You are here

Easy Island Elegance

Gary McBournie transforms a table from simple to simply stunning

Written by Krissa Rossbund

Gary McBournie never tries for the "wow" factor. Instead, the Boston interior designer unifies textures from nature with patterns and colors found in the surroundings. The end results for your tabletop décor come together to quietly impress with take-notice qualities.

For an outdoor table overlooking Nantucket Harbor, Gary artfully layered a number of ordinary objects to create a tranquil seaside masterpiece that, in the end, wowed us anyway. 

"Stirring in lots of details is what makes a design special and your own, be it for a room or for clothing," says Gary. "If you use simple things on the table without accessorizing, you’ll get a restaurant look."

For this alfresco table, Gary chose unadorned white plates and bowls in an unglazed matte finish. The dishes’ clean lines were given a graphic lift with sea fans placed between them. Frosted glassware reminiscent of beach glass is casual and more durable on outdoor surfaces than del icate crystal . Embroidered linens secured with turquoise-colored napkin rings of dyed coral mimic the current fashion trend —semiprecious stone jewelry.

An asymmetrical place setting sits on three layers of contrasting colors and materials: a raffia runner shared by facing guests, a blue-gray rectangular linen placemat, and, positioned off-center, a round placemat of glistening mother-of-pearl circles. "I love bringing casual things to a level of high style," says Gary. "But ultimately, it’s the people and food that you want to be memorable."

When the sun goes down, the temperature often gets brisk. Make throws or lap rugs (beach towels will work, too) available to your guests. Place them in a pretty basket on the deck.

Photography: Keller + Keller