Feast for the eyes
If plonking down a few table mats and adding napkins is the extent of your table decorating efforts it could be time to think again.
TAKING a little time and trouble can fun, inexpensive and effective, enthuses Liz Belton, co-author of a new book Table Style, which is laden with inspiring settings.
“A visual feast for the eye encourages lingering and talking and true enjoyment of the food,” she says.
“All too often nowadays, meals are rushed affairs or eaten while watching television, and slowly but surely the art of creating a beautiful table seems to be disappearing.”
Liz, a stylist, points out that people often only take trouble over tables for occasions such as Christmas, but believes any meal can benefit from a table adorned with simple touches.
“Gone are the days when people spent a fortune on formal dinner sets.
Here are Liz’s tips for desirable, affordable table settings for indoors and out.
KIT FOR TOP TABLES
Invest in tabletop staples and keep them handy so setting a table for any occasion is easy.
“Choose neutral, natural colours for a collection of tablecloths or runners so that you don’t limit your colour options,” advises Liz.
“Linen cloths or cotton sheets, fabric samples or old rolls of wallpaper cut to make runners, can be picked up from boot sales or antique shops and put to use as distinctive table dressings.”
For magical lighting effects cluster candleholders of different heights as a centre-piece or arrange a row of twinkling tealights on a runner.
Charger plates are a chic alternative to place mats, and long stemmed drinking glasses can double as pretty dessert ‘dishes’.
Try sourcing table decorations from companies such as The Handpicked Collection: Mirrors from £2.95; heart or star name holders, 95p each; and bird and flower shaped candles from £4.95.
PICNIC IN THE PARK
Just because you’re eating on your knees doesn’t mean you can’t make an occasion of it.
If you’re the creative type include a length of muslin and a ball of string in with the picnic gear, and make a glamorous, impromptu canopy by draping the fabric over low branches.
“Don’t bring out the best china but instead use pretty but practical enamelware or melamine dishes and mugs,” advises Liz.
“Dress a picnic rug as you would a table with an eye for the visual impact, so key in to the landscape by using shades of soft greens, creams and natural tones for china and accessories.”
TURN THE TABLES: Asda’s black and white Urban picnicware, a set of four plates or bowls, £5. Or try their crystal-style Swirl tumblers and wine glasses, £5 for a set of four.
Stop flies and wasps dive-bombing picnic goodies by covering up with retro-style mesh food hoods, £8.95, from the Handpicked Collection.
AL FRESCO LUNCH
There’s always something special about eating in the garden.
“Keep the look pared down but pretty with simple china, decorative glassware and pile on the flowers,” advises Liz.
“Be inspired by the colours around you, so on the table echo the colour of a brightly coloured bloom or shrub near the patio area.”
Head to the local nursery to find plant tags to use as ingenious place cards, and display potted herbs and plants in galvanised-metal buckets or tubs in the centre of the table. Accessorise a place setting with a single flower head or herb sprig, perhaps tied with garden string to a napkin.
CHEAP BUT CHIC
Special occasions deserve special tables, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank.
“The key to a beautiful table is how you dress it, not what you dress it with,” points out Liz.
“Polish the table, buff up the chairs and then throw on a cloth, or use a length of wallpaper as a decorative table runner. A pale sugared-almond palette is best for easy-on-the-eye elegance.”
Flowers make all the difference but avoid structured bouquets. Instead, arrange six pink blooms in a clear glass vase or have individual flower-heads in a line of tumblers. Complement the look with white or cream china, and hand-written place cards, decorated with pink ribbon ties.
TURN THE TABLES: White and pale green floral Vienna dinnerware is sophisticated but a snip at £22 for a 16-piece set from Very.
A chic setting with a pale, sugared-almond palette, featuring pink blooms in clear glass vases, a runner made from wallpaper and white china, taken from Table Style by Liz Belton & Rebecca
TURN THE TABLES: Try Sainsbury’s picnicware decorated with a bright floral patterns. Bowl or plate, £1.99, and floral jug, £4.99.