year when we cannot fire up the Weber I keep the prep simple by boiling the lobster. Easy, quick and elegant! To complement the bright red color of lobster, I’ve selected broiled artichokes with Aoili as the side. Again, the artichoke preparation will be simple and the flavors will marry perfectly together.

The photo below shows grilled lobster – lovely option too.  Click on the photo to see the recipe for the Aoili dipping sauce.


Grilled Lobster Tails with Saffron Aioli and Grilled Artichokes

Two things that are a perfect match – strawberries and chocolate! Elegant. Sensuous. Chocolate dipped strawberries make a juicy, delicious ending to a romantic dinner. Yum!


9 Secrets to Perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberries HuffPost Taste

That’s it!  Put on the music, chill the wine, set the table, light the candles and have fun! Enjoy!