I have often met clients who asked me for directions on how to set a table for a special occasion. An elegant and original table.
Since there is no univocal answer to this question, my first answer is almost always a question: “What kind of OCCASION?”
In fact, you could desire to set an elegant tablel for people who are family members, close friends or people with whom you are less familiar and with whom you want to make a good impression.
People often understandably have a thousand doubts about the rules of etiquette.
However, I believe that without infringing the most important indications wich are mostly deriving from common sense, more space can now be given to creativity.
With a little imagination and good taste we could therefore create refined, elegant and full of personality tables, perhaps a little less classic than our grandmother did 50 or 60 years ago!
Another important thing to evaluate is the CONTEXT in which you want to set an elegant table, because the style of the table must somehow be tied to the context.
For example, if I set up in a garden during the summer, I would hardly use brocades or velvets, but I will rather opt for fabrics, colors and accessories suitable for the garden, such as linen, cotton and rattan.
Basically, any context lends itself to setting in an elegant way, just give yourself a plausible theme for the context and take care of details.
Yes, here is the magic word that in my opinion changes everything: the DETAILS.
If you want to make a good impression and leave everyone enchanted with your table, don’t think that using for example a very expensive porcelain service is enough for the purpose.
In my opinion, something simpler is better but with combinations of colors and materials that enchant.
And here comes another of the frequently asked questions: does the TABLECLOTH must always be white? Or can I dare with colors? Or even with prints?
I believe that colors are always welcome, if they are used with elegance, and I am not at all opposed to the use of patterns too!
But shall you use only pastel tones? No, absolutely! Can you imagine a beautiful forest-green color table, full of details, even complete with a green garland in the center and illuminated by splendid candles? Yes, of course!! And the same could be done in a warm red plum color, perhaps complemented by gold-colored cutlery! Too much? Not if you sprinkle the table with branches of pink pepper and fleshy peonies. Another frequent question, how big should the tableclot’s fall be? I would say that elegance should always go hand in hand with comfort, so my advice is to make a fall (part of the tablecloth that descends from each side of the table) long enough but that will not bother the legs of your guests; the perfect fall is between 35 and 40 cm. But remember that the bigger the table, the longer the fall can be. A separate discussion can be made in case you want to use an under-tablecloth which in that case will have to touch the ground. There is a detail that I love to take care of and which is often underestimated; and it’s the choice of NAPKINS .. Here I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear about paper and for a thousand good reasons! It is horrendous, even when it is very dear (in fact!) It is anti-ecological !! Should we still undline in 2020, the importance of small daily gestures for a more eco-sustainable life? And then please, don’t tell me you don’t want to wash them, because we all have a washing machine and if you don’t want to iron them, it’s not a problem! Then I will explain how to do it!
So first of all, the napkins will not only be made of fabric, but it will be a good opportunity to bring a detail of style to your table !!
Such as? Folding it into a swan shape on the plate? … nooo! No folding fans in the glass and swans please …
You can obviously choose napkins matching perfectly to the tablecloth, but I can tell you that nobody will hardly notice it.
I would instead opt to put them in a color that for example binds to the color of the edge of the tablecloth, or instead in one or more tones that play subtly in the color range of the tablecloth itself.
Another possibility could be to use antique, white napkins, perhaps with embroidered monograms, and if you do not have the same for all the diners, alternate them in a more or less regular way on the places.
Another idea? You could decide to match the color of the napkins to your colored glasses (not the plastic ones) or instead to the flowers that you will put in the center of the table.
I could go on and on to suggest ideas for napkins, but I will dedicate a special post to this topic.
And where do I put the napkin? On the plate? To the right, to the left? So, the etiquette says on the left bent in a rectangle. So if in doubt, stick to it, also because even a child can do it. Do you want something more original? I’ll put two or three ideas here, then we’ll go into it in the future if you feel like it.
For now, let’s move on because the topic is really broad and we still have to face several important issues.
THE DISHES to use, which ones and how many CUTLERY, and this is linked to how many people have to sit at the table and, obviously, the menu.
I say of course, because I happened to be asked if it is always necessary to put a double fork; but the answer is that it depends on how many dishes you will serve that need a fork.
For example, if you serve a soup (spoon) and then only a main course before dessert, you only need one fork!
Let’s say instead that you have to serve several courses, and consequently you will need a lot of cutlery, because between one plate and another the cutlery always changes …
In this case, you will need a lot of space….
And here comes the argument that I mentioned earlier: how many people at the table? … ”Add a seat at the table … it’s always nice to add a new guest, but calculate the necessary menu and cutlery accordingly, as well as the living space for your guests to breathe. Well, having said that, I bring you below a diagram of how cutlery should be positioned according to etiquette.
But also done this, I repeat to you, to be memorable your table will need other attention and attention to detail. For example, you could decide at this point what type of dish to use, and in the case of an elegant lunch or dinner, I would opt for a porcelain dish instead of a ceramic one, but not necessarily white. Of course, a classic, or a contemporary reinterpretation of a white classic with a gold border, will never embarrass you, but you could also launch yourself into more imaginative combinations, if you will be able to create a clever harmony of colors that binds the different elements of the table. In this case too, the use of vintage porcelanes is always welcome for me, and the mix of two or more services in harmony with each other and alternating, could give a splendid result and at the same time remove you from the hindrance of: ” … oh god, I don’t have enough! .. “Mix Grandma’s services then! They are almost always beautiful and used in a slightly unmatched way, they are extremely current and interesting.
And how do we manage with GLASSES? Better to opt for simple crystal glasses, such as those used in restaurants or can I use those colored glasses that I like so much? Etiquette would say that wine glasses to always be transparent, but perhaps only one color better if in tune with other elements of the table such as napkins or flowers, we could use colored water glasses and add transparent goblets for red wine instead.
I told you at the beginning that etiquette mostly bases its rules on practical reasons and to favor the correct interpersonal relationship at the table, so to remember the position of the glasses or cutlery, just remember for example that the knives must have the blade always faces the plate to protect the hands of the guest. In the same way, for fruit cutlery, the handle of the knife will be turned to the right while that of the fork will be to the left because these are the hands with which they are supposed to be gripped to cut the fruit. Ditto for the glasses that will be on the upper right side of the placé to facilitate their taking and serving.
In conclusion then, you will have wisely used the colors, mixed some ancient elements with other contemporary ones, added details of note such as glasses of different shapes or colors, or splendid linen napkins. You will only have to illuminate your beautiful table; and here too the solutions can be manifold. I like to use many small candles placed for example in elegant mini glass vases mirrored in mercury or reflected on antiqued mirror sheets. Alternatively, over time I have collected in the markets a small collection of silver candlesticks of different shapes and sizes. But you must be careful that the light of the flame does not blind the guests. At this point everything will be wrapped in a soft and elegant light. I just have to wish you a wonderful evening animated by the relaxed voice of your guests.