decor, inspiration

Lay an artful table

Judd van Rensburg (main image)

Entertaining at home is not everyone’s cup of tea – but if you do enjoy having people over for a meal, be it formal or casual, it’s always good to know how to set a table that perfectly complements the tone you’re aiming for. As etiquette queen Martha Stewart puts it, ‘The way a table is set contributes to the ambiance of a meal as much as the food and wine.’

Table-setting 101

Fork, plate, water glass, wine glass, knife, spoon – right? If only it were that simple. HL spoke to Matt Mulholland, operational partner at legendary Cape Town steakhouse HQ. Matt has 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry and, believe it or not, does still enjoy entertaining at home. He gave HL a few tips on creating the perfect atmosphere for your occasion. 

Understand the occasion

‘Embrace the occasion and let it define the overall look and feel of your table setting. Some meals call for a degree of formality – think special milestones or those times when you need to impress. Other occasions call for a more casual style: a family lunch or dinner with close friends.’
Casual and formal dining. Image from This is a good example of a casual table setting as well as a formal table setting. Image sourced from Sincerely

Conversation, ambiance and practicality are key

‘Always take into consideration the spacing and placement of people. The more intimate and less spread out the seating is, the more exciting the conversation and more successful the event. Set the table to be practical and always consider the ambiance (which could involve anything from lighting to decor).’

Don’t be afraid to be yourself

‘Express yourself. I often used to let what I believed people would think influence not only the way I set a table, but the decor and setup in general. People are coming to dine at your house and they are attending your event because they enjoy what you do. Embrace that and let your personality shine through.’
Matt Mulholland, operational manager at HQ restaurant Matt Mulholland

Main image caption: CLOCKWISE, FROM BOTTOM LEFT Slubby linen in Denim from the Belgique II collection R989/m, St Leger & Viney; stoneware dinner plate in Pottery Pool R149, side plate in Pottery White Wash R119 and serving bowl in Pottery Coastal R379, all Weylandts; ramekin by Andrew Walford R400, Kim Sacks; rectangular sushi platter from the Indigo Ceramics range R95, Biggie Best; marble-print place mat R69, @home; American dinner plate R2 300 and soup bowl from the Bleus d’Ailleurs range by Hermès R2 400, both Apsley House; cutlery in gold plating R199 (set of three), @home; bread plate from the Voyage en Ikat range by Hermès R2 980, Apsley House; Colour Tempo place mat in Blue-deep by Chilewich R299, @home; dinner plate R139 and cereal bowl from the Scope range R99, both Country Road at Woolworths; stoneware breakfast jug in Mineral Blue R290, Le Creuset.

See three artful tablescapes that'll inspire your next dinner party in our July 2016 issue

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