Table-Top Holiday Style

Three different holiday tablescapes staged by the talented team of Russell Whitehead and Ruthie Bowlin.

photography by Andrea Zucker

(page 1 of 2)

Russell Whitehead and Ruthie Bowlin are impressively creative sisters who are collaborating in an exciting new events-planning business. As a sample of their style and sophistication, we were invited into Ruthie’s East Memphis home to photograph three different holiday tablescapes staged by this talented team.

As you enter the house, the formal dining room’s table is breathtaking with its classic combination of antique silver, crystal, and porcelain, and a glorious arrangement of white roses, tulips, and hydrangeas by
Kevin Coble of Le Fleur — all in a cool palette of white, cream, and silver. It is the perfect setting for a formal Christmas Eve dinner or perhaps a New Year’s Eve celebration. The large, monochromatic “eggs” painting by Kit Reuther, a Tennessee artist, makes a dramatic backdrop. The chandelier forms a starry constellation twinkling above the table-scape below.

The sunroom at the back of the house with its limestone floors and wall of windows overlooking this home’s beautiful garden is the perfect spot for an intimate and less formal holiday breakfast for the family. The round table features a centerpiece of artichokes and holly spray-painted gold that adds warmth and a touch of glamour, as do the four tall candlesticks. The china is by Crown Derby and J.L. Coquet, and the small boxes of Godiva chocolates on top are a festive favor. The masonry spires that decorate the room were rescued from an ancient English church and add a handsome — and yes, uplifting — element.


Close-up of one of the dining room table’s magnificent, creamy white floral displays.


The guest house, which Lewis Graeber converted from a former garage, has a completely different feel. Zebra rugs and rattan furniture in the living room make for a tropical, exotic African vibe — you might say holiday style “gone wild.” The stunning and sculptural contemporary arrangement combines cabbages and brunia berries.

Russell and Ruthie explain that between them they had planned four family weddings in the past couple of years, and it seemed a perfect segue to use this experience, not to mention their bulging little black book of contacts, to start up a business. Entertaining comes naturally to them, as they both love to cook and have had a lifetime of people in their homes, sitting around their tables. Ruthie adds that she has planned a variety of corporate functions during the long business career of her husband, Casey Bowlin, and believes she’s learned “what works, what doesn’t” — in essence, she says, “what excites people.”

Both women agree their mission is to understand and appreciate their client’s vision (and his/her pocketbook, of course) for a given event and in turn “create the fantasy.” Russell and Ruthie say they like to think outside the box to plan imaginative parties that “don’t look like every other event.” Their aesthetic is modern or traditional, or a blend of both — “whatever feels right.” Their style is sophisticated, even a little quirky, maybe a bit over the top, but bottom line, the event will be memorable and fun.


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