The most important rule to remember when dressing the table is that there are no rules! The only guide to follow is to create a table that oozes personality and looks inviting. Here are some easy ideas to dress your table:
1. Allow for a comfortable amount of space between plate settings. 18 – 24” is about the right distance. 18” will keep it tight and intimate while 24” is a bit more spacious. The tighter the better, it keeps the energy up.
2. Don’t worry which side of the plate you’re supposed to place the forks and knives. It’s irrelevant. Try a few different ways: you can make it interesting by rolling the flatware in a napkin and placing the napkin diagonally across the plate, or by placing it to the left or right of the plate. The options are infinite, so have fun with it.
3. If you want to set a traditional table, the forks are placed to the left of the plate with the tines facing up. The knife, with the blade facing in towards the plate, is placed on the right side of the plate. The soupspoon should be placed on the outside of the knife. The amount of forks, knives, and spoons needed will depend on the number of courses you serve. Your guests will use the flatware working from the outside in, so as you place the silverware, think about the food being served and the utensils needed. Dessertspoons and forks can be set above the plate with the spoon pointing left and the fork pointing right. For a European style place setting, place the tines of the fork facing down.
4. Look at napkins like an accessory, a scarf in a way, for your table. They can be folded simply in a rectangle, or rolled and tied with a piece of raffia or twine. They can be folded neatly in a rectangle and placed under the plate with just a small amount showing, or on top of the plate. There are hundreds of ways to fold a napkin and just as many when deciding where it should be placed.
5. Napkin rings in beautiful colors and with fantastic embellishments add another touch to the look of your table. You can never have too many napkin rings. I think of them as jewelry for the table.
6. Glasses can be arranged in a variety of ways. One, which is somewhat more traditional, is to have the water goblet closest to the plate, with the wine glasses above the water glass, in a triangle and to the right of the plate above the knife. Another setting is to have all the glasses lined up starting with water, then white and red wine, bottom to top or right to left. Feel free to mix and match different patterns and colors. A tumbler for the water, a colorful wine glass for the red wine, and a clear glass for the white adds dimension to the table.
7. Centerpieces are definitely the finishing touch to your table. It’s not necessary to use expensive fresh cut stems. I often rely on votive candles spread abundantly about the table. The more candles used the younger and more glamorous everyone will look. If you do chose to use flowers, make sure that they are either low enough or high enough so that your guests will have an unobstructed view of each other. Another idea is to use an interesting combination of fruits and leaves. For a tropical look, line a bowl with leaves and fill it with coconuts and limes. For a summer look try a bowl filled with lemons and limes, a few pears and some apples.
Again, there are no rules. Do what makes you feel comfortable. Be creative, keep it fun and let your very own statement of style shine through.