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Although Christine "Bugsy" Drake is now known for her stunning tablescapes, she wasn't quite considered the "Queen of Theme" early in her career.
"The first time I ever set a table on an 80-meter luxury yacht, we had a crew of 21 and I was the junior, junior stew," the Below Deck Mediterranean stew recalled in an exclusive interview with BravoTV.com. "My chief stewardess actually gave me the chance to go up and set the table for the guests for one of the evening services. It was an absolute flop. I came out with all these crazy colors and she was just like, 'No, I don’t think you’ve got what it takes.'"
However, Bugsy used the criticism as motivation to continue working on her craft: "That kind of was the turning point for me, as a junior stewardess, to be like, 'No, I’m gonna prove myself and I’m gonna prove that I can do this.'"
From getting her tablescape ideas "shut down" to becoming synonymous with gorgeous table decor, Bugsy recently achieved a major milestone with the release of her debut book, The Art of Tablescaping: Deck Out Your Table with the Queen of Theme.
The book, which was released on May 4, "allows normal people to create these luxurious yachting style tables and bring them home," Bugsy explained. "I’ve got everything from over-the-top and bright and colorful to very simplistic and muted table ideas. It kind of gives you every little bit, working from the foundation up to the end result."
As she celebrates the incredible achievement of her book, Bugsy continues to look all around her for tablescape inspiration — including within the Below Deck franchise. "I’ve heard that the tablescapes are really cool [on Below Deck Sailing Yacht Season 2]. I definitely have to catch up."
Here, Bugsy gives us some of her top tablescape tips.
1. Think on Your Feet
"Improvisation is key, which is what I always say," Bugsy declared. "Improvise with the things you can find. A lot of the time I just end up repurposing a lot of things to create different themes. All you’ve got to do is really change up a color pattern or a color scheme within your tablescape and the item [or] story becomes completely different."
After noting there's not much she won't put on a table, Bugsy recalled a moment in which quick thinking allowed her to create a unique table. "I found a couple of old, smaller tender propellers that had been a bit beaten up ... I asked one of the guys what it was for and they said, 'Oh it’s just rubbish. It’s gonna be thrown away.' I said, 'No it’s not.' The captain, the crew were all like, 'Are you insane?' And I was like, 'No, no, no. It’s all right. This is going on one of my tables.'"
"We were out in the Bahamas after the guests had just gone and seen Pablo Escobar’s plane, which was a propeller plane," she added of the experience. "I kind of tied the whole idea of the propeller into the tablescape."
2. Get Inspired by Nature
"I love bright colors. Although I do incorporate more subtle, muted tones in the book, color is always my go-to. [I use] fresh flowers, fresh fruit... Anything that represents life and beauty and nature for me is a key element to have on the table," Bugsy said.
3. Represent Yourself in Your Craft
"Having the confidence in yourself and staying true to your trade and to your art ability, that has worked out in my favor," Bugsy said. "It’s just having the confidence to go forward and say, 'Well this is me, this is who I am, and if you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t."
For Bugsy, staying true to herself when creating tablescapes means "not being afraid to create something out there and overboard."
4. Add Bold Elements of Surprise
When Bugsy is designing a tablescape, "There’s always something surprising on the table," she said. "Whether it be an [unexpected] object or crazy color palettes mixed together, I always like to create a bit of a 'wow' factor that people aren’t ever gonna be expecting."
"I’m a very over-the-top, eccentric, out there kind of person," she added. "More is more."
5. Focus on Three Major Factors
"I think it’s kind of the formula I’ve always created, which is using height, texture, and different patterns," Bugsy explained. "I always love to have objects [of different heights] around the table." However, she warned, "Just make sure that your guests are able to see one another when they’re sitting across from each other, because conversation obviously is a major part of any meal."
Explaining "texture is huge for me," Bugsy also likes "to kind of play with opposite textures" in her tablescapes. Additionally, "Where your items are gonna be placed and the pattern of how you place them around the table is also extremely important," she said. "So that’s kind of the formula I work with when I set tables."
6. Mix Inexpensive & Luxe Items
Decor "doesn’t always have to be super fancy," Bugsy said. "You can completely camouflage the cheaper dollar store items with something a little bit more high end. I think the contrast between the two is always something that’s super quirky on a table. You can kind of mix the two together and create something that just has the most incredible story."
Although Bugsy often goes to HomeGoods and Michaels for her table decor needs, "[In the book], I also speak to finding unique items in thrift shops and antique stores," she said. "There’s always some little treasure you can find to throw on your table, which ultimately sparks conversation with your guests or the people who are sitting down to enjoy their meal."
When looking for an inexpensive item that transforms the table, "You cannot go wrong with a glass pebble," Bugsy insisted. "You can get those super cheap and you can just scatter them in amongst your decor. You [can] get glass pebbles in all sorts of different colors. Sea glass is another one that I think is super cost effective but really elevates the sparkle on your table."
Below Deck Sailing Yacht airs Mondays at 9/8c. For more of what's to come this season, watch the trailer below:
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