Pastel-coloured sheep are not what you expect to see grazing outside an 18th-century country house in sleepy Cambridgeshire. But Stibbington House, picturesque pile and home to British tastemaker and Vogue contributing editor Alice Naylor-Leyland, has a storybook quality to it. Hers is a brand of English country life renowned for its eccentricity and flair, where enchantment is encouraged at every turn.
And her love of spectacle blended with a passion for entertaining has earned Alice high praise indeed. We defy you to find a party-planning Pinterest board that doesn’t feature one of her creations. From her magical 30th-birthday celebrations (when a balloon-bedecked house looked ready to take flight) to a stable complete with manger for a Christmas dinner, she likes to create a scene. ‘Some people like painting or gardening,’ she explains. ‘I love the art of table-laying. Sitting at a table with friends takes up the majority of my social life, so why not embrace the fun and drama of it?’ And so, we invited Alice to give us a masterclass in creating the perfect summer tablescape.
‘The setting is important, especially in the summer. I’ll madly move tables all over the place for the best light or view. I love to use trestle-style tables, because you can put them anywhere and transform them so easily.’
‘Having a landmark day like Valentine’s or Easter is a useful starting point, as it offers you a theme to work with, while dressing a table for a more everyday occasion is trickier. My advice is to start off with white table linen, and always consider weaving in a colour to bring it to life; a little colour, however timid, can do wonders.’
Alice’s is a brand of English country life...
where enchantment is encouraged at every turn
‘Once I’ve picked a colour, I’ll concentrate on beautiful flowers and candlelight to match. For my garden-party table, I took inspiration from the beautiful Jo Malone London Iris & Lady Moore Candle. I wanted to emphasise the blues and greens in the design through florals.’ And Alice’s tips for arranging flowers? ‘Do them yourself. You don’t want them too “done”. The best arrangements have lots of blooms, and slight variations in colour or scale. Be bold and purposeful with your flowers.’
‘If it’s an evening do, all you really need is candlelight to set the mood. There is nothing better than a twinkle at dinner.’ But for a daytime affair Alice believes that scent is equally as important. ‘I fell in love with the aesthetic of the Iris & Lady Moore Candle; it instantly inspired me to lay a table to match. The scent has a lovely freshness that I’ve mixed with my all-time favourite, Lime Basil & Mandarin, to accentuate its zesty fragrance. I wanted something that had an uplifting effect and, together, the two are beautiful.’
‘I love abundance on a table setting, but small details really make things special too. My favourite finishing touch was for my 30th birthday. Instead of place cards, all the girls had name necklaces, which made for a lovely keepsake.’ And her advice for more everyday occasions? ‘Handwritten notes at each place setting are so sweet and personal.’