Table setting envy is something that I have suffered from for a long time. Paging through magazines I will look at the gorgeous “tablescapes” being featured that have been put together by homemakers who’s skills go far beyond my own. As I look at these meticulously designed tables I think to myself, how on earth are they able to make setting a table seem so effortlessly chic?
Next, I tumble down a hole of self loathing for not knowing how to turn my decorative gourds into glitzy votive holders, or perhaps adorable place card holders!
Alas, after some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that a glamorously set dining room table certainly offers a wow factor, but it does not define me as a host, nor does it make the meal more delicious or the get together more fun! Here are 5 Tips for you to always be able to set an attractive, useful – and in my opinion – effortlessly impressive dining room table.
1. Have Your Tools Handy
Often times get-togethers are premeditated: you have planned them for weeks, your to-do list is actively being checked off and you are feeling like a hosting super hero. However, other times they happen on the fly and you have two hours to throw together an impromptu dinner or brunch. If all of your serviceware (trays, platters, serving utensils and whatnot) is buried in your basement or storage space you will not want to go rummaging for these pieces when a dinner party falls into your lap. For this reason, have the basics that you use the most at arm’s reach. This list includes:
- Service Platters and Bowls
- Serving Utensils
- Pitchers (useful for water, juice or pitcher style cocktails)
- Table Linens (placemats, napkins and tablecloths)
- Votive Holders, Candles and/or Tea Light
- Vessels (like a mason jar) that can be used for many purposes
If you have these basics stored where you can easily access them, you can put energy toward getting creative instead of trying to find your favorite pitcher that wound up who-knows-where after your last party.
2. Trivets Are Cool (and very useful)
I have these adorable felted wool trivets that I recently bought at a local gift shop. I coveted them for years, but would never buy them because they seemed like a frivolous purchase, something that should be received as a gift, not something that I could purchase for myself. After purchasing these as gifts over and over again, and regularly seeing them on my loved one’s tables I finally broke down and got two for myself, and have not felt guilty about it for a minute. I love these trivets. They are in a drawer right by my dining room table and I can grab them quickly and toss them in the center of my table and they instantly cheer up the whole “tablescape”! Seriously, the wow factor is there, and it looks like I went that extra mile and hardly did a thing. So, toss out the notion that trivets are for grown-ups and that a pot holder is just as good as a trivet, and invest in a few trivets. You will use them over and over and over again and you will see that they offer a sense of cohesiveness to your table, and a bit of pizzazz!
3. Candles (keep it low)
A candlelit table is enchanting, it’s true. But tall candlesticks can be precarious. Dripping wax can be a nightmare to clean up. Plus, candlesticks or pillar candles in the middle of the table can be difficult to see around, making conversation challenging. So I encourage you to keep it simple. Invest in about a dozen clear glass votive holders and you will never look back! I have these from Pier One, they are cheap, simple, attractive and can easily be replaced should they break.
By using a clear glass votive the world is your oyster. You can
- Dot them around your dining room table
- Tuck them into your buffet
- Spread them across your mantle
They offer a subtle sparkle wherever it is you decide to place them and by using a clear votive holder you can have fun with the candles you put inside. You can use colored candles to reflect the season or the holiday, or you can use a basic tea light in a mess free aluminum cup! Tealights can be bought in bulk at any paper supply store, party supply store, or even IKEA. Buying these in bulk allows you to have them at the ready to drop into your votive holder at a moments notice.
Also, don’t forget the wonders of technology, LED candles are a great option as well. While they cost a little bit more money, think of this…you never have to deal with melted wax again!
4. Mason Jars (not just for the cool kids)
Listen, it took me a long time to jump on the Mason Jar bandwagon. Although I don’t foresee taking up canning as a hobby, a few years back I took a class on preserving and left the class with four cute mason jars of pickled treats. Once the treats were eaten I was left with these jars which I planned to throw them away. Fast forward in time to now, and I admit that I am reformed. I use these little jars for so many things – none of which are canning! I even bit the bullet and invested in quart sized jars as well. You heard it here folks. They are handy! I use mason jars as
You heard it here folks. They are handy! I use mason jars as
- flower vases
- pitchers for beverages
- storing leftovers in the fridge
- cute candle holders
- utensil holders on a buffet
- drinking glasses (which helps justify having so many on hand!)
5. Table Linens (to have or not to have)
I will admit that ironing and I are not besties. So, when it comes to table linens I follow a few strategies to make sure I have the items that I want, when I want them and that they are not a wrinkled mess.
I actually have our wedding registry to thank for this. Placemats – like trivets – can add a lot of personality to your table, and rarelt get wrinkled. When I need to clean them, I take them to the dry cleaners and they come back clean, flat and wrinkle free. When it comes to placemats I often mix the colors up on the table so that it is not all the same. I find this gives the table a casual vibe and is a bit more fun. Placemats can also be used
- to create a table runner down the center of your table
- tossed under a punch bowl
- to add a splash of color in other display areas of your home.
I try to use them all the time, not just for entertaining. My strategy with cloth napkins is to take them out of the dryer immediately after the cycle has ended. This will keep the linen nice and “fluffed” and they won’t have time to wrinkle by sitting in the dryer – this is a laundering tip I learned from my Grandma, who also hates to iron.
Once out of the dryer I fold them in half, and then in half once more, creating a perfect square. By folding them right away they do not have time to get wrinkled, and by folding them into a square shape you have options when it comes to placing them on the table. You can quickly tuck the point of the square into a napkins ring. Or, you can fold it in half once more creating a classic rectangle which always looks attractive next to your dinner plate as well.
But truth be told, I use them the least. Most of the time I want the table to be seen, not covered up. And honestly, I usuall have a heck of a time finding the perfect fit for the table that I want to cover. However, if you are tablecloth person, power to you! I suggest a couple of things.
- Get a table liner to place underneath. Often we forget that a tablecloth is simply fabric, and hot items will still scar a table if placed directly on the linen without a trivet or a table liner. Also this will save you from spills staining your table.
- Second, I have these dry cleaned too, why, because for me there is NOTHING worse than trying to iron a giant piece of fabric (this should not come as a surprise to you)
- Third, start your collection with simple tablecloths that are versatile. I admit to having a Christmas table cloth.What can I say? I too am bewitched by holiday plaids! However, for other occasions I suggest owning simple solid colors like white or ivory – or something darker if you prefer. These can be gussied up with votives, small flower displays and you stock pile of colorful cloth napkins! Tablecloths can be pricey, so I recommend investing in something that you can use over again and often!
How About You?
Do you have any great tips for keeping entertaining easy? What are some of your go to strategies? Please share in the comments section, we’d love to know!