If you’re hosting guests for a sit-down dinner, here are some tips for preparing a beautiful table.
1. Choose the kind of china that best suits the type of food your family enjoys. Simple foods look and taste best on simple country pottery. White china makes any food look good, as it won’t conflict with the color of the food. Buying a pattern that’s easy to match is the best bet. That way you can add mix-and-match pieces as the family grows or as dishes are broken and need to be replaced.
2. Buy extra soup bowls, as they have great versatility. Besides holding soup, they can be used as salad bowls, liquid condiment holders, small serving dishes, chip bowls and so on.
3. Large glass mugs and large wine glasses are the best bet for informal dining. Anything can be served in them, from water to wine, soft drinks to cranberry juice, with a gracious and generous feeling.
4. The table covering can be anything that inspires the palate. Try sheets, bed coverings or any material on which a hem can be sewn. Go ahead; get creative, be dramatic. The resulting “tablecloth” can set the mood. Lacy tablecloths, for example, bring a romantic touch to the dining experience.
5. Bring color to the table via cloth napkins. Put two napkins in different colors or patterns in one napkin ring to give each setting a colorful pop.
6. Fresh flowers are always nice to have on the table. Remember to keep them reasonable in size. If they’re too bushy, it’s hard to see and talk to each other through them. That sounds obvious, but we’ve all been to restaurants where the centerpiece inhibits communication.
7. Dessert dishes can be different in style and weight from the rest of the china. Soup bowls can be used as dessert dishes if the dessert is ice cream or other such runny after-dinner delight. Lighter, more delicate plates make the dessert seem lighter in calories. A little self-deception? Yes, but why not? We only live once.
8. When serving coffee, set the mood by using either fancy French china or down-to-earth mugs.
(Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., is author of Mystery of Color)