Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do You Know How To Set The Table?

Of course you know how to set the table! It's one the first chores we learn to do as little children.
Holiday time calls for something more special than our day to day setting the table.
Here's how I do it, using mostly what I have on hand somewhere in the house. I say somewhere, because it's fun to pull things together that you normally don't use.

1. The bare table - mine is a rescue from the trash,
A very heavy iron table with beautiful scroll legs -

The top is beautifully rusted, but it has a big hole, so a glass top was added

I have set the table for thousands. That's because I was an event designer for many, many years. I love to entertain at home, even after all those years of making parties for other people. I have a good collection of everything to work with.
This year our Thanksgiving gathering is small, so we are eating in the kitchen, and I'm setting the table for four.

2. Choose your tablecloth -I chose a Lee Joffa fabric memo

I have a good collection of linens, tablecloths and placemats, but I wanted to use something different. I collect fabric remnants. Even before I worked at perch., I would ask interior design shops if they were getting rid of any of their fabric memos (a memo is a sample), and often they would give me a bagful. So ask your local shops. They're useful for many things, including an oversize place mat that everyone shares.

3. Choose your largest element and place it first-
in this case it's the antler used as a centerpiece

I love fresh cut flowers as well as anyone. But I also like to use non floral objects as a centerpiece. In this case Thanksgiving calls to mind the pilgrims hunting and gathering, so I'm using this huge metal antler I have. The organic shape also looks like a branch.

I gather all my elements in one place. For this table I have chosen animal motif china, white ceramic Italian chargers, brown napkins, vintage flatware and glasses, some faux pumpkins, feathers, and some little animals.

4. Gather all your elements in one staging area

The next thing to go on the table are the white chargers. I like how they pop on the orange color of the table mat. If you don't have chargers you can use your largest plate, usually the dinner plate, used as an underplate.

5. Place an underplate for each person -
you can use a charger or your largest size dinner plate

I'm using the point of the mat as a reference for each person's setting

The dinner plate goes on top of the charger. If you are using a dinner plate as an underplate, use the next size smaller plate, usually a luncheon or salad plate on top of this. You can mix and match patterns and colors, or you can use the same pattern for everything. It just depends on what you have to use. I have at least three different sets of plates I use as the season dictates. I love the black and white animal print for Fall.

6. Place the dinner plate on top of the charger

Glassware is next. I am just using one glass per person because the table is small. It's a tall vintage glass, that's all purpose. Any beverage will look fantastic in this glass. If you have room on your table you can use two wine glasses (only if your are serving two different wines, otherwise one will do), and a water glass.

7. Add the glasses

After the glasses comes the flatware. I use one set of flatware for everything, everyday, including holidays and dinner parties. It's vintage, nearly 100 year old silverplate.

I know there are rules about on which side of the plate the silverware is supposed to go, but I place mine where I think it looks visually pleasing. I generally place the fork tines down, an old European custom. Like a knife edge facing in, fork tines place down are considered a sign of hospitality. To place them otherwise signified a threatening gesture.

How did your parents teach to place the silverware?

8. Place the silverware and the napkin

Now for the napkin. Use cloth. I chose a dark brown linen napkin. I tied it with some black and white gross grain ribbon. No big bow, no big pouffe. I turned the tied ribbon side down to show a wide band of the ribbon. I tucked in a short peacock feather for fun, and color. I place the napkin on the side of the plate without silverware. You could place it on the plate, but these plates are so pretty, I like them to be seen. Just don't tuck the napkin into a glass.

I decided to add a vertical element. Usually I add a small bouquet of flowers. But for this Thanksgiving table I am using a bouquet of Turkey feathers in an earthenware pot.

9. Add a vertical element if your centerpiece is already low -
A centerpiece can have many elements at different heights, including candles

I'm still adding to the centerpiece, this time a little whimsy. I found these three little animals and tucked a faux autumn leaf in each one of their collars. I'll probably add votive candles on Thanksgiving because we are dining at 4 P.M.

Okay I can't resist putting something on the plate! Oh yeah I have those faux mini pumkins!
Just the right finishing touch! I'll write each person's name on them as a place card.

10. Add your finishing touches

The empty staging area, is a bakers rack I now use as a serving area. I found another fabric remnant, a crazy cute print with Frieda Kahlo on it, and lots of critters and leaves and color. She kind of looks like Pocahontas. I fold it to make a little mat.

I use white ironstone platters and bowls, and oversize silverplate serving utensils.

While we are all preparing dinner today and tomorrow, and setting our tables, and sharing dinner with loved ones, let's remember one another and be thankful for the excellent company we keep with each other via our blogs, letters, and comments.
I will certainly drink a toast to all of you, and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for having you all in my life.


Dumbwit Tellher said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous and such useful advice for us all Valorie. Setting a beautiful table is an art form. My mom would set the most beautiful tables and so did her mother. She was great to pass that love to my children. Thanks so much & a very special Thanksgiving Day to you & yours xx

Linda/"Mom" said...

* Val~~~ Hope your T'giving is full of fun, laughter & great memory-making!

You don't know this, but I BROKE MY BACK 5-6 weeks ago... in TWO PLACES, no less. (I wonder, does "Less is more" apply here?)~~ Obviously incredibly painful, but they have these "lovely pills" that the Neurosurgeon prescribed and wow... if/when I take them, they sure do "WORK"! (Only, pills, especially ealllllys trong ones, "scare me, so we're pretty judicious about watching/charting when/how often I take them!)~~~

You may remember I SO LOVE & ENJOY setting tables~~~ none of THAT for at least another 6 weeks (surgery 18 Dec), dang it all!

Soooo, YOU have a good, BEAUTIFUL time for ME, ok?

Linda (P.S. You have some BEAUUUTIFUL THINGS there, girlfriend!)

Design Wanna-be said...

Beautiful peacock feathers!

Sabina said...

Love all that orange, you make it so tasteful, just like your food! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

徵信社 said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.



La Petite Gallery said...

Ask Renee
my Daughter about the Antlers. We had them on the side table in October with pumpkins.
It looks marvey.

I had a Hotel in N.C. and was
shocked that some local's I hired did not know how to set a table correctly. Found that in Maine also. Some parents never teach
their children the GRACES.
You are loaded with gracefullness
and good taste.

Watching the Macy's parade now.


Sharlotte said...

Your table is very pretty...thanks so much for the tutorial. I LOVE your flatware. It is just gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

My first time to your blog, and I think this is such a fun tablescape. I enjoyed your tutorial, and I really love all the elements you selected for this. The glasses are FABULOUS! Love them! Your plates (are those elephants I spy?)are wonderful, too, as is the flatware.

I like how you picked the turquoise color up out of that Lee Jofa fabric by using the feathers. They add a fun, whimsical touch to the table. And since I'm wild about horn, I love your large antler.

While I'm used to setting a traditional table in terms of my flatware placement, I have a lot of pieces I inherited that I like to play with... using horn-handled spoons with Fiddlethread coin silver, or pearl-handled knives with a decorative Victorian pattern, etc. Seeing your antique pieces made me want to do some different things with mine.

I did a fairly traditional tablescape because I'm limited in my DR by the curatin fabric a former owner left behind and which I am waiting (rather impatiently) to replace. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Tablescape Thursday!



Mimi said...

S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G., there is nothing about your unique table not to love! Thank you for sharing.

Diann @ The thrifty Groove said...


I enjoyed your table!

have a great weekend!

Jeanette said...

So lovely and wonderful advice. I really like the addition of the peacock feathers.