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Memorable Table Settings - and how to achieve them

Glory is forever and a memorable table setting constitutes the foundation for your guests to enjoy an unforgettable inviation. How to achieve it? Follow me into my world...

Over the past two decades the kitchen has become the heart of the home around which everything evolves. The concept of open-space living led people to open their homes to family and friends on a regular basis. I knew that private hospitality was the next natural step to go. What had started slowly, became a very powerful trend. People rediscover cooking and celebrating privately. What would be more satisfying than up the game with beautifully and creatively set tables?

I am not going to lecture you about setting the cutlery and drinking glasses correctly as there are already countless books out there that indulge in this subject. I am in fact much more interested in the boundless creative opportunities the subject of table settings offers.

Over the past years I got myself inspired by great names like Alberto Pinto and Tony Duquette. Both of them have passed away but left a huge legacy in the world of interiors. The concept of More is More is tied to these names. Just imagine this mantra applied to table settings – it goes from over-the-top to outlandish. And that is just about right up my alley.

Ever since, my dining-room table has become my lab to experiment. And every time I have to choose whether I plan to have food on the table or not – the food always loses out for it is just too tempting for me to go crazy with the decoration. But don’t fret because you always find some side-tables which would cater for this problem.

Keep an open mind when planning a table setting and strive to amaze your guests whenever they follow one of your invitations. And rest assured: Great table settings are memorable and lift even the humblest of meals.

 

Where to start?

I remember my first attempts. It went from having a creative overflow in my head to being confronted with an empty table – and it was daunting! Too many ideas, too much to choose from.

I quickly realized that – like everything in life – you got to have a plan. You need to set yourself boundaries. And every time you think you should add another unexpected twist – just calm down and remember that there are future opportunities to implement new crazy ideas.

Despite loving «more is more» you have to know when and where to stop.

 

 

What are the rules for Table Settings?

As far as I am concerned, there are none.

Some people might point out that overly huge centrepieces of flowers or other decorative objects obstruct views to fellow-guests at the table and stymie conversations. But there are ways around. Just go for it – build them high up above the heads of your guests. Use very high and slim candelabras, candlesticks and vases.


 


What do you need to setting a great table?

Storing Space

Make sure you have lots of space to store plates and glasses and napkins and table cloths.

Be very systematic storing your equipment in order to keep track of what you actually have available.

 

Build up your collection of plates, glasses and everything else

There is no need to have complete sets of anything.

Buy what you like and mix and match china and glasses and table linen.

Roam flea markets and charity shops, enjoy rainy Sundays scouring the worldwide web and seize on every opportunity to acquire larger sets.

Have a list of things you need and would love to own, i.e. napkin rings, chargers, knife rests, coasters, candle sticks, decorative objects etc.

 

Be open for the craziest inspiration

I urge you to have a look at the table settings of Alberto Pinto, Tony Duquette, Hutton Wilkinson and other creative minds – past and present.

There are amazing books available like VERANDA ENTERTAINING and HOUSE BEAUTIFUL TABLESCAPES and ALBERTO PINTO: TABLE SETTINGS

Once you have adjusted your eyes and mind to really outlandish decoration schemes, you’ll float through the rooms of your home and pick up on all the stuff you own which could enrich your table quite easily.

 

Be creative and think outside the box

Table Linen:

Table cloths can be quite expensive, and white ones are stained so easily. So, instead of dismissing slightly smudged white table linen you already have or could acquire cheaply, buy textile dye in dark hues and have fun with darker coloured table cloths. White china, silver candlesticks and every bit of decoration just pops and looks amazing. Darker coloured textiles add drama – and cover all sorts of mishaps.

Use tartan blankets, Ikat runners, quilts, tea towels and all sorts of other decorative and even unusual or unexpected pieces of textile – nothing should be off limits. Have fun layering everything.

 

Decorative Objects:

Corals and sea shells make for great decoration, as do porcelain figures, bronze busts, huge wooden fish sculptures, antique Siamese coconut scrapers, Japanese lacquer boxes and tribal art objects or huge rock crystal pieces.

The crazier the overall look the more memorable your table settings become. In order to achieve a coherent look, focus on a theme you fancy like a colour scheme or a season or a specific subject before you roam your home and pick your items.

 

Create Mood-boards:

If you feel you might be overwhelmed by too many inputs, start to create mood-boards. It helps you to reign-in your ideas. You can do that way ahead – before even thinking of your guest list or setting a date.

Have several of them and just add your ideas as you flip through magazines and browse the internet. You’ll get so many ideas of things you’d like to acquire and colour schemes you should truly try out because it seems so totally unexpected.

 

Flowers and Plants:

When thinking of setting a table, fresh flowers immediately come to mind because everybody feels that they are mandatory. Well, they are not - fresh flowers that is. It is possible to achieve great results with no flowers at all or even only a nod to some blooms.

There are surprising alternatives like fruit, vegetables, drift wood, dried leaves, pine cones, all kinds of foliage, and even artificial plants.


 

Step-by-Step advice

 Step 1              TEXTILES

  • Have all your linen and napkins ready to start layering your table
  • Take your time to try out various options
  • Make sure you are happy with the result before going any further

    Imagine to dress your table before anything else. While many people think that keeping a blank canvas by using all white linen is a good option, I have to warn you, because a blank canvas is really just that: blank! It adds pressure on your following steps and offers you nothing to build upon or tie anything to. Adding coloured and/or textured linen at first seems to limit your options but at closer inspection it in fact grounds your whole table setting scheme and sets you on a somewhat more defined path to add additional layers of decoration.

 

Step 2              DISHES AND CUTLERY

  • Start with the chargers and then add all the plates, and even the serving dishes if you plan to put food onto your dinner table
  • Add the cutlery

    Once these essentials are set, you have defined your spaces for additional decoration and added already some sparkle with the cutlery. Don't be afraid to mix different styles or paterns or even deploy so-called harlequin-sets - a combination of several similar pieces to cater for larger gatherings.

 

 

Step 3             WELCOME TO THE STAGE!

  • Now you get into the decorating part – go bold and be brave and cover at least the length of the table through the middle.

    Go round and round your table to check if the proportions work and the way everything is dispersed over the table works, and also have a sit-down to check how it looks from your guests’ angle.

 

 

Step 4             DRINKING GLASSES

  • At least two sets of glasses are needed – one for wine/champagne and one for water

    Sneak the glasses into your decorating scheme only now. If you had done it earlier, you had run the risk to damage your crystal while building your stage! Broken glass is something you do not need while building a great table setting.

 

 

Step 5             NAPKINS AND THE FINISHING TOUCHES

  • If you invest a lot of skills and time into folding your napkins beautifully – now is the time to place them correctly wherever you intend to
  • Embellish your table with additional pieces or even edit some things out

    Take your time once more to make sure everything works exactly the way you intended from the start.

 

 

Step 6             SERVING TABLES AND BAR

  • give some consideration to any additional serving tables, their placement and decoration
  • make sure you have a ready space for drinks after dinner with at least one bottle of bourbon and scotch each, cognac, grappa and other popular spirits. Include an ice-bucket and various types of glasses.