Come dine with me
Make your dining area meal-time ready with a few simple changes
Anyone else get a little panicked when the days start getting shorter? The impending darker days and cooler temperatures aren't always as appealing as our long summer evenings, but with a little advance preparation, we can make autumn and winter seem like a treat rather than a chore. Enter this week's topic: your dining room. With just a few upgrades, you can make your dining area a place your whole family will look forward to lingering for cosy and comforting meals.
While the ingredients in your stew or roast are critical for a good meal, the ambience in your dining space is equally important. Start with a stylish table that brings everyone together. Add cheery chairs your friends and family will be happy to rest in for a few hours, then turn your focus to the table top. Invest in home-grown linens and a cute cutlery set and your guests won't want to leave.
Pretty, patterned plates like these from Marks & Spencer add a lot of pizzazz to a place setting. If you're nervous about too much pattern on the table, consider stocking up on plain white dinner plates for everyday dining and investing in a few sets of patterned small plates to layer over them for a dinner party show-stopper.
buy it: Scandinavian pattern plate, €10 from Marks & Spencer
There's nothing that can make your own home feel more like a decadent restaurant than cloth napkins. These Irish linen napkins from 31 Chapel Lane are washable and durable, adding that extra bit of cosiness to a winter meal.
buy it: Irish linen napkins, from €13 at 31 Chapel Lane, 31chapellane.com
Tip Top Table
Start with a dining table that you'll want to pull a chair up to for a long meal. The Argos Habitat range provides a stylish option in the Lance dining table, available at Argos nationwide.
Buy it: Habitat Lance dining table, €230 at Argos
We like the idea of adding a little sparkle to the dinner table with great quality cutlery. This copper set is sure to make you and your guests smile with every bite.
Buy it: Casa Couture copper cutlery set for 8, €250 from House of Fraser
Chairs are a great way to add a little extra personality to your dining space, but you want chairs that are comfortable enough that your family and friends won't be squirming in their seats before the first course. If your dining area is small, try armless chairs so you can squeeze just a few more friendly faces around the table.
Buy it: Echo red dining chair, €169 each from Harvey Norman
For everyday dining, tablecloths can be a little formal and lead to a lot of laundry. To make every meal that bit more festive, opt for a pretty table runner that can tie in the room's colours instead. This table runner adds a lovely red pattern.
Buy it: Bosphorus Table Runner (€23) and cutlery set (€25), from Next
As the Wood Turns
Wood turner Matt Jones creates salt and pepper mills (from €100 per pair) so beautiful you'd likely keep them on your table outside of meal time. Jones began wood turning after becoming disheartened with his fine arts degree. "I was interested in making again but was drawn towards craft. Traditional hand crafts require a degree of skill that is developed over time." Jones began turning wood more seriously in 2009, buying whole trees from tree surgeons or farmers, and planks from sawmills. "Anything with knots, signs of rot or other faults I save for the creative work, everything else becomes firewood." But you might not find Jones' vases, bowls or salt and pepper mills on his own table. "I have young children and things get knocked over or covered in crayon. My work has a better chance of surviving in other peoples homes!" See mattjoneswoodturner.com