Table Top by Cheryl Sandella
Make a Statement this Holiday Season with a Finely Decorated Table
The Holidays are a time to bring family and friends together at the table. If you’re the host of the celebration than I’m sure you’ll want your table to look its best. I’ll share some tips here so you can create a beautiful decorated table to be a gift to your guests.
First start with organization – Organization is the key to a successful dinner party. Start by cleaning your dinnerware, glassware and polishing your flatware. Then, think about your menu. Decide how you would like to see the food presented and what table accessories you’re going to use. Decide on a color scheme and theme. When I’m deciding on the menu I take the color of the foods into consideration. I want to make sure I have an array of color that is coordinated, looks beautiful but also looks appetizing.
Flexible Dinning Area: You don’t always have to serve dinner in the dining room. Your dining location should fit your theme. For example, if you’re just having a quiet holiday dinner for two, why not set up a small table in front of the fireplace in the living room with the chairs facing the fire. This can be very quaint and romantic. If you live in a warm climate like I do, you can set up a banquet table for 10 as an outdoor dining room. If your patio looks onto a swimming pool incorporate the pool into your theme. You can decorate with votives or garden torches and fill the pool with floating flowers or place potted plants along the pool edge that go with your table centerpiece. Be creative and include your surroundings as an essential part of your theme.
Ideas for Table Setting:
Color and Theme: I like to have a color scheme and a theme supported by many details. I want my table to have style and looked put together instead of an overload of chaotic stuff. Less is more in table setting so there needs to be negative space. I want my guests to feel comfortable while eating and conversing. I’m also sure to follow through with the theme from start to finish. In choosing a color scheme use the colors of the season or you can color coordinate the table with the room’s décor.
Table Linens – I tend to break the rules when it comes to linens. I’ll use recycled curtains or sheers, flannel blankets, a matelasse bed coverlet, or a silk scarf as a table covering. I do use the traditional lines or table runners, but at times I like to be different depending on the theme. Sometimes I will layer my table linens, scrunch a large scarf in the center or just use plate chargers or place mats. The tablecloth used for breakfast or lunch should hang six to eight inches down and dinner tablecloth eight to twelve inches down. You could also get creative with cloth napkins; just make sure the folds are all the same at every setting. I prefer 100% cotton for informal and linen or damask for formal.
Dinnerware / China: Use different sizes, shapes and heights for dishes you will be serving from. Scale the size and shape of serving dishes to the type of food being served. White dinnerware or china is a must have as it works with everything but for a little flair try using one colorful plate among all the white. Try mixing formal and rustic. I’ll coordinate my dinnerware to the colors in the centerpiece. Have fun with this!
The Centerpiece: Every table needs a focal point and the center of the table is the best place to show off something you’d like seen. Flowers are the centerpiece of choice but they don’t have to be. Try using objects such as figurines, small boxes or bowls of different heights, or some natural greenery you pulled out of your garden such as a vine. The vine can be stretch out to be garland for the center of the table. Hollow out a pumpkin and fill with seasonal flowers such as dahlias, mums and stems of berries. If you have an heirloom piece such as a teapot, vase or pitcher, fill it with fresh flowers flanked by candle sticks. A trio of glass bowls, the center bowl being the largest, filled with seasonal flowers, fruits and stems makes a stunning arrangement for the center of the table. Be sure the centerpiece is low enough for guests to see across.
Illuminate: The glow of candlelight is so important for the table. Candles create warmth and ambiance. Candle holders can be formal or informal depending on your theme. They can be candlesticks, candelabras, hurricane shades, or votives. If you’re going to use candlesticks or candelabras use the no drip candles. Also, make sure they are tall enough so they don’t shine in the eyes of your guests. Scented candles can interfere with the aroma of food so I recommend scentless.
The Menu: At times I will use menus. I type the menu on fancy paper with a themed font. I will either do individual menus at each place setting or I will display one or two at the heads of the table in a photo frame or photo clip.
Be Creative: If you are not serving tea but have some neat cups, use them to serve a pudding, soft desserts or ice cream. Use martini glasses to serve sorbet, shrimp cocktail or sliced fruit. Serve appetizers, cranberry sauce or sorbet on tablespoons or Asian soup spoons. Mix and Match by using unusual containers like metal, exotic wood or glass to present breads and crackers. Use soup urns as flower planters. Plant flowers in milk glasses or silver beakers and place one at each place setting. Fill ice trays with fresh or frozen cranberries and water. Freeze and add to water glasses right before guests arrive. It’s a splash of color for your glassware. Use what you have and have fun!
Be sure your table is large enough for the number of guests you’ll be serving. Measure 24” from the center of one place setting to the center of another.
Before I place the tablecloth on the table I like to use a soft felt underneath. It will protect the table and also muffle the sounds of platters, dishes and glasses striking the table.
Place the dinner plate one inch from the table’s edge and center the plate with the chair.
Place the knives and spoons to the right (knife edges pointing at the plate) and forks to the left of the plate. Place the flatware in accordance to how it will be used beginning from the outside working in towards the plate. Dessert fork and spoon are placed above the plate. The coffee spoon should be served with the coffee cup on the saucer. Place flatware upward. I sometimes don’t follow these rules and I get creative with the placement of flatware. The one thing I never do is place flatware on the table that won’t be used.
Napkins go to the left of the forks or on the center of the dinner plate. The napkin fold can go either way but just be continuous all around the table.
Butter plates are placed above the forks with the butter knife on the plate. I like to make butter shapes using candy molds. Place the candy mold in ice water until it is cold, and then place the softened butter into the mold. Gently remove the butter from the mold with the tip of a paring knife. Arrange the butter molds in a serving dish and place on the table. I usually do two molds per person.
Red or white wineglasses and water glasses should be places at the upper right of the dinner plate, at the tip of the knife. You can arrange the glasses in a group of three but never use more than three glasses at a place setting. I usually place mine in a triangle in the order they’ll be used.
Salt and pepper shakers can be place evenly around the table – a pair for two guests. I like to use the miniature salt and pepper shakers and place a set at each place setting.
Place cards can be placed on the top of each napkin or dinner plate. I like to get creative with these too. Tie the name card on a small fruit stem with ribbon (crab apples or tiny pumpkins work well), personalize a favor box and fill with a petit four or a small treat. Place a card between the tines of a dessert fork. Tie a card with ribbon onto a flower bloom or small potted flower. Use a miniature photo holder – get creative.
Never place condiments with labels on the table – everything goes into a decanter or serving dish of some sort.
Never let the complexity of the theme or color scheme exceed the quality of the food being served
Rules to Remember:
Your water glass is on your right.
Your bread dish is to the left.
When eating bread, break off bite-size pieces instead of biting the whole piece of bread.
Use the utensils from the outside in.
When cutting, hold the knife in your right hand (if right-handed) and the fork in your left. Place the knife down on your plate and switch the fork to your right hand to eat what has been cut.
After you’ve used a utensil, don’t place it down on the table cloth, put it on your plate. This ensures that the table linens will stay clean.
When you’re done eating, place your knife and fork across your plate pointing to 11:00.
© 2008 Sandella Custom Homes and Interiors LLC. All rights reserved
Cheryl Sandella, Interior Designer ASID Allied Member, works with her husband and partner of 30 years, Al Sandella, General Contractor. They own Sandella Custom Homes and Interiors in Fountain Hills Arizona and design and build homes in the valley. To read more about her go to www.sandella.net/aboutus/aboutus.html
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