Whether, like Coco Chanel, you be­lieve in get­ting ready then tak­ing one thing off or you sub­scribe to the more-is-more ap­proach, how you dress your ta­ble is as telling as how you dress your­self, writes DAMIEN WOOLNOUGH.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday - For more tips on styling for en­ter­tain­ing see de­li­cious.com.au/en­ter­tain­ing.

The days of be­ing judged by your shoes are over, with din­ner guests now cast­ing their eyes straight to your ta­ble set­ting. It was eas­ier when a pair of red-soled heels or pol­ished brogues dis­tracted on­look­ers, but th­ese days if you want to win the ad­mi­ra­tion of the Jone­ses or Zam­pat­tis, your cut­lery needs to match your wardrobe.

At the 50th-an­niver­sary din­ner for US de­signer Ralph Lauren dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week last month, the blue and white flo­ral-pat­terned china on sil­ver plat­ters, matched by navy-trimmed cream nap­kins and coun­try-style flower ar­range­ments, gar­nered more at­ten­tion than the steaks flown in from the de­signer’s Colorado ranch.

Just as Lauren’s lat­est four-fig­ure, hand­crafted patch­work evening gowns will in­spire more-af­ford­able silk-blend dresses, there’s a trickle-down ef­fect from the run­way to table­tops.

“It’s true that fash­ion leads the way when it comes to ta­ble ar­range­ments,” says Mel­bourne host­ess, busi­ness­woman and re­al­ity-tv star Chyka Kee­baugh. “You cer­tainly look to it for in­spi­ra­tion.”

In fact, putting a ta­ble to­gether is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to as­sem­bling a go­ing-out ensem­ble.

“You have to layer it up,” Kee­baugh says. “At the mo­ment I’m all about mis­matched flo­rals and pat­terns. I love the idea of me­tres of fab­ric and dif­fer­ent china to cre­ate a story.”

Stylist Me­gan Morton also be­longs to the more-is-more school of en­ter­tain­ing. While Coco Chanel told peo­ple to re­move some­thing be­fore leav­ing the house, Morton is happy to throw in a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra the mo­ment be­fore guests ar­rive.

“When I day­dream, I ac­tu­ally think about table­top com­bi­na­tions,” Morton says. “There are Por­tuguese plates, French glass, Croa­t­ian linen, Ger­man pot­tery… Sadly, I put so much into my table­tops some­times the ac­tual food suf­fers, but I do be­lieve that we eat first with our eyes.”

Morton is on the money when it comes to en­ter­tain­ing sam­ple-sized fash­ion types who pre­fer to gorge with their eyes and are more likely to com­pli­ment plates lay­ered in the plum, mus­tard and olive pal­ette that matches a Zim­mer­mann dress than the cas­soulet you slaved over.

As the sight of Kim Kar­dashian in bike pants demon­strates, not ev­ery­one shares the same taste and one host’s art­fully mis­matched din­ing ta­ble dio­rama is an­other guest’s dis­as­ter zone. Think twice be­fore mix­ing your Wedg­wood and Di­nosaur De­signs sets if a post-hip­ster is in the carv­ing chair.

“Mis­matched crock­ery is the Brit pop of the din­ing world,” says Young Hen­rys beer im­pre­sario Os­car Mcma­hon. “I won’t hold it against you, but please don’t think it’s re­bel­lion.”

Jake Smyth, who hosted Dou­ble Rain­bouu’s show dur­ing Aus­tralian Fash­ion Week at his Syd­ney pub the Lans­downe and spends a great deal of his life run­ning Syd­ney ham­burger haven M Marys in a Bonds sin­glet and footy shorts, agrees. “Our ta­bles are care­fully cu­rated works of an­ar­chy.” Then again, Smyth also con­fesses to hav­ing once con­structed a cen­tre­piece replica of the Eif­fel Tower us­ing Spam.

Stylist Ken Thomp­son sug­gests look­ing to your own wardrobe as a guide, whether your spirit an­i­mal is Kurt Cobain or Donatella Ver­sace.

“De­velop in­ter­est­ing ta­ble pal­ettes from study­ing the pre­ferred hues in your wardrobe and play with a mood board re­flect­ing this,” Thomp­son says. “Place set­tings, vases and nap­kins will con­vey the essence of your own style and make for a to­tally fash­ion­able event.

“Let your imag­i­na­tion run wild based on a great de­signer print or even the tonal sim­plic­ity of your favourite cash­mere sweater. De­sign­ers such as Dolce and Gab­bana and Ver­sace in­dulge you in epic opu­lence that can turn the sim­plest of pas­tas into a Baroque Ro­man feast, but if you’re in for a more stealth ap­proach look to Jasper Con­ran for Wedg­wood or Ar­mani Casa.”

While plates and nap­kins are ob­vi­ous ac­ces­sories for turn­ing your ta­ble into a sum­mer trend­set­ter, glass­ware, like Spanx, is the hid­den se­cret for a win­ning ta­ble sil­hou­ette.

“Don’t let your crys­tal sit in the cup­board,” Kee­baugh says. “Bring it out and use it. I have a rule that ev­ery­thing should have three uses. Good glass­ware can be used for drink­ing, a vase or for serv­ing dessert.”

Cer­tain things should not be seen on the ta­ble, how­ever. In­te­ri­ors stylist Ja­son Grant sug­gests leav­ing your scented can­dles in the bath­room.

“Your food shouldn’t be over­whelmed by the scent of lime, man­darin and basil com­ing from a can­dle,” Grant says. “Let na­ture in­spire your set­ting but not take over the meal.”

Kee­baugh’s buf­fet bête noire is also na­ture-based. “Ger­beras. Just no.”

Like pol­ish­ing your shoes, iron­ing your blouse or get­ting a power blow-dry the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for suc­cess is mak­ing an ef­fort.

“Beau­ti­ful has al­ways been beau­ti­ful. No Pan­tone re­view or Mi­lan run­way show changes this,” Morton says. “The most lov­ing thing any­one can do is to host a meal for an­other.”

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