You don't have to be 50 and up to give great advice to those who are 50 and up! Entertaining expert Portia Kee, who specializes in creating memorable tablescapes, shares her holiday decorating tips.
Portia Kee, an entertaining expert and lead event designer of The Kee Group (www.thekeegroup.com), has clients all over the country and plans parties with budgets that can sometimes run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But here in Charlotte where she’s based, she’s launching a new Celebrate With Tablescapes service for her local clients who need help on a smaller scale. She’ll go into their homes or upscale venues (Del Frisco's, Fahrenheit and Duke Mansion) to create memorable dinner parties for everything from birthdays and anniversaries to family gatherings. Putting together the perfect tablescape is her specialty, but she’ll also arrange for the cake or other dessert and any special entertainment.
A Raleigh native, she graduated from North Carolina A&T State University then led a glamorous life as a model and dancer in South Beach. Fun fact: She worked with actor Channing Tatum on a five-day video shoot in the Bahamas for Ricky Martin’s hit song “She Bangs.”
From there she moved to L.A. to become the executive assistant to award-winning producer and talent manager Vincent Cirrincione where she worked with Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson. She settled in Charlotte in 2008 and became the Events Director for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture before launching The Kee Group in 2013.
On Thanksgiving, she’ll be surrounded by her mother, grandmother, aunts and a housefull of other relatives. And yes, she will be decorating the table. During a recent interview with The O Report, Portia shared details about how her Thanksgiving and Christmas tables will look, her rules for decorating a beautiful table, and the newest trend in tablescapes.
What’s your vision for your Thanksgiving table?
“I’m using a Topiary Berry Tree as the centerpiece. The napkins are a print with Autumn colors - burgundies with deep oranges, yellows and greens. My style is classic, but since my “diva glam” grandmother will be there I’m adding an ivory linen tablecloth with an ivory faux fur table runner and ivory faux fur placemats. Faux fur is one of the biggest new trends in tablescapes now."
Any tips for those who want to decorate their Thanksgiving table?
“To me, Thanksgiving has a more warm feeling and you usually have a bunch of food on the table and that’s the star so the decorations should be more simple. If you like sparkly things, do a sparkly pumpkin. If you’re more earthy, do real pumpkins with autumn leaves. Just make sure your table has three elements: a solid color, a print and something with texture."
What do you think about when you’re decorating a table for a client?
“I try to bring their personality into it and compliment the venue. I like small floral arrangements so people can see each other across the table. If you make them too big people will move them and that ruins your design. If I do a taller arrangement, I place it so it’s between two people so they can still see the person across from them. Or, I elevate a large arrangement on a clear stand. That adds a wow factor but the guests can still see each other. I’m a fan of Mercury Glass because it adds sparkle but in a regal, modern way. I also love decorating with balloons but that’s not every host’s style. And I love candelabras. They’re so classic and dramatic."
Any tips for decorating a Christmas table?
“At Christmas you can go all out and have more fun. Whether you truly celebrate Christmas or it’s just a holiday you love, pick one piece that really speaks to you and decorate around it. I found a crystal reindeer I love so I’m going to do a Winter Wonderland table this year with the crystal reindeer and crystal snowflakes. My color scheme is silver and white, but I’m gong to add a pop of gold."
When did you realize you had a talent and a love for decorating tables?
"I spent my summers with my aunt and uncle and they did a lot of entertaining. They were huge on etiquette and setting a proper table. Eating at their table was like eating at a Five Star restaurant. My aunt showed me how to set the table and it was my job to put everything in its place and make it look pretty. I also learned a lot from my grandmother. Her table was always set beautifully and she did things I wouldn’t have thought of. And my mother, too. One year she wanted berries on our Christmas tree so she sent me outside to gather them. It was a lot of work but it did look pretty. I still go outside to find natural elements to add to my tables. When I first moved to Charlotte I took a course in Image and Etiquette Consulting. For one of our assignments, the instructor invited the class to her house and we each had to look around and set a table using items from her home. I found a huge Buddha and some elephant figurines and did a very Zen table. My instructor said it was so pretty that she would have paid someone to decorate it that way. That was the first time it really clicked with me that it was something I enjoyed, that I had a talent for it and that I could use that skill set to make money.”