Set Your Table with Style

- Monday, November 01, 2010

One of my favorite things to do is entertain guests – especially hosting dinner parties. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I do enjoy having friends and family in my home for conversation and FOOD! And, whether the meal is as simple as a cookout from the grill or a more elaborate, hours-long preparation of some complicated recipe, I always set my table to contribute to the mood I’m after.

Any party or gathering that includes a dining should have a wonderfully set table. By the way, today we don’t set the table – we tablescape! Setting your table for a special formal dinner, or any food party for that matter, should be more than the practical arrangement of plates and flatware. Your tablescape should be a work of art that reflects your personality. Not only do you want to give your guests a warm welcome, but also create something special. You want to make beautiful and have fun.

Often when I am designing for a client I am asked to assist with the personal decorating details of china and silverware selection, as well as glassware and other tabletop accessories. These selections often relate to the room’s décor and color; however, I also encourage them to make flexible and adaptable choices to support a variety of looks. Here is where we have fun with  table linens, china, cutlery, centerpieces, and other accessories. When done carefully these clients have endless possibilities.

Sometimes it is best to begin with a consideration of the table. Its color and its shape can help dictate some choices. Since I love both the color and pattern of the veneer on my table I often forgo a tablecloth and use placemats. I have several sets in different colors and patterns to fit the mood of the occasion. Instead of buying holiday-themed sets of placemats I have purchased ones in colors that evoke the spirit of the holiday without featuring turkeys, Christmas trees, or Easter bunnies.This allows me to use them at other times of the year.  The same goes for napkins, of which I have different sets in varying colors and patterns that I can mix and match to fit the mood. Sometimes I enjoy using a tablecloth for a more formal setting. White works well but tossing other colors on top can add lots of delight as can the reflective glimmer when I bring out the chargers.

In addition, like many of you, I have several sets of very different china. All a different mood but also compliment the colors in my dining room and its vividly hued, unusually square-shaped Oriental rug. Sometimes I even mix them. Surprise can be festive – and if the dinner has turned out too well – a nice distraction.

If I am setting the table for a more casual dinner with the Fiestaware I will use my everyday stainless steel flatware. When using other patterns I break out the silver from the sideboard. Yes, it means more clean-up – dishwashers are not allowed! Anyway, what good is it to have it and never use it?  While my stemware is simple my water goblets are more substantial cut glass.

But that’s not all. Once the basics are on the table it is time to consider the bling -  decorative accessories like the centerpiece, candles, and any other items to add interest. The centerpiece will indeed take center-stage and can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Fresh seasonal flowers are always a sure bet, just be sure to arrange them in a height that does not block the view of guests from each other across the table. Napkin rings, place-card holders, salt cellars, candles, and even figurines can help add sparkle and evoke a theme or mood. The goal is to arrange items in varied heights, textures, and colors to create a pleasing composition.

Think of setting the table in the same manner in which you would decorate a room. With a little thought, creativity, and personalization you can create an eventful visual feast for your guests to compliment your culinary feast.

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