The Los Angeles based designer and entertaining icon mixes East Coast tradition with California ease.
Nathan Turner has long cultivated a West Coast prep aesthetic in his interiors, favored by a long list of celebrities and tastemakers, and in the chic table looks he creates for friends and family.
His knack for layered, thoughtful rooms, which have been celebrated by Elle Decor, House Beautiful, domino, and AD, translate easily to the dining table. “To me, style is all-encompassing in one’s life—and a pretty home is only the beginning,” says Turner. “And I’m not talking about anything fancy or extravagant. It’s simply about figuring out what “style” means to you.”
Turner’s own signature style is on full display in the designer’s latest book, Nathan Turner’s I Love California (Abrams, 2018). It’s a love letter to his home state of California with menus and tablescapes that range from a Malibu beach cookout to a cozy Italian supper inspired by foggy nights in San Francisco.
He created his latest look exclusively for Matouk on a recent sunny day in Los Angeles. Using Matouk’s Calypso linens, he dreamed up a twist on the traditional summer table, brimming with color, texture, and shape.
"For me, this is all about celebrating the height of the season and all the amazing color it brings,” says Turner. “Summer is always a bit more relaxed, so layering color, pattern, and texture feels right. I always believe in a layered table, but I went for it a bit more.”
Below, the designer reveals his approach to creating a table with equal parts impact and ease.
“The more layers you can add, the more depth it will bring to the overall look. It creates a table that is immediately engaging, drawing guests in and starting conversations.”
Turner took inspiration for the finished table from the floral china, bursting with blooms. “It all started with the plate,” he says. “The crisp white background with this colorful, happy pattern. I knew I wanted to make the foundation as simple as possible to let the other elements shine.” Turner chose the Calypso Tablecloth in Stone for a solid base. “I love neutral linens not only for their classic look but because they are so versatile,” he explains. “This looks perfect on a summer table but would work just as well at a Thanksgiving with darker shades and autumnal touches. I like to have linens that work all year round.” The Calypso Napkins are a contrast in white but echo the tablecloth with the shell stitch edge in stone. “I never met a monogram I didn’t like,” says Turner. “I tend to choose a block print over a beautiful scroll. It looks clean and strong and works with my west coast, laid-back vibe.”
Turner prefers multiple arrangements to one large one and chooses a mix of vases and vessels. “To me, it’s just like building a gallery wall,” says the designer. “I don't want to see just one kind of frame. I want variety.” Turner also shakes up the flowers too, gathering blooms with saturated colors and varying shapes. “I love the look of peonies in various hues from soft yellow to deep pink,” he says. “Anenomes in white and black add a bit of shape and structure to the more billowy peonies.” For Turner, there’s often another natural element blended in. “Fresh fruit and berries are just as beautiful as flowers so I nestle small footed bowls filled with blackberries and cherries,” he says. “They’re arrangements you can eat.”
The designer believes the more layers, the better, when it comes to a successful table. To achieve the right balance, he breaks a few traditional table setting “rules”. “You don’t have to use a defined set of china, glasses, or flatware,” says Turner. “Break sets up; mix the old with some new pieces. Think of it like a room: It looks better when you have varying color and texture, and both old and new pieces.”
Here, more casual bamboo flatware plays down the formality of the fine china. And the mix of colored and clear glass gives the table added visual interest. “The more layers you can add, the more depth it will bring,” says Turner. “It creates a table that is immediately engaging, drawing guests in and starting conversations.” The designer also looks beyond the china cabinet for design inspiration. “I always say let your surroundings influence the menu and the table,” he says. “Adding an unexpected piece like a small sculpture or cool baskets to the table makes it feels more personal and emphasizes the backdrop of the party.”
“I never met a monogram I didn’t like. I tend to choose a block print; it looks clean and strong and works with my west coast, laid-back vibe.”
Turner believes there is a time and place...for place cards. “Because I usually entertain so casually, I don’t use them a lot, but they’re great for encouraging new friendships,” he says. “They help you control the energy of the table, like sitting a chatty person next to a quieter one. This way, the conversation is balanced and everyone has a great time.”
"Your table can be stunning and your food delicious, but if you’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair, how can you really enjoy yourself?” says Turner. “I think about the seating people will be comfortable in before, during, and after the meal. Adding a throw to the backs of chairs or placing a cushion on the seats allows people to linger longer.”
Entertaining Style: Lightning Round
Tablecloth, placemats or both? “Both!”
Go to entertaining music? “Anyone will tell you I love a theme. So I tend to mix it up and match the soundtrack to the food and table."
Buffet, Family Style or Service? “Either buffet or family style.”
Cocktail or Wine? “Why choose? I say cocktails, wine, maybe a shot? Whatever moves you and keeps the party moving.”
Dress Code or Come as You Are? “Come as you are, always.”
A good party can never have too many… “Alcohol and food. That’s the reason you came after all.”