Big fancy dinner parties seem to have gone out of fashion, don’t you think? Of course, this year it has been all but impossible to hold a dinner party with family and friends. However, I’m forever hopeful that we will all get through this and come out the other side. When we do, I have a feeling that there may be a resurgence of the dinner party. Everyone is going to want to get together to celebrate life. For now though, there’s no reason why you can’t really go for it at the dining table with the people you live with. Here’s my top tips for table styling and creating the perfect autumnal look.
Just like my seasonal styling at the front of my house, I do like a sense of theatre at the dining table. However, be careful! You don’t want so much going on that it’s difficult to actually eat!
If you read my blog post from yesterday then you’ll know that I decorated white pumpkins with leaves, using a decoupage technique. If you didn’t see then you can catch it here: “How to rock at pumpkin marbling and decoupage.”
Layering up a table
Decorating a table is all about layering. Start with a bare clean table. The first thing I usually add is a table runner. Most of the time I opt for white linen, although I have been known to use faux grass! As much as I’m not a huge fan of “themes” as such, you do at least have to have an over-arching idea. Seasonal styling helps hugely with this as Mother Nature tends to tell you what to use.
I’m a big fan of place mats. I have loads of different shapes and sizes in various patterns and textures. They form the foundation of each place setting and can either contrast or accentuate the colour scheme.
You’ve gotta have good china! It doesn’t have to be expensive at all, but it does have to be one of two things: it’s either pretty or it’s a sophisticated neutral. If it’s just dull, then guess what? So will your table be! If your guests are eating off something that doesn’t even exude simple elegance then you have absolutely no chance of wowing them with your styling skills and what’s more, it might be the last time they visit! Just sayin’.
When table styling, the trick is to layer your china. Start with the dinner plate, if you can, then a side plate on top, then a soup or salad bowl. I usually place something in the centre of the bowl just for kicks. This is where my decoupaged mini white pumpkins come in. If you used different leaf designs then alternate them as you go around the table.
Place a side plate to the left of the dinner plate. Now, if we are talking correct formal etiquette, the the side plate is actually placed in the top left corner above the dinner plate, but I don’t have room and I also don’t find that placement aesthetically pleasing. On top of that place your napkin, napkin ring and decor detail. Napkins are usually at least 30cm square. Fold them in two and then roll them up. Choose a beautifully complimentary or contrasting napkin ring and place in the centre of each napkin. I always then add a decor detail. Here, I have used a fern leaf to tie in with the decoupaged pumpkins. The devil is in the detail guys. These are the things that your guests will notice and remember. It’s part of what makes it special.
Now, I sound like I’m being a bit bossy, don’t I? Please don’t get me wrong, I love an easy baked lasagna supper with friends as much as anyone else. In that instance, the cutlery would be haphazardly thrown onto the table a few minutes before serving and I’d be pouring another glass of Viogneir pronto! But, if it’s a special occasion, or you want to wow your guests, then you’ve got to get table styling right! I am aware that the formal setting in the image below is very formal though, so I’m going to tell you how I have adapted it for modern times.
Place a small butter knife on the side plate/bread plate. Next to this is the appetizer/starter fork then the entree/main course fork. The other side of the dinner plate should be the entree knife, then the appetizer knife. I have dispensed with the teaspoon and soup spoon, unless I’ve prepared soup, of course! You always eat from the outside in when it comes to cutlery!
I nearly always then place a champagne bucket in the centre of the table. Here, I have decorated it with snow berries and then placed the champagne or wine bottle in the bucket. From there, it is a case of decorating around the runner to pull the look together. I’ve used pine cones, more mini pumpkins and vines strewn around glasses, almost as if they’ve started to grow there and taken over the table.
Last, but certainly not least is glassware and candles! Always place your water and wine glasses top right of the place setting. I tend to like candlesticks that are quite tall. There’s nothing more annoying over supper than a flickering candle right in your line of sight. Now, you should be ready to go. Pour yourself a cheeky glass of something gorgeous, congratulate yourself on your brilliance and go get in the shower pronto. They’re going to be here in an hour!