As spring gets underway and lockdown restrictions ease, outdoor socialising is having a resurgence – and people’s tables have never looked better.
After months cooped up indoors, people are going all out with their table settings for small social gatherings. But if you haven’t got a creative bone in your body, or you’re struggling for inspiration, where do you even start?
Laying a table is pretty simple business – pop some plates, knives and forks down and you’re good to go – but “tablescaping”, as it’s being dubbed, involves a bit more thought.
How easy is it to do? We asked a homeware expert to walk us through the basics. Use these tips for your outside table in spring, as well as indoors come May 17.
1. Pick a colour scheme and stick to it
It might be tempting to fill your table with every colour under the sun, but Bernard Yu, co-founder of premium homeware outlet Peyton & Tyler, urges people to focus on a few carefully chosen colours instead.
It might be worth choosing two primary colours, for example. “Make sure the colours you choose pair well with each other,” Yu tells HuffPost UK. You can find plenty of colour scheme inspiration here.
If you have no idea what shades to go for, think about the time of year. In spring, embrace colours that are suggestive of the season: pastels shades of pink, yellow, green and light blue.
For summer, you might try brighter and bolder patterns, as well as tropical prints. For autumn, reds and burnt oranges. And for your Christmas get together, it might be red and gold, or blue and silver. “If you really want to make a statement, daring combinations can work,” adds Yu.
2. Decide what you’re going to put on your table
There’s so much you could add: a table cloth, crockery, cutlery, glasses, and then any complementary décor – we’re talking flowers, candlesticks, etc.
“Consider the material of your table,” says Yu. “Is it something you would like to showcase, for example a rustic wood or smooth marble?” If so, don’t worry about the tablecloth – you might want to opt for a runner instead – and let the natural beauty of your table shine through.
But if the material of your table isn’t a part of your overall vision – or it’s a little lacklustre – consider a table cover. There are plenty of vibrant, bright options out there – from soft linen tablecloths that’ll look gorgeous with pastel shades, to more exotic prints that go nicely with simple crockery.
Don’t go overboard and clutter your table, though. “You don’t need a hundred pieces, just a handful of beautiful ones,” says Yu.
“Invest in plates – and bowls, depending on the food you’re serving – which complement the colour of your table or table cover.”
For example, heavily patterned table covers are complemented by white and neutral plates, whilst black plates pair well with rustic woods. Colourful plates and bowls, like the ones below, pair nicely with a light linen table cloth.
3. Think about texture
Throughout the tablescaping process, keep in mind texture, says Yu – “Think about the textures you’re choosing, whether they match your colours and how the table as a whole will come together.”
Woven place mats or table cloths will bring a natural feel to your table, while frayed edged linen cloths are more homely and comforting.
Slate and wooden serving boards are a go-to for those who enjoy putting on a spread – and a great way to add texture.
One textural, decorative element that can bring a springtime table to life is a picnic basket. “Positioned in the centre of your table, either filled with delicious treats or pretty flowers, this’ll set your table setting apart,” Yu adds.
4. Pay attention to your finishing touches
This is the fun part – small, thoughtful finishing touches will make your table display stand out. Flowers (dried or fresh) or bunched foliage are a good choice, but you might also want to craft handmade name cards if you’re having a few people over.
Candlesticks in colourful glass, neutral ceramic or terrazzo holders are particularly popular at the moment – creating a warming, intimate ambience, while placemats allow you to add another creative element to your table (whilst also protecting it).
Oh, and don’t forget your napkins.
5. Reach new heights
Don’t be afraid to think beyond the table, too. While vases of flowers, tall candles and towering glasses all help to add height, hanging fairy lights or foliage above your table can help to draw the eye upwards too, says Yu, ensuring your tablescaping doesn’t fall well and truly flat.