By day, Kirthanaa Naidu works in the events team at human rights organization Amnesty International in London but, in her spare time, she puts together beautiful tablescapes for brands and plans supper clubs inspired by her Malaysian heritage. During the pandemic, she started cooking for her flatmates more often and spent time making the table look as spectacular as the food served on it. Then she started to post her table arrangements on Instagram. ‘I was just trying to find ways we could have a nice time together in the evenings. It grew from there, because I was posting a lot about all the different settings I was doing,’ she says.
Bringing imagination to the table
Tablescaping is exactly what it sounds like: creating a stunning table setting. Everything from the plates and the flowers to the napkins, the glasses and the food itself is taken into consideration in Kirthanaa's imaginative designs. Kirthanaa has worked with clothing brands Free People and Anthropologie, fashion designer Henry Holland's homeware line, high-end food retailer Daylesford Organic and online grocery store Ocado. ‘Whenever a job comes through, I'm shocked – like, why me?’ she says. The work she does for those brands varies from photography to video content. If she's creating the work at home, they'll send over the products to include and she'll send back content for them to use.
Kit is key when building out beautiful tablescapes and Kirthanaa spends a lot of time sourcing things to use for her content and events. ‘At the start of my tablescaping journey, I was using IKEA cutlery, then, after a while, I decided to invest in some. You just need a classic set that you always use. I got mine, a bone and silver set, from eBay,’ she says. It can be time-consuming, but she finds that doing tablescaping on the side of her full-time job works best for her: ‘If I was relying on it for income, I think it'd be difficult to pick and choose, and I want to stay true to my brand. I only take on jobs from companies and brands that I'd buy from,’ she says.
Serving up an experience
While tablescaping was new to Kirthanaa, especially as a source of income, she'd always planned to host charity supper clubs. Post-pandemic, she started to put on Malaysian-themed evenings. ‘Not many people know about Malaysian food in London,’ she says, and she wanted to share her culture and cuisine. ‘That's where I grew up and my family is still there. I was wanting to share a bit of home with people here and get people to know a bit more about Malaysian food in London.’
When the supper club took off, she realized how key the tablescaping was: ‘It became both about the food and the table. It's meant to be very chilled,’ she says. So, what's next for Kirthanaa? She has some exciting content collaborations in the pipeline and is hoping to do her charity supper clubs as often as she can manage. She's also putting on workshops, teaching other people the art of tablescaping. ‘I like the ways tables bring people together and make your guests feel special. Each one can be so unique.’
This article was first published in 100 Ways to Make a Living 2022. To purchase a copy or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.