There is something important to be said for gathering friends and family around your dining table – the time spent creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, the thoughtful preparation of a mouthwatering meal, and of course, breaking bread with those closest to you. It’s a level of care for others that can be hard to match, but one who has mastered it has the ability to not only bring people together but also make them feel truly special.

Fourth generation Raleigh native and interior designer Deborah Hensley has indeed mastered the art of creating great gatherings. With a few doctors in her family, it’s no wonder that taking care of others runs deep in her veins. A keen eye for design and a love of architecture, however, has steered her into a career of helping people in an entirely different way – creating inviting and livable spaces that her clients love and love to share with others.

In keeping with her talent for design and love for gatherings, Hensley graciously invited us into her beautiful dining room and shared one of her favorite tablescape designs in perfect time for the holiday season. Hand-painted Gracie wallpaper envelops the dining room in a beautiful but delicate blue hue. A Chippendale ceiling design adds visual interest, while a geometric rug from Eatman’s Carpets & Interiors and an antique sideboard from Boone’s round out the space.

A mix of family heirlooms and specially selected items, her table is at once stylish and reflective. “Everything on the table has meaning,” Hensley says. “I find so much comfort in using pieces that have been passed down for generations. I simply love the memories I have using them as a little girl.” It’s that comfort mixed with a personal touch that Hensley imparts on each of her guests. Engraved sterling silver heirloom baby cups are placed at each seat and double as vases for stunning mini arrangements created by florist Kelly Odom. “I’m a huge advocate for using what you have. I always like to add a little something special for each guest, whether it be in the form of a place card, gift, or in this circumstance, an individual arrangement.”

A mix of China patterns keeps things interesting with Spode Shanghai and a Limoges white and gold design. Heirloom flatware in varying patterns perfectly complements the antique candelabra and candlesticks to create a collected and nostalgic aesthetic, feeling simultaneously elegant and homey.

Above all, preparation is key to creating a smooth and worryfree gathering. “I typically start a week or so beforehand so I can fine tune everything,” Hensley says. “I hate to be running around at the last minute when guests arrive. I take into consideration the time of day, the type of event, and most importantly, the guests. Fresh flowers, good food, and music are musts.”