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A successful dinner party starts with a stylish table. Whether you are serving guests in the dining room, kitchen, on the patio or on an outdoor picnic table, your table is a reflection of what’s to come. Put as much thought into setting the perfect table as you do your menu and you’ll be setting yourself up for dinner party success. Follow our top tips on how to set a dining table.
Linens make a difference
Setting the perfect table means choosing the right linens. Linens are the foundation of any stylish table. Choose a table runner or tablecloth that suits your décor style. If rustic charm is the look you’re after, start with a burlap or striped linen runner. Neutral linens create a more casual setting, while solid colours such as black or white tend be more elegant. A floral tablecloth is great for a brunch and is perfect for a birthday dinner or an anniversary celebration. You can also choose the colours of your tablecloth based on the décor of your dining room or patio, or to complement the dishes you’ll be using. Most tablecloths have a drop length of 8-12” on each side. If you want to keep the look chic and simple, choose a neutral tablecloth and punch it up with patterned cloth napkins or bold and unusual napkin rings.
Having had the opportunity to sample an extensive selection of table linens at one of the largest trade show in Europe, Maison et Objet, we have some favourites. Le Jacquard Francais for colour and design. Balmuir is one of our favourites for a more Scandinavian feel.
Choose a colour or theme
Are you hosting a special occasion dinner or a casual gathering with friends? The answer makes a world of difference. Your table should dictate the mood that you are trying to create. If you choose patterned or multi-coloured dinner plates, your look will be festive and fun. If you want your party to be elegant, why not showcase your mother’s good china or your grandmother’s silverware. Fine china and sparkling crystal can create an ambiance of luxury that will impress the most distinguished guests.
Draw attention to your centrepiece
Pretty up your table with a centrepiece that will set the tone for a beautiful evening. A vase of fresh flowers, antique candlesticks, hurricane lamps or metal lanterns take the elegance factor up a notch. One thing you should remember when planning your centerpiece is that it should be low enough that it’s not blocking your guests from seeing each other or distracting from the conversation. You can’t go wrong by going natural. Natural elements such as pinecones or fresh foliage create texture and beauty. If you’re celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary, place small picture frames of the happy couple down the center of the table. If it’s games night with friends, use game pieces to add a whimsical touch.
Make every seat the best seat in the house
Are all your dining chairs comfortable and inviting? If you use a mix of chairs, make sure that every guest has a comfortable chair to sit in. Upholstered dining chairs with cushioned seats are always a stylish and welcoming choice. If your chairs are wooden, consider adding seat cushions to make them more comfortable. Cushions can also add a great pop of colour to your gathering.
The basics of a place setting
It’s easy to set a beautiful looking table when you understand the basics of setting each place. The most important factor to consider when entertaining guests is that everyone has enough space. There needs to be plenty of elbow room for all guests to eat comfortably. Start by placing a charger plate or dinner plate in front of each seat. The basic rule of thumb for utensils is forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. You eat a meal using the utensils on the outside and work your way inward. If you are serving a salad, the salad fork would be on the far left of the dinner plate. If serving both soup and a salad, the utensils from left to right would be; salad fork, dinner fork, dinner plate, dinner knife, butter knife, soup spoon. A dessert fork or dessert spoon goes above the top of your plate. Of course, these are the basic rules when setting each place. It’s your dinner party, who says you can’t break the rules!
Layer it up
Consider using charger plates, followed by a dinner plate, with a salad plate on top. This will add dimension and create visual appeal. A beautifully patterned napkin in an elegant napkin ring will create additional glamour as the final layer.
Serve in Style
If your dinner plates are elegant and simple, choose serving dishes that add a bit of pattern or colour to the affair. Beautiful crockery with a sophisticated pattern can elevate the look while earthen tableware adds rustic charm. Serve wine from a decanter, use elegant gravy boats for sauce and offer bread in a basket lined with a linen napkin.
Set the scene with Lighting
For the mood of your dinner party to be warm and inviting, be sure that lighting is soft and intimate. You don’t want it so dark that your guests can’t see what’s on the plate in front of them but they shouldn’t be under a spotlight either. A crystal chandelier overhead is a gorgeous addition to any dining room. If your overhead light is too harsh, consider using ambient lighting around the room instead. Add a lamp on a corner table or dining buffet. Remember that candles can also go a long way to creating a lovely atmosphere. Candlesticks, tealights and pillar candles can be used together to create your own personal design and set a mood that reflects on the stylish surroundings.