THE RULES: TABLE SETTINGS
WHETHER YOU’RE HAVING A FAMILY BARBECUE, CASUAL BRUNCH OR FULL-ON DINING EXPERIENCE, A BEAUTIFULLY DRESSED TABLE WILL SET THE MOOD
How to set the mood for any dining occasion
CONSIDER THE OCCASION Are the in-laws over for a roast or is it an outside brunch for friends? “A formal meal lends itself to a perfectly set table and a casual event calls for large share platters for guests to help themselves,” says Jessica Bellef, head of styling at Temple & Webster.
LAY THE FOUNDATIONS Tablecloths suit formal and casual meals, but the fabric will change the style completely – crushed linen creates a relaxed look while crisp cotton is more formal. Al fresco dining calls for a bare table with a table runner or placemats.
NAPKINS ARE ESSENTIAL They’re not just practical, they add colour to a setting, too. “If you make your own, you can tailor them to your scheme. Cut cotton fabric into 60cm squares, sewing a hem or leaving the edges to fray. Run them through the wash before you use them,” Jessica says.
SET ONLY WHAT YOU’LL USE Don’t set extra plates, cutlery and glassware just because it looks nice. Only put out things that will be used throughout the meal or you’ll end up with confused guests and extra washing up to do. Nobody likes washing dishes!
GET THE ORDER RIGHT If you’re serving more than one course, cutlery should be placed in order of use from the outside in. Forks go to the left, as does the bread or salad plate, while knives, spoons and glassware belong on the right.
DON’T ADD CLUTTER Mealtimes shouldn’t be spent playing table Tetris, so avoid littering your table with glassware. “A multipurpose bar cart is a nifty thing to have,” Jessica says. “Put it near your table, stacked with excess tableware, cutlery and ice buckets.”
CHOOSE A CENTREPIECE Keep your table centrepieces low for easy eye contact. For breakfast and lunch, opt for fresh flowers or bowls of fruit. “Candles are perfect for dinner parties, but choose unscented to avoid fragrance clashes with your dishes,” Jessica says.
FINISHING TOUCHES COUNT Whether it’s a place card, a beautiful napkin ring or jar of homemade jam for your guests to take home, the finer details make all the difference. It’s even better if they have been handmade specially by the host.