How to: Set a stylish table
Creating a well-dressed table is as easy as baking a cake. First, you need the right ingredients, then it's a matter of putting everything together in the right order for a solid foundation. Once that's done, it's time to add the trimmings, sit back and enjoy your creation. Here, two industry pros provide the recipe for setting up a table that's smart-looking and works for any occasion. First up: table basics from Hélène Cantin at Arthur Quentin in Montreal.
The perfect table, whether round, square or rectangular, starts with a padded liner, which holds your tablecloth in place and softens its edges. A liner also protects your table from hot plates, spilled wine and burns, and mutes the sounds of plates, utensils and glasses. It should fall only about 1¼ inches (three centimetres) on each side of the tabletop.
The secret to a well-draped table is making sure your tablecloth is large enough; you should allow 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimetres) of fabric on both the sides and ends of the tabletop. Note that cloths made from natural fibres will shrink eight to 10 per cent during the first wash.
Instead of putting a round tablecloth on a round table or an oval one on an oval table, choose a square or rectangular tablecloth so that the fabric drapes better and bunches less. Be sure to properly align the four corners of the cloth with the table legs.
If you want to layer tablecloths, choose ones in different sizes. The bottom one should fall as close to the floor as possible. The second should cover the tabletop and fall about 12 inches (30 centimetres). Top a round table with a second cloth that's either round or square, a square table with a second square tablecloth laid diagonally over the first.
From the top
Half the fun of setting a table is dressing it up, but that's also what causes the most concern for people. Catherine Guilloteau of the Christofle shop at Ogilvy's in Montreal provides the lowdown on two key components: floral arrangements and place settings.
• In a bouquet, use foliage from flowers such as tulips.
• Set out several small, identical bouquets on a table.
• Pin a flower or small bunch onto the back of each chair.
• If your table is large, place one big bouquet (no more than 12 inches/30 centimetres high) in the centre and then arrange smaller bouquets all around the table.
• Display tall arrangements on serving or buffet tables.
• Avoid heavily scented flowers, which interfere with the aromas of food and wine.
• To ensure visual symmetry, avoid placing round arrangements on rectangular tables and, conversely, square or rectangular arrangements on round tables.
Catherine Guilloteau makes sense of the formal table.
• If forks are arranged in the French manner, with the tines turned down, don't use a delicate tablecloth or one with eyelets.
• For a formal or semi-formal reception, put out a fork for the appetizer, a second one for salad and a third for the main course, along with a knife for the main course and a butter knife. Arrange them in the order of use, starting from the outside and working in. Don't put more than three utensils on each side. You want to make your guests feel welcome, not scare them with an overwhelming amount of cutlery.
• Cheese and dessert forks don't generally appear on the table during a formal dinner. Bring them out with the cheese plate or dessert.
• If you put out a single fork and knife per guest and you serve fish as a first course, change the cutlery for subsequent meat courses.
• Lettuce should not be cut with a knife, though you can use one to fold it.
• Silver washes well in a dishwasher; however, be careful not to mix it with stainless steel. Wash them in separate baskets.