The art of tablesetting
Michael Pinet is the Stylist for Private Brands Marketing & Development at The Bay. He recently treated us to a little lesson à la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman on the art of tablesetting.
Your usual starting point is your table cloth, runner or placemat. The key thing to remember here is: "The more formal the dinner, the more coverage." At a formal gathering, you always use a fabric tablecloth. "And always press your linens," advises Michael. "You want to show care."
One thing Michael stresses is how "being a good host these days is making life easy for your guests, not trying to impress them." Traditionally, a formal table setting means all of your dishes, cutlery and glasses are on the table at the beginning of your meal. Nowadays this look has been edited down to make it easier on the guest.
A big trend right now is the charger plate. "This defines your space," explains Michael. A charger plate is a larger plate that frames your dinner plate. A different coloured (but matching) dessert plate over top of your dinner plate is also a very nice touch. You can remove it once dinner starts. Your bread plate is always to the left of your dinner plate. Your charger stays on through the meal and comes off with the dinner plate.
The biggest rule with cutlery is knives are always to the right of your plate with the serrated edge pointed inwards. Spoons are to the right of the knife and forks are to the left of the plate.
Traditionally, the dessert fork and spoon are laid one above the other above your plate. The rest of your cutlery is laid smallest (starting with your salad fork) to largest working toward the plate. The butter knife usually goes across the bread plate. With a modern setting, you only need the cutlery and dishes for the dinner itself. It's acceptable to place cutlery in the order of the courses where you work from the outside in and it's ok to bring the dessert dishes, cutlery and coffee cups out after dinner.
On your traditional table, the water goblet is always above the tip of the blade of your knife and behind the glasses for your different wines. With a modern meal, you can simply have a water and a wine glass. Any others could be brought out as the courses are served.
Many people tend to artfully place the napkins in the water goblets. According to Pinet, this is a big no-no mainly because there is a risk that the glass will tip as you pull the napkin out and break. What you want to do instead is fold it and lay it in the center of your plate. You can also put it in a napkin ring.
Ambiance and finishing touches
"The overall look you want to achieve on your table is nice and simple," says Michael. You don't want a lot of fussy things. Fresh flower arrangements are nice, but they shouldn't block the guests' view of each other. One trend he has noticed is smaller vases along the table with a couple of fresh cut flowers. This is a great place to lean your place cards if you're at a more formal affair.
Your room shouldn't be too light or too dark. If you have a chandelier above your table, use the dimmer. Candlelight is also a nice touch.