Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blast from the Past: How to Set a Fancy-Schmancy Table

Was scrolling through some old posts and came across this one, published in October 2012. Considering the timing, I thought I'd share it again, so here you go.

I love decorating our table for special meals; it brings out my inner Martha Stewart. And my guests like it, too. It is almost de rigueur now that guests drop off their contributions in the kitchen, then pass through the dining room before sitting down for appetizers.

"You always make it look really festive," one guest commented on (Canadian) Thanksgiving Monday.

I'm glad she felt that way.

Today, I'm sharing some of the tips & tricks I use when making my table look extra-special. Some of it involves shopping, but it also includes working with what you have.

1. Choose a colour scheme and gather the things you think might work.
Since it is fall, I chose an autumnal theme and gathered the elements on the table. (I have an ivory tablecloth which works well as a blank canvas.)

These were all things I had on hand, either purchased last Thanksgiving or gifts (some from years ago). Let's take a closer look.

Here's what we have:

  • A table runner
  • A couple of baskets
  • Ornamental napkin rings
  • A yard or so of fabric
  • A capiz shell placemat thingy
  • Some candles in seasonal colours
  • A few ornamental leaves

2. Start to layer.
Beginning with my neutral tablecloth (in this case, two tablecloths, since our table is big enough to accommodate 12 people), start layering your elements, starting with your runner or accent fabric.

I tried the runner, but it was just too small (and too close in colour) for the big table. In this case, I bunched up the ornamental fabric, partly because it was faded in one spot from the time I used it as a table-topper in front of a window, and also because I think it looks nice that way. But not yet. In that shot, it looks messy.

3. Begin setting places.
Like too many of us (and much to my husband's dismay), I have several sets of dishes. Everyday dishes in a pistachio green, wedding dishes in white with silver trim, heirloom dishes in white with delicate periwinkle flowers, and today's dishes in a hand-painted rustic finish.

(Some of the napkins are still in the laundry.) You can see that the table is starting to come together. The three sets of candlesticks are a happy coincidence of wedding gifts: silver, brass, and crystal in three different heights. I love using them together.

4. Fill in gaps.
That centrepiece - or lack thereof - was a problem. I often will put low flowers (so people can see across the table), but Farm Boy was completely out of flowers by the time I got there on Sunday. Incredible!

So I scoured my house and found this.

It's a fisherman's float from our trip through Oregon and California a few years ago. I'm a glass-art fanatic, so I was happy to find an excuse to use this. The blue-green in the glass picked up the blue in the ornamental fabric. (There's also a touch of blue in the plates, but it's difficult to see.)

5. Set the table.

Here's a look at one place setting, before adding the glassware.

(Oh. I realized that I had chargers for under the plates. I've had these for a couple of years, but kept on forgetting about them. Finally remembered. Steve, naturally, thinks they are completely useless, and they are, but they really do help the table look fancy-schmancy. Which is a real word, Blogger, so stop putting a squiggly line under it!)

Here is a diagram of the correct setting of a place, in an informal style. Which is probably the most formal most of us will ever see.

Things to note:

  • Bread-and-butter plate is to the left/above the forks.
  • Wine glass is above the plate. The picture doesn't show it, but the water goblet (or glass) goes directly above the knife. Coffee or tea cup would also be in this corner.
  • Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right.
Memorize that diagram. 

6. Stand back and look at the beauty.
And here is my table fully set. I don't know why I didn't get a full-on picture of it, but this'll have to do. Sorry.

It was, as always, chaotic when it came time to serve, so I didn't get a picture with food on the table. We had so much food that the glass ball had to be moved to the china cabinet. 

And that is the unraveling of my mystery of table decor. It is something that simply makes me happy. Do you have any tricks? 

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