Date set, friends free, you have that new recipe you wanted to try and a vision of a get-together to remember.... what's next? Your elegantly thrown together tablescape of course!
Read through our essential checklist for achieving a beautiful table to remember, long after the night's over.
1. Know the rules – and know when to break them
Traditional rules are useful but think of them more as guidelines. Cutlery should always be set with knives on the right and forks on the left, but placement is a matter of personal style. A simple knife-and-fork setting can look elegant placed together on a napkin and set either to the right or left of the plate, or even arranged in the centre. For multiple courses, it’s still best to stick with tradition and set cutlery on either side of the plate, working from the outside in.
2. Stack plates for multiple courses
Layering plates can really add scope to get creative on the table. A layered setting immediately adds a sense of occasion and lets you play with colours and patterns. Napery is essential to add a soft counterpoint to the plates and cutlery – use it between the layers in a tone similar to your plates or add some impact with a contrasting colour.
3. Let your food be the hero
When setting your table, always consider the food as the most important element of the tablescape. Choose plates and bowls that will frame each dish and bring out the colours and textures of the meal. Practicality is also important – a wide-rimmed plate is best suited to a meal with some sauce or slide to it, while a coupe-style plate is better for meals with more defined portions, like roasted meats, fish and vegies.
4. Remember it’s not just about the table
Think of your table as an extension of your personal style. Choose the design and palette of your dinnerware to complement your home and interior decor. If you’re a maximalist at heart, trust your instincts – bring it all to the table. Mixed patterns introduce statement servingware and use vases or decorative pieces from elsewhere in your home to add texture. If you’re into clean lines and crisp colours, try starting with timeless whites and build in the colours and accents that suit your style. A classic dinner set with an element of geometry or definition can elevate the simplest of meals.
5. For special occasions, use small details to set the mood
It’s tempting to mark a special occasion by preparing something impressive and adventurous, but you don’t want to end up spending the whole night in the kitchen or – worse – bungling an untried recipe. The secret to effortless entertaining is to serve a trusted favourite that you’ve tried (at least once before!), with a few extra touches to make it shine. Try some side plates for fresh sourdough, accompanied with small butter dishes and butter knives. Set each place with glassware for instant sparkle and easy refills, ready for that chilled Champagne you’ve been waiting to pop. It’s also easy to extend the main event with a round of espressos or a platter of pre-prepared desserts.
6. Use florals to soften the tablescape
Porcelain plates, twinkling glassware, steel cutlery and a solid tabletop in timber or marble can make for a lot of hard surfaces in one place. If you find your tablescape is getting too cold or imposing, flowers and foliage are a beautiful way to soften the look. Select something that suits your style and colour scheme, whether it’s an arrangement from your local florist or something you’ve cut fresh from the garden. And as always, bear in mind the eye-lines of everyone seated at the table – it’s no fun trying to have a conversation through a bouquet!