The current pandemic has, however, completely transformed our daily existence. Whilst there’s no denying the negative connotations around Covid-19, one of the positive outcomes has been having the time to conjure up a homemade meal to sit down and enjoy with your loved ones.
If you were anything like me pre-Corona, after a long day in the office or a wine-fuelled post-work pub session, you’d get home, shove something quick and easy in the oven and eat dinner on your lap in front of Netflix.
That’s exactly why Laura Jackson spearheaded the ‘Make A Meal Of It’ movement, whereby she encourages her followers to shun dinner on the sofa in favour of an artfully laid table and sit-down dinner. “There is something just awful happening – but we still have to eat,” she explained. “Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting in front of the telly with a TV dinner, but more so I love laying the table – even when there is just me. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Have fun – cooking and eating is so ceremonious for me so even if you are just cooking for one, crack open a bottle of wine and #makeamealofit.”
I tried it out and can attest that it totally elevates mealtimes, especially in lieu of being able to eat at a restaurant, and gives your day a sense of structure. Plus, a decorative table is prefect ‘gram fodder.
Lockdown is providing us the perfect reason to get creative – and elevate the home dining experience – so we asked some of the most inspiring creatives for their tips on how to create the perfect tablescape, plus the products to buy to emulate them at home.
The foundations of a good tablescape
“They say dressing well is a form of good manners, well I truly believe the same applies for your table,” declares Victoria Evans of Decorum Interior Design. Victoria maintains that if you can only buy one set of textiles, buy a simple tablecloth and good quality napkins. “Pick something which not only works with your interior, but also works really well as a base to most schemes – that doesn’t have to mean white or cream, it could be blush pink or even charcoal grey – just make sure it’s your vibe. H&M sell huge, great quality tablecloths which wash amazingly (and double up as the best bed throws so you can really get your money’s worth).”
India Whalley, founder of The Edition 94, agrees that it all starts with a good tablecloth. “I like to start with a colourful tablecloth, then pull out my favourite colours to inspire my tableware. I usually follow the tablecloth by adding napkins and placemats then plates and glasses, using them to introduce more colour and texture where needed.”
“The easiest way to change the table for any occasion? A runner down the centre,” says Rosanna Falconer, a brand consultant, co-founder of FashMash and lover of all things colourful.
Rosanna is my Insta tablescape crush who I turn to for aesthetically-pleasing tables and crafty table-laying hacks – and her latest project, #RosannasPositiviTea, brings together her love of a good tablescape with an inspiring friend via Instagram Live for an interview about joy over afternoon tea.
“Printed tablecloths are beautiful but can be expensive so invest in one in white linen then switch it up each time with a wrapping paper or ribbon runner,” she suggests. “For a paper one, use double-sided tape to secure it to the white tablecloth and a measuring tape to get it right in the middle. Try to source good-quality paper rather than the shiny Christmas present kind! Use the same paper as a border for your menus.”
When it comes to plates and placemats, Victoria vouches for round placemats (“I feel that the rectangular ones clash with the roundness of plates”) but if you don’t have placemats or charger plates, use another plate in a different colour if you have it to stop your scheme falling flat. Short on space? Victoria advises throwing out the conventional ‘side plate to the left rule’ and stacking it on top of the main plate with the napkin and cutlery on top.
As for the napkins, try Victoria’s favourite ‘lazy chic napkin’ to save on ironing and create a laidback luxe vibe….
“My favourite thing to do is to pop a sprig or two of a herb I’ve used to prepare the meal into the knot for a bit of green and texture,” she adds.
Crockery and cutlery
Rosanna loves buying mixed sets of vintage china from eBay and charity shops and says companies like Maison Margaux and LAY London offer rental, tapping into the circular economy that became such a game-changer for fashion last year.
“For cutlery, I have one set of gold (replica!) and one stainless steel. These adapt to any occasion – see them as your gold and silver jewellery that goes with everything. Just echo the table by tying them with a big bow in velvet, grosgrain or satin coordinated to the colours of the tablescape.”
“It doesn’t take many blooms to make an impact on your tablescape,” says Rowan Blossom, florist and stylist. “A couple of tiny stems or sprigs of herbs or foliage from the garden cut low and popped into a little vase is all you need to transform your table.” Rowan says it’s important to think about the colours of your glassware/tableware/linen/napkins and use flowers to complement and enhance these – the more texture, pattern and colour, the better! “And don’t forget the candles, there is nothing more magical than eating by candelight, it transforms the table and your mood.”
Alice Naylor-Leyland, who loves tablescaping so much that she set up her own curated tablescape and tableware collection, plumps for bud vases filled with tulips, daffodils and muscari. “I think the key with flowers is to be bold and not scared of using colour.”
Victoria even suggests creating an edible centrepiece, noting that grapefruits sliced in half, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, or figs add so much colour and life whilst doubling up as an accompaniment to your meal.
Trinkets and treasures
The final touches are among the most important – and this is where tou can really have fun and add your personality. Rosanna notes that personal details will make your table special – and she loves turning to crafts for this: hand-painted elements like her pastel pumpkins for Halloween or glittery pinecones at Christmas. You could even try origami stars for New Year’s Eve or huge tissue paper blooms in spring, she suggests.
“Get creative with place names too,” she adds. “I once used rosettes for a Best In Show theme, festival tickets for a Glastonbury dinner and mirror tiles with for an evening devoted to the mirror palaces of India. Things like this form a talking point, ice breaker and gift to take home all in one!”
Alice suggests mixing and matching what you have in your home – it could be a vase or an ornament – and reminds us not to ‘forget the small stuff’ like salt and pepper shakers.
“Have fun with table laying,” she concludes. “If you want to make it big and colourful, make it big and colourful. If you have a huge swan that you think will steal the show – use it. People so appreciate the thought that goes into laying a beautiful table that they will love anything you do but it’s meant to be a fun thing for you and your guests to enjoy together so remember that!”