• Adrienne Fawcett

Setting the Table with Lake Forest’s Shelley Johnstone Paschke

By Adrienne Fawcett


When you publish a 304-page book full of photos of beautiful table settings, how do you decide which image to put on the cover?


That was an easy call for designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke of Lake Forest: You make the cover a solid pink. No photos of vintage place settings on a whimsical tablecloth, no gorgeous flower arrangements, no colorful ginger jars or vintage Moroccan glassware. Just pink, with an embossed heart and gold-colored lettering for the title, A Loving Table.

Setting the table is a joy for Shelley Johnstone Paschke, shown here outside her Lake Forest pool house.


The book is Johnstone’s first, and the creative process proceeded smoothly from the moment she pitched the idea for A Loving Table to her friend and co-author Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, a Dallas-based lifestyle expert and entrepreneur. “The solid cover was the only thing we had to sell the publishers on; they said it wouldn’t work,” says Johnstone, who knew the single-color cover would stand out in stores and work beautifully as an accent piece in interior design. The publishers trusted her instinct. “And now they love it,” she says.


Johnstone is well known for the elegant aesthetic of her eponymous firm Shelley Johnstone Design. TraIned at London’s Inchbald School of Design, she has been creating luxurious interiors for 30 years for clients in Chicago and the North Shore; Dallas; London; Naples, Fla. and Newport, R.I. She has been featured in design periodicals and websites including House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Chicago Magazine, Luxe, The New York Times, ArchDigest.com, Veranda.com, and Tory Daily. And she has 45,000 followers on Instagram.


She came up with the idea for A Loving Table while designing a table for the Veranda Magazine Orchid Dinner benefiting The New York Botanic Garden, in which designers create table settings around exceptional orchid centerpieces. “There is something so pretty about table settings. I thought it could be a good concept for a book,” she says.


The book features photos of table settings from 34 style makers who range in age from their 30s to 70s. The group comprises interior designers, textile designers, women in the fashion and beauty industries, and moms at home with their kids. Most are in the United States, but Portugal, London and Dubai are also represented.


Personal stories, recipes, and product sourcing ideas accompany the gorgeous photography. Generational style influence is a common theme, with many of the women sharing memories of tables set long ago by their mothers and grandmothers.


Johnstone’s love of beautiful tables goes back to her childhood in Madison, Wis., the daughter of a florist mother and a landscape-architect father. Her mom made the table special every night, no matter what was going on that day or what was served for dinner.


A Loving Table is dedicated to our moms and the women in our lives who have influenced us to set our authentic loving table,” Johnstone says.


It wasn’t hard for Johnstone to come up with the design for her section of the book, which features a summer meal with her large, blended family gathered around a table set with baskets from Lord & Mar, Ltd., tablecloth from Elizabeth Lake, dishes from Penny Morrison, and napkins from Courtland & Co.


“It looks like a typical Sunday afternoon in front of our pool house,” she says.


A Loving Table was published this month by Gibbs Smith and is available at Lake Forest Book Store and the studio of Shelley Johnstone Design, as well as from online booksellers. The pink cover, sumptuous photos, and mother-daughter theme make this book an excellent gift for Mother’s Day.