If you haven’t come across Grace & Saviour’s amazing work before you are in for a real treat! Specialising in event and wedding styling, Grace is a dab hand at setting a beautiful tablescape. Grace’s fantastic designs were put to great use when she agreed to collaborate with the team on our latest FEAST: A Dinner Journal which is out now. You can pick up a copy in all Eason stores and speciality shops or download our free app to see her work in action. So when it comes to top tips for laying a special table, I asked Grace to fill us in on her secrets…And she’s just in time for Easter! Over to Grace…
Goodness, when I sat down to write this I thought I would have 5 key tips, but as I thought over how I approach each project I realised I had so many things I consider when thinking of setting the perfect table. I do this on a scale for larger events and weddings, but much of the thought process also applies when welcoming guests to a meal in your home, to create a space that welcomes everyone into an environment that encourages conversation, relaxation and pure enjoyment of the food being served.
1.Use the room as a cue: Look around the room in which you will enjoy this meal, look at the style of the room, the colours on the walls, the view outside. There might be a lovely green detail in the tile on the wall that could be brought onto the table, or a large tree outside your window might encourage you to bring some of its foliage, flowers or fruit inside for a centrepiece.
2.Consider the season: A table will always look beautiful when it is authentic to the season:
-In Spring and Summer I love to set the table with crisp linens, muslins, faded vintage florals, Spring daffodils, bouncing as much natural light as possible. Whereas in Winter I get excited using fabrics, colours and textures that evoke comfort and warmth, such as velvets, wools, tweeds and lots of candlelight. Perhaps in winter adding blankets into the room to encourage guests to get comfortable.
-Bring the outside in, look into your garden, or the surrounding countryside or where you can go on a nice walk. I love to forage in hedgerows and along country lanes to add things to the table that reflect the season. Natural foliage whether foraged or purchased can create beautiful central focus to your table, laid along the table with candles, or gathered into a favourite vase. This is also true for fruit and flowers, consider adding lemons and fruits to summer gatherings, and sumptuous figs, plums, berries, nuts to winter table décor.
-Traditions of the season: I always believe in being authentic to the occasion, so consider researching traditions surrounding occasions such as Easter, and reflecting your favourites back onto your table.
3.Colour palette: If you have worked through the points above, you might have unearthed your colour palette, if not also consider the food you are servicing, are there blues and greys of the sea, or fresh lemons, egg shells of Easter. I love to use neutral tones to calm and refine colour and pattern.
4.Heritage items: You can consider what you have around your home, and add different levels of intrigue and stories to your table, a set of candlesticks from family or maybe a little votive bought on holiday. I gather some of my favourite table items for pennies at markets and charity shops. A mix of finds can add colour and texture to a table and you won’t be so worried if something is broken at the end of a great dinner party.
5.The occasion: Think about your guests and what kind of atmosphere you want to create, is this a family gathering to welcome someone home, or are you hosting a more formal occasion. A more relaxed table could look great with cutlery gathered in a woven basket for guests to help themselves; whereas a full cutlery setting will encourage more formality.
6.The food you are cooking: If you are making a menu of amazing Mexican food, you might want to add some details to the table that will reflect this, strong colours, hand painted bowls, gathered cutlery, a natural runner, or some sunny fruits. I have some little terracotta dishes from Portugal, and they are just sunshine every time they are placed on a table.
7.The food serving experience: It is important to consider what is essential to the table, glasses, cutlery, salt, pepper, the basics. The look and atmosphere at a table can change dramatically with how and in what you choose to serve the food. Choosing sharing platters or beautiful old heirloom enamel dishes for herb roasted potatoes will make everyone tuck in and gather. Even the basics, don’t have to be basic, salt and pepper pinched from thoughtful little bowls can make the whole table experience more tactile.
8.Involve the household: In my own family we have hand lettered place cards for everyone at the Christmas dinner table, and as my original set gets tattered, and we add more people to the Christmas dinner, other younger people in the family have started to make these. Each year I love to open the tin and place these on the Christmas table.
9.Treat your guests and surprise them: Perhaps plan to serve an unusual cocktail before dinner, or a little sorbet in antique glasses between courses, or a magnificent cheese board laden with berries and figs. Set each of their places beautifully, tie each setting up with a ribbon or twine, add a personal name tag, and make each guest feel so glad to be with all of you at your table.
10.Scale: Consider all of the above and the size of table you have relative to the number of guests you have. After you have thought about all the above, give your table and your guest’s breathing space. If you have a little table, enjoy petite items; serve each guest with individual portions in miniature ramekins, if you have a large table, enjoy big sharing platters, sturdy water jugs and deep bowls for vegetables.
And above all else, get the lighting right, intimate enough to encourage conversation, but bright enough for people to see the beautiful table and food. Candlelight is always a success!