Guide to Table Setting

Editor’s note: We have a dreamy guide from Claudia, today! Absolutely love her work and I’m pretty sure you will too!

This is Claudia, Founder at Endlessly Lush, Design & Planning Studio specialized in Bespoke Interiors & Events. I’d like to share key tips on setting the table since we’re nearing the end of the year, and holiday festivities & dinner soirées are upon us.

I’ve been asked about my best word of advice for table setting techniques, and my answer will always be:’ Purpose’ & ‘Quality over quantity’. First, decide the purpose of your soirée, and brainstorm on the aesthetic that would convey the mood & concept authentically & beautifully.  Below are steps you can take to facilitate the curatorial process.

Step 1: Curate the menu style 

Don’t dive deep into visual inspiration without first solidifying the menu and the meal style for the occasion. Are you serving a meat & fish option, and a choice of side dishes? Are canapés being passed all night long? Are you deciding between plated vs. cocktail style? Or between family-style and mini food stations? Ultimately, these are all questions you want to ask yourself so that the place setting caters to the meal style being served.

To figure out the best serving style for your celebration ask these four questions, 

-Do I you want guests to remain seated for dinner?

If you would prefer for guests to remain seated I would recommend plated or family style dinner. Family style is less formal than plated, yet more than a buffet. Essentially, waiters will bring your food to the table in large serving dishes and these will be passed around.

-How many courses will be served?

For a meal of more than three courses, prepare for an extensive use of utensils. For few courses, expect a casual and more relaxed place setting  The more courses being served, the more formality guests will expect. For etiquette guidelines visit Emily Post’s site here!

-What kind of formality are you expecting?

If you’re expecting a laid-back and lively crowd, I would consider family style, cocktail style or buffet for guests to mingle and interact amongst each other. If you’re hosting a crowd used to etiquette formalities, then ‘Plated’ could be your best option.

-What is your budget?

If you want to get creative with food stations and presentations to give a visual wow factor, then I recommend buffet style. Guest will appreciate the wide variety of dishes and the interactive element. On the other hand, if you want to keep it simple, then choose Plated or Cocktail style. Plated tends to be more cost effective because meals are pre-portioned per guest count. 

Step 2: Decide what utensils are necessary for the menu style

Be practical and make a list of utensils that will be utilized. No soup. No soup spoon. No fish. No fish knives.

Step 3: Measure measure!

Have you ever considered measuring the table top and chair width? If not, I highly recommend you do this to estimate how many seats you can accommodate per table. This will be one of the most useful pieces of information when designing the place setting layout and centerpiece(s). The optimum place setting zone per person is about 30” wide by 18” deep with a shared zone of 6” into the center of the table. Thee minimum is 24”Wide by 16”deep with a shared zone of 5” in to the center of the table. Refer to this dimension guide for detailed  information.

Step 4: Look for inspiration!

Once the occasion has been throughly thought out, dive deep into design inspiration!  What mood are you conveying?  What source of lighting would convey the intended mood? Ambient or Accent lighting? What textures and colors would embody the design concept? My tip of advice when searching for sources of inspiration is to think outside the box. For instance, search for historic references; stone textures; various shades of greens in foliage; styles of contemporary art; latest fashion trends, etc. Surprisingly, these sources of inspiration will inform a mood; a textural and color palette; captivating lighting. you name it! On the other hand, if you search for inspiration on Pinterest, you’ll have access to the best place setting designs, but remember you can always create your own and innovative design. If it does not ‘exist’ on Pinterest, it does not mean it cannot be done. You can be the first to do it!

Visit my Pinterest here for inspiration!

Step 5: Design!

There are infinite choices and combinations of style and approaches when it comes to lending place settings personality, but a few basic design elements can help construct a stunning design for your holiday tablescape.

  1. Mixed materials: Establish the ideal balance of natural vs. manmade materials. When mixing materials, incorporate mixed textures- metals; natural stone; woods; linens or natural fibers.
  2. Handcrafted quality: Handcrafted? Need we say more? By being intentional with your choice of dinnerware, one can make the grand statement on a beautifully curated event. Often times, when when we buy something made by an artist, we ourselves are reflected in that purchase. Whether it’s the color, the texture, the shape, or just the mood we happen to be in, an item that has been crafted as an expression of the creative spirit person who made it, is treasured and valued far beyond an item that was mass produced.
  3. Lighting: Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood for the occasion. When skillfully applied, lighting can elicit a wide range of emotions helping to make an event more cheerful or intimate. For example, to create a glittering effect with a touch of mystery, I recommend scattering tea lights throughout the table. To make lighting part of the design, I often add either thin candlesticks or pillar candles in various heights. Remember, lighting is key to add visual depth to your tablescape.
  4. Greenery: Nothingbeats the organic warmth of fresh greenery. Greenery could be as versatile as you wish. When paired up with soft dreamy flowers they add muted romance; and when paired up with wildflowers or exotic Caribbean blooms, they add moments of drama.
  5. Personalized Details: Fromplace cards to table numbers, and menus, the options are unlimited for a design aesthetic that feels authentic to your awe-inspiring holiday tablescape. With access to a plethora of man-made and natural materials like plexiglass, natural stones, and textured metals, we can experiment with the juxtaposition of traditional calligraphy on modern materials.

Step 6: Source goods!

The most cohesive and intriguing designs are conceived from a careful curation of products.  To achieve an ‘instagrammable’ tablescape, consider a variety of goods from retail, vintage, and designer sources. I often get the best results when I juxtapose various styles such as old with new; natural with manmade; fluid elements with rigid.

Hint: Keep your color palette and inspiration board handy to keep you on track as you’re searching!

Step 7: Style!

Take out your creative hat and create the beautiful tablescape you’ve envisioned! Compile all your supplies and décor a few days prior to ensure you have all the supplies. First, mark the location of the centerpiece(s) prior to styling each place setting. Then build layer upon layer: placemat, plates, utensils, glassware, and any décor you wish.  Utensils are placed in the order of use; that is, from the outside in. Forks go to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right.

Now it’s time for you to enjoy being a guest!

For more blog posts, feel free to visit my site here!

Photoshoot details:

Venue: Atelier Roquette

Design/Planning: Endlessly Lush

Photography:Tanya Isaeva Photography

Videography: Jordan Jeanty Studios

Floral Design: IndyFaso

Pottery: Wild Bower Studio

Bespoke Linens: The Bayith

Calligraphy: Viviane Rodrigues Calligraphy

Graphic Design: I can Do That Design

Venue Manager & Coordinator: The Revelry Cooperative

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