For a versatile collection of tableware that can be dressed up or down, you can’t go past a basic white crockery set. And you don’t need to have a perfectly matching set mixing different brands and types of crockery will create a more interesting look. And the different shades of white will only add to the appeal. You may want to start with an inexpensive dinner set – there’s no need to worry when an item breaks – and gradually add pricier, eyecatching servingware. Dress up white crockery in a simple and stylish way with white napkins and candles and plain cutlery. You can easily change the look of the setting to suit your occasion. For example, a bare table with placemats works well for a breakfast or brunch; a crisp white tablecloth is perfect for a dinner party, or keep it casual with a roll of art paper used as a tablerunner (see “Make”).
Modernise antiques and traditional pieces with smart colour combinations for a rustic, banquet-style dinner setting. Start by choosing a simple colour scheme of white or cream paired with a subtle highlight like blue, red or purple with hits of black. Then mix and layer traditionalstyle tableware in these shades. For a modern touch, choose a patterned tablecloth that suits the theme (we chose a fun fruit design) and angle it so it skews slightly off the table. And for a real provincial banquet feel, ruffl e and place another tablecloth in a different colour in the centre of the table, like a tablerunner. Pile old books in small stacks to create little “steps” for various platters, bowls and clusters of candles. Embellish the table with antique elements like crystal glassware and antique silver cutlery. A ceramic or enamel jug filled with fresh fl owers, or a silver platter piled with fresh fruit and bread, creates the perfect banquet-style centerpiece.
For a natural look that’s suitable for everyday use and also sophisticated enough for entertaining, look for organic and unfinished materials. Think raw timber, unglazed and textured ceramics, cork, linen and unbleached cotton. Choose tableware that has an “imperfect” handmade feel look to Wabi-sabi for inspiration, a Japanese aesthetic combining transient and stark beauty (wabi) with the beauty of natural patina and ageing (sabi). And keep an eye out for commercial ranges that are designed to be asymmetric and not uniform in shape. Think pared-back and simple forms – shallow coupestyle or plain flat-bottomed dishes and carafes with indentations instead of handles. Use small bowls and vessels for condiments and spices, timber chopping boards as serving platters and plain carafe-like pitchers for coffee and tea. Combine basic everyday dinnerware in cream and off-white shades and serving platters and bowls in natural earthy tones like browns and greens. For an art-inspired feel, invest in fine handthrown porcelain crockery and use as feature pieces. Layer a tablecloth with linen or cotton placemats and napery in muted natural shades like green, cream and beige. Decorate the table with simple handcrafted items like old wine bottles with the labels removed and use as candleholders; or try hand stitching your own napkins.
For a dramatic and atmospheric tablesetting, be inspired by Middle-Eastern style. Look for weighty crockery with handpainted designs and textured patterns in rich, deep colours. Pair plates and bowls in shades like purple, blue, red, yellow and orange, with silver and gold-rimmed plates and glassware. You could also use coloured Moroccan glass teacups and traditional terracotta serving bowls and tagines. Keep tablelinen in the same shades choose napery in colours that are lacking in the tableware. There’s no need for placesettings to match, just stick to a few chosen colours and mix pieces, creating layers with nesting plates and plates under bowls. Painted tiles make colourful crafty additions as coasters or trivets. Ornately patterned cutlery, and copper, brass and silver pots, pans and dishes also work well. Set the mood with tealights in stained glass or stencilled ceramic votives, subtly scented incense sticks that won’t overpower the food; decorate with flowers like oriental lilies or orchids in small dishes, and scatter rose petals on the table to finish the look. For casual dining or a themed evening, try laying this setting out on great coffee tables or best recliners with cushions and ottomans as seats.
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