Setting the dining table has become more than a practical function in recent years. Terms such as ‘tablescaping’ have elevated the humble mealtime to an experience where the décor on the table is as important as the food itself.
Everyone will remember growing up that setting a special table was an most often a symbol of an important event. Our grandmothers and mothers would have ‘good’ dinnerware and glasses that would only be used for ‘best’ and would otherwise be safely stored out of sight. The good tableware was often a treasured wedding gift or passed down from one generation to the next. It was a touch of luxury and formality that went hand in hand with having a dedicated dining room only used on rare occasion.
The way we share a meal and use our dining table has changed so much in recent times. Now the dining area is most often open plan or integrated into a kitchen or living room, multipurpose and anything but formal. It is often the homework table, the laundry folding table, the makeshift home office and sometimes the area for eating a meal!
The popularity of open plan living, casual style entertaining and a busy lifestyle has contributed to the death of the formal dining experience. We no longer have the space, time or inclination to dine in a dedicated room with ‘for good’ tableware that is only used on occasion.
However, there has been a recent revival in making dining a special experience once again...not necessarily in a formal setting, but by creating a curated and decorative table that defines an occasion as worthy of effort. Beautiful images of dream ‘tablescapes’ feature heavily across design sites such as Pinterest and in interior decorating magazines. Aspirational and dreamy, many of these images have been professionally styled and seem impossible to recreate at home.
So here is our guide to how to set a special table for your next occasion, inspired by the High Country, without needing to be a ‘table scaping’ expert….
CHOOSE YOUR INSPIRATION OR THEME
The style of your table setting can take inspiration from so many sources. A favourite colour, some flowers now in season, the weather or textures found in your garden or landscape. Having a colour palette to co-ordinate different elements on your table will make it easier to achieve a cohesive look. Choose a few colours and stick to these.
INVEST IN SOME GOOD NEUTRAL BASICS
Having a basic set of table linens, crockery and glassware in a neutral colour or texture is a great foundation for any table setting. Think natural linens or cottons for tablecloths and napkins, earthy ceramic plates, quality glassware and a set of simple cutlery that is timeless in design and will last for several years. Don’t let these get mixed up in the everyday items so you can find a full set when you need them!
ADD A LAYER OF COLOUR AND TEXTURE
This can be achieved with the addition of some decorative pieces to match your chosen style or palette. Coloured or textured placemats or napkins, a set of contrasting larger dinner plates in a colour, organic shape or with an interesting finish, or a set of water glasses in a coloured glass or even a ceramic are all perfect options. Unlike a full cutlery or crockery setting, these are only needed in single quantities to set each place at your table. These elements don’t need to be expensive or be ‘forever’ items but choosing a palette of colours or textures you love will allow these to be used over several occasions and mixed and matched with other pieces you gather over time to create different looks.
ADD THE WOW WITH INTERESTING DECORATIVE ELEMENTS
This part is where inspiration and creativity come to the fore in making your table unique and event worthy! Dressing you table is really only limited by your imagination and the available space. Go beyond the classic vase of flowers and add things that work with your theme or style.
For a touch of nature, think potted plants, a branch taken from a tree in your garden (don’t take anything from a national park of course), interesting stones, textural bark or sticks as the base of your centrepiece. Opting for interesting foliage instead of flowers will give your table a lush, rustic contemporary style.
Group some tealights, votives or tall candle holders for ambient light and to create a special mood. Using some reflective elements such as glass, mirror or metal will increase the impact of the candlelight especially in the evening.
Finally, add some unique touches to give your table a personalised look. Tie a calligraphed craft board tag or sprig of gum with a flax string or ribbon around each guests napkin or glass. Use a river worn pebble to hold down napkins if dining outside. Group smaller vases with sprigs of greenery or candles in a low tray, on a log or in an old zinc container for a rustic feel. These items do not need to be expensive and can often be found or repurposed but think about your theme and chosen colours and textured to ensure a cohesive result.
And a final useful tip, if your dining table is not your dream finish or style, consider using a large sheet of MDF and painting this to match your colour palette and lay this over the top of your table. Chalk paint is another great option with its super matte finish that can also be written on with guests names or during the meal (great for keeping little ones entertained). This can then be repainted in another colour for future special occasions to match your next unique table setting!
Need help choosing pieces for your dining table? Contact us for personalised advice and recommendations from our curated collection of decor and homewares.