Friday, January 11, 2019

Setting the Table ...

Someone wrote me the other day and asked if I could write a post about my "tips" and must-haves for setting a perfect table. I began to reply and then stopped. Truth is, I haven't set a table in years. Lots of years! When I've had the pleasure of entertaining over the last 4-years that I've lived in apartments, it has been less "traditionally set table" and more "beautiful buffet".

What's the difference? 

Well, a traditionally set table - everyone has a chair, a plate for each course, silver and glassware, all that good stuff. In a beautiful buffet set up, or at least the ones I've hosted, everyone finds a seat where they're most comfortable, and the dining room table becomes a place for food to be beautifully displayed. It's relaxed and casual, and for me - necessary. I don't have the luxury of a large dining room, and the small dining room that I do have serves multiple functions.

Still, there are some gorgeous things that I think one should have when entertaining, whether it be traditionally or with a casual "serve yourself and take a seat wherever you'd like" buffet. Here they are:


I don't think that you can ever go wrong with a cloth napkin. Whether you're serving a buffet, a formal dinner, a family breakfast, or having soup alone with your favorite book - a cloth napkin is the easiest way to elevate any meal. They're also far more earth friendly than paper, and with the right care, they'll continue to make great impressions on your guests for a long time. I always suggest getting oversized napkins, 20x20. They come in sizes that range 16x16 and up. 20x20 can be used to almost fully cover someone's lap if they're sitting to eat away from a table space. The 12-pack linked up above is $14.99, insanely cheap! $1.25 per napkin!?!? You can't say no to that. 

I also have to chime in here and say that I rarely, if ever, do anything other than a plain white napkin. They're easier to keep clean, and they don't clash with any design plan or tablescape. I know there are people out there who have dozens of options when it comes to napkins, and that's great. But in my opinion - keep it simple. Spend the extra money on wine. 


The best way to protect a dining room table from dings and scratches at any dinner is with a tablecloth or topper. This little one with tassels on Amazon is pretty to look at, and is neutral enough to work in a variety of rooms.


Sure, a big beautiful bouquet of flowers is always nice to look at, and for buffet set-ups, they can work. But in a dining experience, I find that they're hard to see around. Moving it from the table takes the beauty away while dining, so why not have several smaller vases on the table. You get to have a beautiful moment, and it can stay there the entire evening!

Flowers are also one of those inexpensive ways to dress up a table and fit a theme or a color story. You can do something expensive, like orchids, or you can just take some snips of ivy from the garden, and it's really just as beautiful. I will never forget, having dinner with Joan and Dan at their gorgeous home in New Hampshire, and Joan dressed her table with cuttings from the ferns outside. Simple fern cuttings in three stoneware crocks that lined the table. Brilliant. 

The take away from that, keep it simple. Don't over think it. And remember that if you keep it small, you can enjoy it the entire evening! 


In my opinion, if you're not lighting candles, you're not entertaining. I love these little glass votive candles. Unscented, they burn clean and provide beautiful ambient light. Plus, they're really inexpensive, and can be scattered around the entire house, burning safely in their own little glass holder. 

Sweet Tyler bought me Schott Zwiesel wine glasses for Christmas, and I have to tell you - they're gorgeous! I had been a Reidel guy, but I'm officially converted. If you're looking for new glassware, I'd take a look.


Maybe you're lucky enough to have a beautiful set of china that includes serving pieces, maybe you're starting from scratch. I think pieces like this large wooden bread paddle are something that you can beautifully mix into any table setting. They also work as large trivets for casserole dishes, and they're easy to hold if you're walking around with small bites for your guests.

Another lovely piece, antique copper with brass handles. I've got something very similar to this that I keep my bar set up in, which is another great use for these when you're not having company. I like the idea of (1) easy storage, and (2) multiple function. For someone like me with very little to NO cabinet storage space, my serving pieces really need to work full-time as something else, and these two pieces certainly can. 


I also think that music is key. It's wonderful to have some soft background music playing throughout the evening. Nothing too popular or overly lyric. I tend to lean toward bands like Pink Martini or Gotan Project for music that keeps people awake but rests softly in the background. 

If you happen to have a sound system wired throughout your house - well, ooo la la, lucky you! If you don't I have two options for blue tooth speakers for you. The first, is the Amazon Echo. Some people are afraid of this, because they think that Alexa is listening to you and is primed to share your deepest, darkest secrets at anytime. Frankly, I don't know if that's true. If my Echo speaker ever leaked about me, you would be bored to tears. 

There's this option, as well. I have this one, which I keep in the bathroom for morning music time. But the sound quality is exceptional and you don't have Alexa listening in. Download your favorite album onto your phone, or stream through Pandora or Amazon Music and enjoy the freedom of not having to be "plugged in". 


If you're like me, you're probably going to have way too much food, and inevitably, you're going to want to send some of it home with people. I decided a long time ago that keeping some beautiful and simple brown kraft paper bags with handles on hand was the BEST way to make a lasting impression with guests. Plus they're insanely cheap, and store flat - so little cost, little storage, big impact. Just what we love! 

So there you go. My "must haves" and a few tips. This all certainly assumes that you already have silverware, glassware, and dinner plates. If you don't, I've linked some pretty ones below. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you next week!


  1. Great ideas at wonderful prices! When I planned a bridal shower I ordered 2 sets of the white napkins and had them monogrammed with the brides’s new initials. It was a nice touch at a great price. Another great post!

  2. Thank you for the links! You have convinced me to break out the cloth napkins for everyday use. I like your monogram linens gift idea Annette, going to surprise a friend who just purchased her new condo after selling the big home that her boys grew up in.

  3. You've become a real taste maker, Artie. Thanks for the great ideas. I've ordered the napkins and the votives as part of my 2019 refresh, and the kraft bags for smalls in the studio (can't beat the price!). I will have to consider the glassware - maybe the kids will break a few more of my Reidel and I can refresh that, too.

    We love our JBL speakers, but they're aging, so we ordered a few of the Oontz angle 3 ultra - about $35 each - for around the pool/yard/back porch and like them even better. They're the highest rated 14 watt, if I recall correctly, and can be used in tandem and are splash proof. The Sonos twin pack at Costco isn't a bad deal, either, considering the quality, and apparently it's what all the cool kids are buying. Happy New Year!