Throwing an impromptu party? Design expert Gia Russo shares centerpieces that take less time to arrange than the cheese and cracker plate.

By Real Simple
Updated October 13, 2008
Maura McEvoy

Just in Thyme

Purchase herbs―rosemary, mint, basil, lavender, and thyme―from your local grocer or farmer’s market. Arrange the herbs in three plain tumblers (any combination will do) and line them down the middle of the table. As an alternative, cluster them in the center surrounded by lit votive candles.

Fruit Cake

Arrange lemons, oranges, and kumquats in a pyramid shape on a cake stand (a glass vintage-looking stand will make the most impact). If cutting citrus from your garden, leave a short stem and the leaves. Easy upgrade: Make simple place cards reading “Orange you glad we’re friends?”

Branch Out

Stop by a craft store or floral mart on the way home from the supermarket and pick up two or three Manzanita branches. (They have a stiff, twisted appearance similar to the appearance of a bonsai branch.) Place them in a tall cylinder vase in the center of the table. Then line votive candles down the middle of the table on either side of the vase. When the party is over, move the vase to an entryway or coffee table.