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5 Easy Table Setting Ideas for home- How To Set the Table

January 26, 2023 8 min read

        "Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity."

                                                                                  - Frank Lloyd Wright 

When you arrive at a dinner party and the first thing that stands out to you is the host’s creative tablescape arrangement, you can be sure you are in for a culinary treat.

The expectation is set, and the dinnerware is most likely strategically placed for the comfort and enjoyment of each guest. You begin to feel incredibly inspired and find yourself making mental notes for your next gathering!

 As you start to mingle with guests, you anticipate the gourmet skills required to top off this decorative table setting will not disappoint. So far so good you think to yourself, as the attentive host offers you an aperitif to help stimulate your appetite. By this stage, you count on a selection of delicious food that should exceed the expectation already set, oh and by the way, how welcomed on a scale of 1 to 10 do you feel by now?

 Despite this introduction, you are not reading this to learn how to rustle up a storm in the kitchen, you are here to acquire basic skills on how to effectively execute a place setting for entertaining and impressing your family and friends.

table setting

                Image credit: Trit Furniture and Bruno Emmanuelle Photography


So, apart from some essential elements, what is the backbone and canvas required for a fabulous table setting you may ask? Well, the short answer is quality made tablecloths, table runners, placemats, and napkins. You see napery is the absolute foundation of a well-placed table setting – an all-important companion to your cutlery and virtually all the tableware required, whether it be a formal, informal, casual, or basic setting.

 If you are keen to master everything you need to know about place setting, even if you prefer to stick to a ‘basic’ concept each time, here is a really easy guide on how to incorporate some ‘punching’ tableware for a successful dinner party, luncheon, brunch or even breakfast, and set the seal on creating a memorable time.

The Importance of a Well-Designed Table Setting

Not only will a gorgeous table knock the socks off your guests and set the tone, but it also demonstrates how much you value them, and they will be singing your praises for some time.

Setting A Formal Table

 Grab your finest cutlery, crystal and dinner plates and position them atop a premium cotton tablecloth with complementary cloth napkins. Include an impressive floral centrepiece that screams elegance!

There will be an elaborate menu, typically consisting of a set number of courses between 3-5, so give this setting sufficient and careful thought. A great deal of preparation is involved with hosting a formal dinner party.

 Tap into your imagination, a tablecloth need not be crisp white or ivory for a formal setting. Throw away any preconceived notions that it must be white! Yes, granted a blank canvas will enhance but best keep white for a formal wedding or gala event.

 A patterned tablecloth will add interest and create an engaging contrast, whilst remaining suitable for your elegant affair. Just ensure all the napery is steam pressed!

                               formal table setting

                                                                 cutlery setting diagram

What You Will Need 
  • A tablecloth, charger or service plate, napkin, fork, salad fork, bread-and-butter plate, butter knife, dinner knife, dessert spoon, soup spoon, oyster fork (if you are having seafood), water glass, red wine glass, white wine glass and a champagne flute Some of the dinnerware may be cleared away and added over courses. Champagne and excellent wine!

                                                formal table settings

                                                Image credit: Trit Furniture


Setting An Informal Table

 An informal dinner party setting is a brilliant opportunity to show off your cutlery and table linens, however in a more relaxed fashion, so keep the fine China for another time.

 It will lend itself for that special occasion without all the involved menu that the formal dinner requires. Pull out your favourite napery and set it appropriately. Some table art consisting of florals, or a medium sized candelabra arrangement (sure to stimulate the senses and create a talking point).  Be bold with your table art, whilst establishing a harmonizing result with the rest of the dinnerware.

 Carefully contemplate a theme that is stylish, yet slightly understated, ensuring it works around the menu. Essentially, you can get away with one or three courses, the choice is yours.

                                       informal table setting

                                                            Dinner plate, knife, fork and spoon setting

What You Will Need 

  • A dinner plate, napkin, salad plate, fork, salad fork bread and butter plate, butter knife, dinner knife a teaspoon a soup spoon, water glass wine glass, a mug (optional). Good conversation and company!                         

how to do an informal table setting

                 Cloth Table napkins

 Setting A Casual/Basic Table 

This will be your ‘go to - can do it blindfolded’ table setting. To avoid looking predictable, change it up depending on the season. This look is perfect for that last minute decision to host a lunch (or dinner) with close family or friends.

 You could do an ornamental botanical theme or a line of dazzling candles. Go out into your garden and select small branches or flowers from different pants and place them in a vase for an impressive homemade hero piece.

 Because you will have less flatware than a ‘formal and informal setting’ this leaves more space and freedom to use as much imagination as you can muster! You are at liberty to beautify your table with as many table decorations as you wish. You could make it all about the table runner or placemat (more on this in a moment).

 This setting will never get boring because you are not limited by etiquette rules. Sky is the limit, and you can use your own individuality.


basic table setting

                                            Everyday / basic table setting                                         basic table setting

  What You Will Need 

  • Tablecloth, placemat or table runner, a dinner plate, a napkin under the fork, or on the plate, a fork on the left, knife closest to the plate, blade pointing in.         

    spring summer table setting

                                  Image credit: Trit Furniture 


How to decorate with a Table Runner and Placemats

For those who have a laid-back approach to entertaining due to a busy lifestyle, a table runner is probably your number 1 choice. This is a quick and easy alternative to a tablecloth. Typically, a table runner should reach the end of your table, however for a casual table setting like a brunch or breakfast, a shorter runner will suffice, and the space left over at the end can be filled with pitchers of water or freshly squeezed juice (always ensure you use coasters to protect your table).

 A placemat  goes hand in hand with a table runner (like cheese and crackers really) and is so on trend now. It is interesting how the placemat has evolved, coming in different shapes and sizes, colours, and materials. It not only helps protect your table from stains and scratches, but it lends itself to some unique artistry.

 A quality cotton placemat  works well with a woven one for a layered effect. Use block prints and colours and be as creative as you wish. Just make sure you by wipe it after each use, this is so important to avoid food and beverage spills getting trapped in the fibres (especially woven types).
Ultimately, a placemat’s main function is to protect your table from stains and scratches and acts as insulator and overall, a practical part of your napery collection – on top of this, the easy functionality will mean more time for you, and if you are entertaining with kids around, we all know how time poor we can get!

                                            fabric placemats and napkins

              Fabric placemats and napkins


Setting a table for kids

 Did I mention kids? Yes, they are a big part of our lives and often inspire us to have a little fun, particularly if you are having a children’s birthday party with lots of yummy food and drink. Although tablecloths are probably a better choice to protect your furniture when dealing with little ones, a smart move would be to drag out your fold out table and your party into your garden or alfresco area. Having said this, if the weather is not on your side and you have no choice but to set up inside, you could make use of a spare fold out table, cover it with white plastic and a runner to house your party favours and gifts.  Use a colourful runner with block print for an enchanting theme. You could run fairy lights down the middle of your table as a focal point or place your runner on top of the tablecloth for some layering and extra protection! Be prepared to kick off your shoes and collapse into a comfortable armchair at the end of this fun-filled affair.

 What you will need

 Tablecloth, napkins (and paper serviettes for spills) placemat (plastic tablecloth for spills) fairy lights, plastic knives and forks, colourful plastic cups, decorations/balloons. Sense of humour!

Conclusion :

Whether you love holding a lot of parties, or just like to have a cosy place to gather with family and friends, we hope this article has been a useful guide and given you a few table setting ideas that cater for all occasions. 
Do let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below :

We at Decor Mantra stock a range of 100% handmade table linens including an exclusive series for all your special gatherings. Explore our range here.

To select the right sized tablecloth for your event, read our guide here


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