I have always loved entertaining at home and being able to come together in small, intimate gatherings has truly been a silver lining. The joy of gathering around a table to enjoy a lovingly prepared home cooked meal is very special, and more than ever the table has taken centre stage. For me, styling a beautiful table is about creating an experience that looks beautiful and feels comfortable, while using what you have at home, mixing old with new, and adding flowers and foraged greenery to make the table aesthetic truly cosy and comforting. There really is nothing better than sharing good food and good conversations with loved ones around the table. Read on to learn how to style a beautiful table for your next long lunch or dinner party at home. I think you may even find a couple of surprises in here too...
Choose Your Food Theme
The first thing you need to do is choose your food theme. I know that may sound strange but trust me and believe in my process. Choosing a food theme helps you to narrow in on the cuisine and dishes you want to cook for your guests, but it is also the gateway to planning your table setting. Will you be cooking Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Scandinavian or modern Australian? You can choose one or a few, but I find it keeps things simple for you if you choose one, maybe two. Choosing a theme will not only make planning your menu simple, but it will really guide the look and feel of your table.
Plan Your Menu
Now that you have chosen a food theme, typically you should starting planning your menu. Look at your favourite cookbooks for inspiration and jump on Pinterest to get a feel for the cuisine you have chosen. Choosing simple recipes that are packed with flavour reigns supreme. Even better, choose recipes that can be made in advance so you're not having to cook everything on the day. For more tips on planning your menu, make sure you read this post. When you have planned your menu, it's time to look at the colours and textures in those dishes. Think about which colours in your dishes stand out and how you can compliment or contrast them within your table setting.
Pick Your Colour Palette
Once you know your dishes or have a solid idea in your mind what you'll cook, the look of your table will start forming in your mind. The best place to start is the colour palette. As I mentioned above, this should be guided by the dishes you are serving for maximum impact. But it should also be guided by the season you're in (summer, spring, autumn, winter) as well as the colour of your tablecloth and your plates and bowls. I recommend raiding your cupboards at home to see what you have and start playing around with colour combinations to get the best result. Your table aesthetic can be neutral, colourful, minimalist, contrasting or maximalist, or it can be a combination of any of these. Truly, there are no strict rules with picking a colour palette for your table and that's why I love creating them so much.
Select Your Tablecloth
Once you have chosen the colour palette of your table setting, it's best to think about dressing the table. I love tablecloths and table runners, so think about the colours in your food and what colour tablecloth would compliment the dishes beautifully. I have always gone for a minimalist block colour, but recently have been diving into what truly makes me, and that's prints and colour. I recently bought this table cloth and I am so excited to use it! The fabric is also important and I love linen for a that little extra texture, but I also love cotton (it's also a lot cheaper than linen).
A quick note on tablecloths. They can be expensive! I have always used my own linen duvet covers and honestly, I cannot tell you how many bed sheets I've used in my day as a tablecloth. I also recommend visiting Spotlight and buying a large sheet of fabric to use as a tablecloth. I also love The Fabric Store for beautiful colours, prints and patterns. If you are on a budget, check out the haberdashery section in your local secondhand stores. In fact, I picked up the pastel pink table cloth (ahem, king single bed sheet) featured in the photos in this post at Lifeline for only $4! Charity stores and tip shops always have a huge variety of inexpensive bed sheets (and placemats, and napkins) that make stunning tablecloths.
Mix Your Tableware
Whether you choose a plain or printed table cloth, it's time to start thinking about the plates and bowls you will set on the table. If you have been following along here for a while now, then you'll know I have an absolute obsession with thrifting secondhand ceramics, tableware and kitchenware from my local charity stores and vintage markets. Take a look at my little "how to" video where I share all my tips and tricks for sourcing beautiful secondhand ceramics and kitchenware for your home and table. I love looking for interesting plates, bowls, candle holders, jugs, serving platters and jars in different colours and interesting shapes an sizes, as well as patterned rims. It's such an inexpensive way to take your table setting from drab to fab in a few mere seconds! I am also obsessed with coloured glass at the moment.
Typically if you have a busy tablecloth, you might want to keep your flatware and ceramics minimalist, and vice versa. But lately I have been experiments with "more is more" and pairing colourful or printed tablecloths with fun and colourful plates and bowls. For inspiration, I recently bought this plate and this plate in a set of 4 and I am so in love with them! Pink and green have always been my favourite colours (just look at my website, wink wink) so I tend to gravitate towards these colours. I also love layering different secondhand and vintage plates on plates, as well as bowls on plates in opposing colours, patterns and shapes. This adds such a lovely textural element to the table.
Jumble Your Napkins and Placemats
I am a big fan of mixing and matching napkins and placemats against the backdrop of the tablecloth. There really are no rules but it's important to make sure the tones in the napkins and placemats sit well with the tones in the tablecloth. When choosing napkins and placements, you need to factor in is size, texture, material, colour and shape. I recently bought these I am madly in love with the wavy edges.
Select Beautiful Cutlery and Glassware
You can't go wrong with a gold or brushed brass cutlery set, and a silver cutlery set with a little patina - that's all you'll need for the rest of your life. I do tend to find myself looking for cutlery sets at vintage markets and recently bought a beautiful set, but that's a big and very rare treat. When it comes to glassware, I like minimal styles but I also love reeded glassware. All my glasses are thrifted from charity shops and my local tip shop, so don't think you need to spend hundreds of dollars on lovely glassware that you can actually pick up for a steal at your local thrift store. I am also a huge lover of champagne coupe glasses with different patterns on the glass, and I love serving all manner of drinks in them. For styling, anything goes! You can keep minimalist glassware together, or reeded/decorative glassware together, or mix your minimalist glassware with your decorative glasses. Whatever you think looks the most beautiful and practical.
Design Your Centrepiece
Now that you can see your table setting coming together, it's time to think about designing your centrepiece. There is a lot to be said about centrepieces and I like to strike a balance between style and function. Huge standout centrepieces or tables dressed with lots of decorations look incredible on arrival for that essential "wow" factor, but it makes me sad when they are taken away to make way for the food. I think a centrepiece should be more practical and have a purpose, and should stay on the table during the meal (or at least stuffed around), while also complimenting the dishes and the experience of gathering with your loved ones.
Some of the items I like to use for centrepieces are candles in unique secondhand candle holders (if you don't have any candle holders, use tea cups or saucers, or even a hollowed out capsicum I saw on Pinterest!), and different sized vases and jugs made from a range of materials - glass, clay, ceramic, timber, rattan. I also love to create lower bouquets of flowers, table styled foraged greenery and native leaves gathered from my garden or my neighbours, vintage water jugs, old timber boards, and ingredients such as vintage bottles of oil, sea salt and cracked pepper in small bowls, and secondhand coloured glass bowls filled with condiments.
Pro Tip: flowers and greenery can get expensive if you're buying from a florist or a flower market, so have a look around in your backyard, the trees in your street, or ask your neighbour if you can cut some flowers or olive branches. You'll save a lot of money if you get creative! I also love to buy flowers from local growers.
Lay It Out
How will you know what your table setting will look like unless you lay it all out? This is something I always do ahead of a long lunch or dinner party as it saves a lot of time on the day. Start by layering your tablecloth; don't feel like you need to iron it straight - crumple it in your hands for a more "organic" look on the day. Often you'll find fold creases in my tablecloths and I am totally ok with that; my home is not a restaurant! Then layer the tablecloth with your placemats (if you're using them - you totally don't have to), plates, napkins, bowls, cutlery and glassware. I also love mixing and matching vintage and secondhand plates in similar shapes and tones but in opposing patterns. Think about the placement of your cutlery and napkins, try something new! Take a step back and see if anything needs to be adjusted or moved around. Once you are happy with your layout, take a few photos so you remember how to style your table on the day.
And there you have it! I hope these tips help guide you to create and style a beautiful table at home. I am all for using what you have at home already, layering with secondhand and vintage pieces, and if necessary, purchasing a few heirloom pieces you know you'll love and use for years to come. And if you haven't already, make sure you read My Top 10 Tips For Entertaining At Home where I share all my secrets for setting a date and sending invites with ease, planning your menu, nailing your grocery list so you don't overspend, and VIP things you need to know about prepping the day before and the day of so you can enjoy yourself and not be locked away in the kitchen cooking up a storm, literally. Whether you're planning a long lunch with a few close friends, or a fancy dinner party with place settings and multiple courses, with a bit of planning and my tips by your side, you'll be armed with everything you need.