In a never ending conquest to be economical and efficient, my parents would do things like tear paper towels in half to be used and save extra plastic utensils from take-out meals. They even decided, that for a period of time we would eat off of Styrofoam plates rather than spend time and water washing real plates. But after a childhood of eating off Styrofoam plates, I am now a firm believer in a proper table setting.
The dining table is a sacred space for enjoying the company of loved ones, it’s where parents teach their children life’s essential lessons, it’s for intimate conversations, it’s for clinking glasses in celebration, it’s for reminiscing on the past and for dreaming of the future. So why not create a simply beautiful space to serve as the backdrop to wonderful memories.
Today I will explore the elements of table setting and how to create extreme coziness for you and whoever it is you love to share your sacred space with.
#1 The Setting
For starters, we will want to understand the anatomy of a table setting. There are table settings for all sorts of occasions, and we’ll focus on the basic to the formal settings. Here are a few diagrams and examples displaying the basics of each.
Basic Table Setting for those casual weeknight get togethers:
- A dinner plate
- A fork, knife, and spoot
- A drinking glass
- A napkin
- Optional, bread and butter plate and knife
Informal for those nice-but-not-too-nice dinners or brunch parties:
- A napkin resting where the dinner plate will be set
- A salad fork and dinner fork; typically the salad fork sits outside the dinner fork since it will be used first
- A soup spoon (if you’re serving soup), a dessert spoon (because no meal is complete without dessert), and a dinner knife
- A bread plate and butter knife set above the forks
- A water glass, a wine glass, and a tea or coffee cup
In my opinion, the the informal table setting is more than enough to feel cozy. Feel free to use this as a “formal” table setting for those home parties, I promise we’ll all still be impressed.
Formal for those holiday parties or meals you’re so proud of they deserve a full spread:
- A charger (no phones at the table I might add), or service plate will rest under the plate which your first course will be served
- A salad fork, a fish fork (if you’re serving fish), and an dinner fork, and any other appropriate forks such as an oyster fork set on the right hand side of the plates
- A soup spoon, a fish knife, and a dinner knife
- A bread plate and butter knife above the forks
- A water glass, white wine glass, and red wine glass
- For after dinner, dessert and coffee or tea will be served with the proper serveware
A few notes on the formal table setting:
- No food really touches the charger as etiquette dictates that it is part of the proper part of the formal table setting (if you’re the one washing dishes, perhaps you may want to leave this one out, we won’t tell anyone).
- A lot of the serveware is also dependent on what type of food you will be sharing. Add serveware or leave it out as necessary.
- The formal table setting is quite fancy and can take a way from the coziness of your meal. I like to use caution and save this setting for the right occasion with the right people.
#2 The Aesthetic
Next you’ll want to consider the three following items so your table setting has a consistent and inviting aesthetic:
- Color palette – You’ll want the colors you select to compliment each other and remain consistent. Stick to three to five colors in your scheme. There are even color scheme generators available like this one to help narrow things down.
- Ambiance – Consider the setting or occasion you are creating the table for. Perhaps there is a theme or particular celebration taking place. Holidays and season are popular examples to consider.
- Materials, texture, and patterns – These elements provide the perfect vehicle to add subtle but interesting details to your setting. Often times this is where you can emphasize the ambiance you are going for. For example, if you want a rustic country ambiance you’ll want more texture and wooden patterns. Or to emphasize a modern dinner smoother surfaces and minimal to no patterns should do the trick…This is definitely a space to have some fun when pulling all the elements together.
#3 The Elements
Once you’ve decided on the design and aesthetic of the table setting you’ll want to think about what physical elements or pieces you need to complete your setting. When it comes to selecting the elements let everything be purposeful and serve a function to avoid creating a cluttered feeling on the table. Again, all of these elements will be dependent on your decisions above, but if you are just starting out it’s not a bad idea to create a “go to” table setting that fits your style.
- Table cloth and linens to set the color palette and textures of the ambiance you wish to create.
- Dinnerware and glasses according to the type of setting I’ve described earlier. Don’t be afraid to mix and match tableware, work with what you’ve got and have some fun with it!
- Organic elements such as in season flowers or air plants.
- Interesting details such as creative vessels to hold plants or personal touches for each guest.
Here are a few of my favorite settings:
And just one last important detail to remember…
Most importantly we should remember that the meal should remain the main star of the show. The table setting is meant to compliment the food you decide to serve.