Sunday 20 October 2019

Turning the tables

Your dinner table is much more than food and wine; these days, writes Kirstie McDermott, it's got to serve up great style too

Spring pastels play perfectly for an Easter-themed table setting. Think soft yellows, pink and blue. Mixing and matching napkins is a trick to try to distract from plain white plates. Assorted napkins, €12 for four, johnlewis.com
Spring pastels play perfectly for an Easter-themed table setting. Think soft yellows, pink and blue. Mixing and matching napkins is a trick to try to distract from plain white plates. Assorted napkins, €12 for four, johnlewis.com

Kirstie McDermott

Just in case you thought it'd be OK for all those social occasions you've got coming up to throw some mis-matched cutlery, chipped plates and any old glassware on to your table and call it an entertaining done deal, I've got some news for you: competitive tablescaping is now a very real thing.

With 183,000 images on Instagram's #tablescapes hashtag and a further 60,000 on #setthetable, crafting the perfect setting for the occasion at hand is now a serious business indeed. It requires not only careful planning, but also the ownership of an array of items - glasses, napkins, plates of all sizes, candlesticks - worthy of a small-to-medium department store.

Vintage ceramics are trendy again, like this cabbage leaf cake stand; bordalopinhero.com, €47
Vintage ceramics are trendy again, like this cabbage leaf cake stand; bordalopinhero.com, €47

A large part of the rise of tarted-up tables is down to party planners like Tipperary-born and London-based Fiona Leahy, who creates - and Instagrams - creative and inventive tablescapes for clients such as Dior, Nikki Tibbles, Goop and Tabitha Simmons. Thanks to the power of social media, we're all now party ('scuse the pun) to a world of turbo-charged decor that was previously privy to a select few.

"Much like the vast improvements in our culinary skills - chicken kievs are not the fanciest thing on the menu any more - we're all paying more attention to the aesthetic of our get-togethers," confirms Lorraine Adams, owner and creative director at Elk Stylist (elkstylist.ie). She says there are a few benefits to the trend. "I think it's fun, and DIY trends have increased over the years with Pinterest sharing so many craft ideas. Secondly, Instagram has turned us all into aspiring photographers, seeking out beauty everywhere we go."

The result is we're inspired to recreate similar looks at home. First things first though, how do you get around the fact that this can be a pretty expensive endeavour? "I find Ikea is great for inexpensive, good quality flatware because they have lots of modern styles and some modern takes on traditional styles," advises Adams. "If you're on a tight budget, look for one big piece like an extravagant serving dish in TK Maxx, and match it with a similar coloured dinner set - no one will know," she says.

Mix 'n' match pieces can be picked up from the supermarket, charity shops, car boot sales and auctions and all work really well when placed together as long as you're keeping a common thread - for example, stick to stripes, florals or shades of one or two colours throughout. This is less about the quality or expense of individual pieces and more about the styling effect you can achieve using what you have to hand.

Instantly elevate your places settings with a copper cutlery set; tkmaxx.com,€34.99
Instantly elevate your places settings with a copper cutlery set; tkmaxx.com,€34.99

Adams has tips on how to achieve a cohesive look too. "When styling a table, it's important to keep in mind that the table has to function as well as look great. I'd keep the centrepiece below 30cm in height so your guests on opposite sides can still see each other," she advises. "That said, if you're tight for space you might consider bringing the decor above the eyeline with a tall vase. This would make room for food to be passed around."

Ultimately, it's about the effect. As Adams says, "If your guests consider your tablescape Insta-worthy, then you've nailed it."

  • Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine

Pick a pop of colour with this Helen James Considered Brook side plate; dunnesstores.com, €8
Pick a pop of colour with this Helen James Considered Brook side plate; dunnesstores.com, €8
Ideal for adults and kids: MW by Matthew Williamson orange pressed glass tumbler; debenhams.ie, €7.50
Ideal for adults and kids: MW by Matthew Williamson orange pressed glass tumbler; debenhams.ie, €7.50
A vintage copy, this Hubsch candlestick looks far more expensive than it is; trouva.com, €73.90
A vintage copy, this Hubsch candlestick looks far more expensive than it is; trouva.com, €73.90

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