Food & Entertaining - Tabletop Ideas

Learn how to set a stylish table with helpful hints from the pros. Your guests are sure to be impressed.

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.

Liner notes
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.


Table wear
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.

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