Pick a color palette. Everything on the table—linens, plates, glasses, and platters—should work together. So build your scheme around colors plucked from any of those objects. Don’t go overboard; two hues and a third for an accent is plenty. Play off the tablecloth and plates to create your color scheme.
Lay the groundwork. The easiest way to add color, texture, and/or pattern to a table is with table linens. Again, don’t overdo it; if you have a patterned cloth, balance it with plain napkins that pick up one of the colors in the pattern. And don’t forget to use runners or place mats on other surfaces, such as sideboards.
Mix plain and fancy. Whether you prefer simple or ornate, don’t set the table entirely in the same style whether it’s too minimal or too fancy. Mix it up by blending plates and glasses that are more streamlined, for example, with flatware that’s more formal, and vice versa. You’ll also set a more interesting table by mixing shiny and matte finishes.
Vary shapes and heights. To set an even more eye-catching table, use square chargers with round plates, or vice versa, and vary the size, height, and materials of your serving pieces. To create a focal point, use higher pieces in the center of your table.
Create a stunning centerpiece. You can’t go wrong with flowers, but objects and collections you already own can stand in for centerpieces. Large bowls, platters, and even cake stands topped or filled with fruit or shiny ornaments can look stunning. Or instead of one or two centerpieces, group a bunch of candlesticks for more impact.
Add statement-making pieces. For big-deal dinners, use sparkle and glitz more liberally. Gold is currently the trendiest metallic hue. And don’t forget the extras: Great trays, platters, bowls, beautiful candlesticks, or a candelabra can fill in empty spaces with lots of style.
Hide stains on a tablecloth by strategically arranging two or more tablecloths on top of each other. You can place them at angles to cover spots. Layer a patterned square over a solid oblong for a striking effect. Then cover the table with serving dishes and cocktails.
Look for an easy-clean tablecloth. Some party stagers recommend getting a white tablecloth in a poly blend over cotton or linen because stains are easier to wash out, and you might even be able to avoid the iron. Use white all year and just change the napkin rings for different occasions.
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