Last Friday we talked about pointers for setting a proper traditional table. Some of us grew up with the placement of plates, glasses, napkins and eating utensils etched in our very souls, while others now find themselves without a clue as how to set a pretty table.
But the placement of these basic dining essentials is easy to learn and easy to do. For most of us, a basic or informal table setting is as fancy as we need to know for daily use.
Yes, formal dinners are still given, and you should understand the traditional rules if you intend to have one. You should also learn the etiquette of formal table manners if you are invited to such an occasion that has a protocol of its own. But, for your own everyday life and entertaining, the basics will serve you in good stead.
Being prepared to entertain at home should not be intimidating. You need have enough matching stoneware or china, glasses and flatware to set the table for your family or guests. These items do not have to be expensive, but should blend well in color and style in the room in which you will be serving.
You will need a tablecloth or matching place-mats or chargers that coordinate in color and style with your dishes. You can even use paper mats, gift-wrap, or scrapbook paper to create table runners or place-mats. Then you will need cloth or paper napkins that blend with your dishes and table linens.
Lastly, you need something attractive for the center of your table. A centerpiece can be a container of flowers, but it can also be candles, greenery from your yard or decorative items like pinecones, shells or fruit in a low bowl. Note the Easter eggs in the three hurricane vases in the photo below.
You don’t have to go out to buy a centerpiece–you can create one out of something you have in your home. Check party books at your public library, Look on Pinterest, or google “easy centerpieces” to find hundreds of ideas you can adapt to fit your color scheme, occasion and skill level.
It’s very important to realize that setting a “proper table” is a relative term. It’s good to know what is traditionally considered “proper” placement, but once you know that, you are ready to spread your wings and to set a creative table, breaking some of the “rules” along the way.
Designers and stylists do this all the time, and everyone applauds their tablescapes.The tablesettings I am sharing here were taken at my local Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Williams-Sonoma this week–these are examples of creative tables designed by professional stylists who may have taken liberties with the traditional rules to achieve a certain look.
M philosophy is that if your table looks good and your guests can easily access and use their glasses and utensils when it is time to eat, creativity is to be encouraged. Guests can easily get their napkins from their glasses or from under their plates if that is where you have placed them. Leaving the decorative chargers under the dinner plates does not impede their eating, and moving an attractive salad plate off the dinner plate to the side is no hardship. The same goes for bowls–usually the hostess was going to remove the soup bowls or salad plates from the table when the guests are finished these courses anyway.
So once you know the basics of proper tablesetting, you can use your imagination as a springboard to set a creative table. Experiment with color, style, texture, and contrast–think outside the box! The sky is the limit!