Setting a table is all about atmosphere and creating a memorable theme for every occasion. Whether it’s a small informal gathering or a grand dinner party, dressing the table in style will capture your guests’ imaginations and inspire conversation; it’s the little details that are most memorable and add a unique and personal touch.
Whether you’re looking to create a classic table setting you can use again and again or you’re planning a special event, these tips from our design team will help you to create the perfect atmosphere for your guests.
As you begin planning your table setting, here are a few key elements to think about to make it a success:
Decide casual or formal
The key to a stylish table is catering your design to suit the occasion and style of the party you’re hosting. The way we eat and interact with family and friends has evolved, and today the dinner party is a much more relaxed affair. There are no rules when it comes to how you set your table and serve your meal, giving you the freedom to get creative and do whatever works best for you. Setting a more formal table on the other hand is a great way to mark an occasion and make celebrations more special; most of us only have the opportunity to indulge in a glamorous, formal meal once or twice a year.
Choose your style
Your table setting will set the scene for the party and give an instant first impression of what’s to come. Ultimately, the table should say something about the host; it should be a reflection of who you are and the reason why you’ve gathered your family and friends around the table. Deciding on a style from the outset will make planning a lot easier and help you to stay focused on your table design as you bring all the elements together. Try creating a table setting using elements from one of our signature styles, Luxe, Urban or Chic. Choose a style that is in harmony with your dining room and can be used time and time again. Another simple option is to choose a theme and work with that – holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter all offer endless possibilities to expand on. Creating a style around a season is another simple and effective way to keep your table settings exciting and fresh.
Pick a colour palette
Once you’ve narrowed down your style or theme, choose a colour palette to help you pick out your details. Colours that complement or accent your dining room will help make sure the table is in harmony with your space. Bold, impactful colours are perfect for evening entertaining, while soft neutrals will create a relaxed table for informal meals.
Create a focal point
Your centrepiece or focal point is an important part of your table design and will impact the other choices you make. Floral centrepieces are classic, but there’s plenty of other ways to bring your table to life if you don’t want to go down that route. Lanterns, Christmas ornaments and fruit arrangements are just a few examples of decorative objects you can use to create a centrepiece for your table design. Make sure any centrepiece you use is low enough so that people can see over and it doesn’t disrupt conversation. If your dining table is large, place a series of small centrepieces along the table to create balance in your design scheme.
The right atmosphere will help set the scene for a memorable dinner party – consider the lighting in your dining room and how you can create a soft glow that feels warm and inviting to your guests. If your space doesn’t have dimmable light fixtures or relies on one large ceiling light to illuminate the room, consider introducing lamps around the perimeter of the room to create ambient light instead. Candles and fairy lights both make excellent accent lights and can help make your space feel intimate and restaurant-like.
Whatever look you choose, here are the essential features you need to create a stylish table setting:
The right dining chairs will offer a touch of glamour to your table setting along with a comfortable seat where your guests can enjoy a delicious meal and great company. If you already have seating in place, consider dressing your chairs with designer cushions – opt for small rectangular sizes in a contrasting colour to give your dining chairs an instant refresh. Finally, make sure your seating is comfortable. You want your guests to linger between courses, so a comfy seat is essential!
Consider whether you want your table linen to make a bold statement or provide a blank canvas to complement the other features of your table setting. Make sure your tablecloth is long enough to cover the entire table and drape roughly ten inches over the side. Colour, pattern and style are important here – if you’re looking for character, choose standout patterns and textures, or experiment with delicate linens for a more subtle look. Don’t be afraid to combine different tones and textures; a white tablecloth will give you the perfect base to experiment with accessories.
The right table setting can make your dinner party more exciting and make the meal all the more inviting. Make sure your table is evenly spaced so there is enough room to seat each person comfortably and lay out all the dishes and cutlery you will need. It’s worth knowing how to lay a full formal table even if you don’t intend to use it – once you have the basic principles down you can adjust based on your dining style and the meal you’ll be serving. Use the plate as the centrepiece for each place setting and arrange what you need around it – forks go to the left, while knives should be arranged on the right with the blade facing in. Place your glassware to the top right of the plate and a small bread plate to the top left.
Decide on the crockery you want to use. For a rustic look why not mix and match similar styles or motifs but in different colourways throughout your crockery, glassware and napkins? If you’d rather keep it simple and more classic, use a single collection throughout your tableware to exude elegance and effortless simplicity. For a more sophisticated and extravagant look, choose something with dramatic impact to create a feeling of luxury.
Glassware can be used to enhance your table. Use different glasses to complement your meal, one for water, one each for red and white wine, and another one for champagne. If your colour palette is filled with soft neutrals, try using colourful crystal glassware to inject some contrast into your table design.
These are the final finishing touches that will bring your design scheme together and complete your table:
Twinkling candles will help to create that additional wow factor and look great both on the table and arranged around the room. Use plenty of candles of different sizes, shapes and widths to create a setting that feels personal, intimate and romantic.
Napkins & rings
Your napkins are another opportunity to introduce colour and texture to your table design. Simple linen will help you create a Chic look while a bold napkin ring will bring your Luxe style to life. Like other table linens, napkins are a great way to change your classic table and introduce new colours for different occasions and seasons.
Name cards are a thoughtful touch you can add to make your table setting memorable and make your guests feel welcome. If you’re serving a group who don’t get together often or are introducing people for the first time, write the names on both sides of the card so everyone around the table can see – it makes for easy conversation and will help your guests feel at ease rather than worrying about remembering new names.