How To Perfect The Art Of Tablescaping This Eid

7 min read
Image courtesy of Lea Sfeir

During the Arab World’s biggest hostessing season, MOJEH delves into the flourishing tablescaping trend, where unique ceramics and thoughtful décor make meals memorable, full-sensory experiences

Jewellery designer extraordinaire Shourouk Rhaiem was visiting Dubai, so her best friend, Lea Sfeir, decided to throw her a dinner party with a personalised theme — As If Marie Antoinette Was Hosting Madame de Pompadour At Her Beach House In Tunisia. Ladurée sent mountains of macarons, pastries and an elaborate cake, and Bliss provided flowers to reproduce the legendary headboard of Marie Antoinette’s bed. In between whimsical flower arrangements were crystallised perfume bottles by Shourouk, and each plate setting was thoughtfully completed with a clam shell containing a crystal and the guest’s name. Attendees, who ranged from fashion editors to an actress and a plastic surgeon, were enthralled by the set-up, with one stating that it was on the same level as a Valentino couture dinner in Paris. This fateful dinner turned Lea Sfeir’s hobby into a serious career as one of the region’s most sought-after tablescapers, collaborating with luxury brands like Dior Maison, Mandarin Oriental, Galeries Lafayette, Tanagra and more.

Tablescaping involves dressing up your table for special meals, interspersing conversation-starting props between glassware, ceramics, cutlery and table linens. Lea, who worked in luxury communications in Paris before moving to Dubai, explains that it is a craft that rose during the reign of King Louis XIV in France: “The people creating his tables were called ‘assemblers’; they would have the eye to come and assemble pieces so the King could present his table to his guests and showcase the power of France.”

Tabletop decor by Haya Almusharrakh

Imagination and innovation are key when it comes to tablescaping — before any edibles are placed, props are used to set a cohesive theme to the special meal. “By carefully curating table arrangements, hosts can transport guests to different worlds,” explains Haya Almusharrakh, who has been decorating tables for 15 years. “Guests are treated to a multi-sensory journey, where the table setting goes beyond mere practicality and becomes an integral part of the event’s storytelling.”

Haya fuses together vintage decorations with contemporary elements, incorporating seasonal foliage with animal figurines for a thematic charm. Her most memorable set-up was an Alice in Wonderland-themed birthday inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Pink and orange spiral candlesticks were placed in the centre of the table, surrounded by a rainbow-hued three-tiered cake, rabbits placed atop stacks of books, scattered playing cards and vintage mirrors.

Besides elevating personal events, Haya explains that tabletops can be curated to complement a brand’s products, enhance the overall presentation and set the perfect stage for photography that captures an entire ambiance. Thanks to the Instagram appeal of beautiful tablescapes, the women behind them have carved out a new niche as home interiors experts, inspiring regular women to upgrade their own hosting habits at home. “I’m a different kind of influencer – I influence people through a table, and a lifestyle,” explains Lea, who is often asked by the brands she works for to convey the table’s story through social media. And while over-the-top, ethereal themes often earn the most ‘likes’, sometimes less is more when it comes to luxury tablescapes. Dubai-based Table Tailors, which works with private, governmental and corporate clients, was responsible for a recent Tom Ford dinner, and co-founder Reina Moufarrej recalls the clean and minimalist brief that required her team to work with a mainly monochrome and gold palette. “We had to exercise restraint with our creativity,” she tells MOJEH.

A tablescape by Lea Sfeir

Other opportunities might call for bespoke props and tableware in order to achieve a truly one-of-a-kind appearance — like Lea’s recent commission from Montblanc, asking her to reimagine tables inspired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. “I customised hand-painted plates in Italy inspired by their era,” she says, adding that in addition to searching shops and markets for props, she often orders made-to-measure glasses and one-of-a-kind dishes for her tablescapes. Theme options are endless, and can even be linked to the cuisine of a meal. Lea has created elaborate Persian- and Indian-themed tablescapes, incorporating special antiques and icons native to those cultures, into her table décor.

In 2023 she launched her own brand, first providing entire tablescapes in a box, which contained everything from the dinner plates and dessert plates to the napkins, placemats, candle holders and candles – ideal for women seeking to elevate their dining tables while not being sure where to start. “Sometimes women have many beautiful pieces in their house, but they don’t know how to put them together,” explains Lea.

She then started selling pieces as separates in small batches, and recently launched her Ramadan and Eid collection, which pays homage to Palestine. Crescent-shaped dishes, olive branch candleholders and soup bowls featuring subtle Arabic engravings are all white with hand- painted pops of colour. She designed these in October, while imagining the Holy Month in Palestine and the land’s inhabitants who keep their faith in spite of the trials they’re enduring.

Image courtesy of Dior Maison

Lea believes that because of the commercialisation of Eid and Ramadan, table décor is often stereotypical and gimmicky, with an over-reliance on gold and glitter. “The new generation of Muslims want to see something new – they have a lot of taste – so I put myself in their shoes. If I was celebrating Eid with all my heart, I would want something beautiful and modern but also meaningful,” she explains.

Luxury brands have tuned into the heightened relevance of tablescaping during this time, launching promotional campaigns centred on statement table décor. Matches, for instance, recently collaborated with multidisciplinary architect Anoud Al Zaben, who curated nature-inspired table settings for Ramadan and Eid using the e- tailer’s luxury ceramics and glassware.

Tablescapes have become a window into the soul of a home and its hosts, and Eid is an optimal time for giving back to loved ones through thoughtfully-curated meals that are as appealing to the eyes as they are to the mouth. “By uplifting the ambiance, guests feel more honoured and appreciated, knowing the host has gone above and beyond to create a beautiful and memorable experience for them,” says Reina. “At the end of the day, it’s the little details that make all the difference in creating a truly unforgettable event.”

Where To Shop

House of Flair

Hand-painted ceramic plates, ornately textured glassware and statement-making jugs and vases are among the bespoke artisanal pieces curated by House of Flair, a new tableware e-boutique with a showroom (by appointment) in Dubai. Shop now

Inna Carton

Initially launched as a specialised gifting service, Inna Carton sells kitschy and colourful tableware. Beyond the plates, glasses and mugs, you’ll find unique marbled candles, quirky placemats, acrylic coasters and everlasting crocheted flowers. Shop now

Table Gems

With stockists in Dubai, Beirut and Riyadh, Table Gems offers a concoction of conversation-starting shapes and colours, from all-white, gold-dripped serving dishes to colourful wavy glass ‘Jelly Bowls’. Shop now

L’Afshar Studio x Aumedan

Known for her statement acrylic handbags, Lilian Afshar has collaborated with Dubai-based flower studio and concept store Aumedan to create colourful teacup sets and flower-shaped coasters. Shop now

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  • Words by Hafsa Lodi