Staying in - as far as we’re concerned, certainly - is the new going out, so, this in mind, we thought it might be useful to look at what can be achieved (via your existing dining table) to ensure you don’t go short, all year round, on the style quotient.
Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a formal dining room, or simply a cosy nook in the corner of your living room, much can be done to up the ante as far as ‘at home’ hosting is concerned. Fuelled, at least in part, by programmes such as W‘s ‘Come Dine With Me’ and The Food Network‘s ‘Dinner Party Wars‘ (the latter being hosted by our old pal Anthea Turner) Canadians, more than ever, are opening their doors to the most exclusive restaurant in town; home. Dining room furniture, by many accounts, continues to confound the economic downturn, sales of cookbooks are boiling, exotic ingredients are now freely available in supermarkets everywhere and competition between have-a-go house chefs is hotting up.
And of course as culinary ability soars, so too does the need to create wonderful backdrops against which to serve all that wonderful epicurean fancy. We love dressing the perfect dinner party table, and doing so is the perfect opportunity to take a break from other prep’ such as cleaning and cooking or worrying about what to wear. Indeed there’s something thoroughly cathartic about sitting down and concentrating on that which needs done to make a beautiful and functional statement. And of course impressing your guests is always a bonus…
Table Top Tips
Start with a good table and chairs, but don’t be tempted to squeeze a dozen guests into a 6 seater space. It’s more sensible to realistically appraise how many folk can be comfortably accommodated. Think quality over quantity. Mightn’t it be better to throw two separate dinners for six, rather than over power your space and stifle invitees. Quite.
Choose chairs for style and comfort – and don’t be afraid to try them out in store by giving them the ass test first. And, before purchasing, ensure that all your chairs will fit within the leg span of your table, whether existing or new.
Full cloths suggest formality and opulence, while a simple fabric runner arranged down the table centre will provide a clean, modern look. And if you fancy fabric free? No problem; an undressed table suggests informal dining, but remember to use place mats and trivets to protect against damage.
Layer crockery by positioning a charger plate (Dollarama, believe it or not, carry some great choices), followed by a dinner plate and then finally a soup bowl. A neat folded napkin – white or tonally selected to compliment your scheme - is a perfect finishing touch and will provide a welcome source of colour.
Avoid folding napkins into swans unless you’ve got the ghost of Liberace coming for dinner or if kitsch is your theme du soir.
Plan your table scape to incorporate function and style – a flower or candle centrepiece, or battery operated twinkling lights set in a crystalline bowl, can look fabulous. BUT, if you’re stuck for space, don’t pile everything onto the table and hope for the best - to help de clutter eye lines, use a trolley or a secondary table for wine bottles and ancillary party paraphernalia.
Four Top Trends for Dining - each inspired by our travels!
‘City Meets The Country’
– while holidaying with illustrious British fashion designer Jasper Conran at his rural French farmhouse, we swooned as he dressed the table for dinner. To get the gist, imagine a city scape of skinny metal vases, each filled with a single white rose, snaking down a straight lined chunky timber bar. Our co guests included acclaimed photographer Mario Testino and British fashion legend Mary Quant, and we all agreed that Jasper’s dining vignette was one of the loveliest we’d ever seen. Get the look with concrete platters, stone bowls and tall glass wares and add simple greenery and twinkling tea lights to complete the look.
‘All White On The Night’ – imagine a white cloth set on a pre moulded acrylic table. Add white Verner Panton chairs, white plates and white napery and your beautiful vision should start to emerge like the first frost of winter. As a striking centre point, visualise white flowers (such as lilies or orchids) set in white vases. Your choice of elegant food, should you realise your dream, will provide all the colour required for this simple glam’ style which we witnessed recently at The Delano Hotel in Miami.
‘Gentleman’s Club’ – While guesting, some time past, on Brit’ TV show ‘Through The Keyhole, we struck up immediate rapport with its host, celebrated journalist/broadcaster Sir David Frost. In fact we had so much fun that, when filming was complete, we took up his offer of dinner in a chic Leeds hotel called ‘Malmaison’. Along with Sir David we marvelled at the decorating prowess of the hotel’s designer; awash with dark wood finishes such as mahogany and oak, the mood was relaxed and calming but it all came to life courtesy of button tufted leather dining chairs, blood red colour washed walls and over the top bronze platters. To capture the spirit of our evening, opt for gold rimmed white crockery and fill deep crystal vases with red roses and greenery. For an aromatic finishing detail, scent the air with amber or cinnamon candles to promote conversation. But just don’t mention Nixon…
‘Colonial Indian Meets Fabulous French’ – Think bold motif crockery set on intricate hand painted chargers, acres of lush verdant greenery, carved wooden tables with rattan detailing and skirted Parson’s chairs embellished with gorgeous banana leaf yarn. This is a real ‘holiday at home’ look and one we espied while holidaying in The Indian Ocean at the tip of Madagascar. And if it’s good enough for Nelson Mandela (with whom who’ve we’ve spent several vacations in the same Mauritian hotel) then it’s good enough for the rest of us! Pier One is a fabulous ‘get the look’ source point for romantic home styling such as this, so hit the aisles… and get shopping.
If, having read our musings, you’re feeling suitably inspired to ring the changes in your dining room, then here are a couple of book recommendations which should help steer you further. The first is ‘Table Chic’ by our good friend Kelly Hoppen, former Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of The Year and general style goddess. And hey - this effortlessly talented woman (who designed David and Victoria Beckham’s LA mansion) is beyond talented. Crammed with ideas to up the dining room style factor, we challenge you to put her beautiful book down without reading it cover to cover. Published by Advantage, it’s a must have read for any self respecting style cognoscenti.
Our final recommendation: ‘At Home’ by William Yeoward (published by CICO Books) is our favourite style bible ever. Whatever your taste - and whatever size your home - Yeoward’s captivating book is stunning to the max’ and filled with wonderful photography and a host of inspiring table top ideas. From elegant party planning to daily dining you’ll swoon as you leaf the beautiful pages. Read it and reap!