The modern art of setting a table

Our favorite party trick? A beautifully set table. We'd be lying if we said we longed for the days of primitive etiquette and strict rules, but we'll readily admit there's something special about a table set exactly for the occasion. If you've ever found yourself frantically Googling exactly where the teaspoon is supposed to go, or if you can only vaguely recall some horrible superstition about placing the knife on the wrong side of the plate, then this table setting guide is for you. Once you know the basics, you can easily set the tone for any occasion. Here are a few ways we like to organize our tableware for every occasion, sure to impress your guests every time.


The easiest part of preparing a three-course meal is setting the table. To make a formal dinner a little more interesting, first place the napkin on the table. Fold it into quarters with the openings constantly facing to the right. Next, place the plate, and on top of that the salad plate, then follow the soup bowl on top. Focus on stainless steel cutlery, place the fork to the left of the plates and a sharp knife to the right, with the blade facing inward. On the outside of the knife, the soup spoon. Place the water glasses and fill them halfway, with a jug or pitcher of water on the table for easy access to refill.

Family Dinner

For a weeknight dinner with family or close friends, keep it simple, but beautiful. Set each place with a single plate and place the fork and knife on each side. Be sure to use a sharp steak knife to cut crisp meat dishes or vegetables and keep a butter knife near the dish and bread, if you like. Here's another way to get a helping hand when setting the table: have the kids or first guests tie a bow and place them on each plate. Tip: If you place the napkin on top of the plate, separate the utensils, with the fork on the left and the knife on the right (face in).

A simple dinner

For less formal occasions that you still want to make special, you can simply stick to one plate and one salad plate, place a tablecloth underneath and a napkin to the side. Fold the opening away from the plate and hold the fork and knife (respectively) together on top, all on the left side of the plate. Foliage and flowers aren't just a centerpiece - get creative and use a sprig of rosemary, lavender or any other garnish on top of each plate.

The communal table

We love a buffet table to accommodate larger crowds. Inviting your guests to help themselves encourages mixing, and it's a great opportunity to introduce friends and mix different people. Be sure to use a tablecloth, as this style of serving can get a little messy. Stack plates and bowls at one end of the table and place your serving bowls in the order that people would eat, i.e. salad first, a few sides, then your main course. If an impatient guest arrives while you're still setting up and inevitably asks how they can help, this is a great opportunity to put them to work by making take-out silverware sets. Simply place a fork and knife side by side on a napkin folded in half and roll it up. Secure it with a bit of string and a sprig of something green. Tip: Choose your dishes ahead of time and place them in the empty bowls to determine which dishes go where. That way you'll be sure everything fits on one table and you don't scramble at the last minute.

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