The way we lay the table can be a metaphor for the way we live. Our ancestors might have enjoyed multi-course formal dinner parties that were all about food's ability to impress; and these days, we might do away with the table altogether in favour of a tray and the TV. So what are the design trends that govern what our table looks like today?
"People don't necessarily use their dining rooms any more – they sit around in their kitchen with their friends," says Clare Farthing from Creative Tops, which designs and makes dinnerware for everyone from the big supermarkets to galleries and museums. In this new casual setting, a posh dinner service just doesn't seem to fit, even though, in this new era of economising, home entertaining seems to be on the up. "People are still buying tableware, but mostly for everyday use," continues Clare. "There's a lot of mixing and matching going on as well – having all kinds of styles of glasses on the table, for example, is now totally acceptable."
That's not to say that making an effort won't be appreciated. You can show some love for your guests in all kinds of ways, from a pretty bunch of flowers arranged in a jam jar to quirky, talking-point paper napkins. A basic white dinner service is a fail-safe blank canvas: switch around accessories like tablecloths and candles to alter the mood. That way, if you burn the Bolognese, at least you can still serve it up in style.