I love having friends over for meals and enjoy preparing and cooking the food but by the time the doorbell rings and they all pile in, the table is still bare. As a result, I throw plates and cutlery on it in a higgledypiggledy fashion that looks nothing like those attractive overhead shots you see in magazines. How can I master table laying? Answer in brief: Table laying is actually a pretty straightforward business that should not daunt you. Unless you live in a stately home and have to wrestle with silverware, napery and cut glass, all you need to do is place a few plates and cutlery on the table in an orderly fashion. Dragoon another member of the household to carry out this task, preferably an hour or so before guests arrive, and it becomes even simpler. With a little supervision, children can lay a table as well as anybody, and often respond positively to being trusted with this grown-up task. You can swan in at the end to straighten napkins and make sure glasses are fingerprint-free.
Peapod tableware, from £15 (four coasters) thornbackandpeel.co.uk