Designing a tablescape for a special dinner should take into account the decor of the home, the occasion, the food to be served and even the guest list. The beauty of setting a table is that you can be as simple or as extravagant as you wish. Every table can tell a tale — or set the theatrical background for tales to be made.
A tablecloth can be considered the foundation of a table. Some tables demand the use of a tablecloth; others don’t. Sometimes, tables with a beautiful wood or stone pattern, or an unusual base, are worthy of showing off a bit. In that case, it is preferable to use place mats in lieu of tablecloths. Some consider tablecloths to be traditional, but depending on the fabric and color, tablecloths can also be quite contemporary and even cutting-edge (I’m thinking of a fiber optic fabric where the lights come from the table itself).
Now, depending on the food to be served and the number of courses, you will have to choose your china, glassware and silverware. The more courses and accompanying beverages, the more utensils and dishes you will need. Another factor that will affect your table decor will be whether or not you have hired help to clear the table between courses.
Alternatively, you can serve the dinner all at once, family style. When the table is served one course at a time, dishes are expected to be cleared and brought back and forth from the kitchen or serving station. If the dinner is served family style, serving platters and large serving utensils become part of the table decor. The china, glassware and silverware are the most noticeable decorative items at a table.
The colors, shapes and even textures of materials add to the overall flavor of the tablescape.
Regardless of what you read in antiquated etiquette books, which always profess the use of white tablecloths and gold-rimmed china, you definitely can mix and match patterns and styles for a more interesting table decor. The centerpiece is the crowning jewel of the table. More often than not, beautiful vases and flowers are involved. But centerpieces can be almost anything you want.
Candelabras, objets d’art and even collections make great centerpieces and often become the subject of conversation. Roses are usually the expected floral centerpiece at dinner parties, but why stop there? There are so many varieties of flowers and so many types of vases that can be used. There are some rules. Usually, you want to be able to see your dinner guests so conversation can flow even across the table.
Another rule is not to use very fragrant flowers or candles; you don’t want their aroma to compete with that of the food. In addition, strong smells may be offensive to some of your guests.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida.
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The china, glassware and silverware are the most noticeable decorative items at a table.