Photos by Sara Essex Bradley

Birds of a feather: Holly Hutchison draws inspiration from her husband’s hunting excursions

Teals and mallards, redheads and canvasbacks. These are among the many dabbling and diving duck species that flock to the mouth of the Mississippi each winter, making it a memorable destination for waterfowl hunters like Hutch Hutchison.

“It’s a really fun place to hunt,” Hutch says. “You feel like you can’t miss.”

Hutch’s passion for this outdoor pursuit has even found its way to the dinner table at the home he shares with his wife Holly—but not in the way you might expect. For this nature-inspired table setting, Holly set each place with the couple’s collection of plates featuring images of water birds of North America by artist Edward Marshall Boehm. They’re the perfect finishing touches for a scene centered by one of Hutch’s winged trophies.

“He got this pheasant on a hunt at Nilo Farms in Illinois,” Holly says. “I surrounded it with some greenery from the yard and colorful seasonal flowers.”

The mix of natural elements, extending down the length of the table, includes sweet potato vine, Japanese yew and bamboo, along with naturally shed antlers from the sites of some of Hutch’s hunting adventures.

“I try to keep the centerpiece low so it doesn’t block conversation,” Holly says.

The Hutchisons have refined their entertaining style over the years as their family grew. These days, their combined six adult children and three grandchildren are among the couple’s most treasured guests. Each December 24, this home is filled with merriment as they host a formal dinner after the Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian Church. As many as 30 loved ones gather here for the meal, but the home’s open floor plan makes it easy for everyone to be together.

“I call this my happy house,” Holly says of the home that she and Hutch moved into only two years ago, after spending two decades in another home literally across the street. “Everyone congregates in the kitchen anyway, so it’s great to have the table right here in the center of the space. It flows really well.”

For this meal, Holly’s table is set with her Waterford crystal stemware and Reed & Barton “Burgundy” silver, all on a backdrop of a muted gold damask tablecloth. Completing the scene are gilded place card holders given to Holly by her mother, who inspires her table-setting style even today.

“She always said, ‘Why have all of the china and crystal if you aren’t going to use them?’” Holly says. “It just feels more festive, and it really makes guests feel welcome.”

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