STYLE

Beyond The Bouquet: There's More Than One Way To Decorate A Table

02/09/2010 12:05 | Updated 22 May 2015

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.

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There's a laid-back sophistication to this tabletop – neutrals let the food do the talking, while the bread-baskets add a rustic touch. Portobello dining service (From £10), Lucca glasses (£28 for four), Plain White napkins (£12 for four), Plain White ribbed placemats (£16 for four) and Tall Jute Basket (£35), www.thewhitecompany.com

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Mix-and-match cutlery epitomises the trend for informal dining – which one's your favourite? Eclectic cutlery set, £29.99 for a set of 16, www.tch.net

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Two products, one bunny – a coaster when it's flat, and a napkin ring when it's sitting up. Pink rabbit coaster/napkin ring set, £16 for a set of four, www.love-eco.co.uk

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These Big-Apple-themed 'Mapkins' will give your guests something to talk about while they're waiting for your culinary masterpiece to hit the table. New York Paper Mapkins, £2.99, www.driftliving.co.uk

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Jamie Oliver's latest range for Churchill china looks delicate enough to be vintage, but it's robust enough to go in the dishwasher. Fluted Blue stoneware, from £6-£84, www.inkitchen.co.uk

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Simple, pleasing accessories, like this lacquered bamboo napkin holder, show that you've thought about the details. Bamboo Napkin Holder, £25, www.cocomale.com

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If you're looking for something 'for best', orient-inspired tableware with dramatic flashes of gold is right on trend: team with a gold cutlery service for extra opulence. Monsoon Chrysanthemum range for Denby, £124 for a 16-piece set (also available separately from £5), www.leekes.co.uk

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Wipe-clean tablecloths are great for every-day use, and are an easy way to update your look. Fresh Apple tablecloth, £34.99, www.strawberryfool.co.uk

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LSA's Mia range is made entirely from recycled glass, each bubble and bump giving every piece a unique character. LSA Mia Carafe, £12; wine glasses, £24 for four; tumblers, £16 for four, www.bethstevens.co.uk

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A white dinner service will never go out of style, and will seamlessly match both contemporary and traditional schemes. Justin Capp breakfast range, from £4.99, www.cookinstyle.co.uk

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