The other day I had some girlfriends round for dinner. Our post-meal chat turned to a subject none of us knew we felt so passionately about: vacuum cleaners!!(?!)
I MEAN. This got shared post meal ????.
I don’t know what’s happened since we’ve all reached around the thirty YO mark, but suddenly we’re having conversations which feel so ADULT.
Vacuum cleaners, the joy of going to bed at 9pm, hydration . . . I thought these types of conversations happened a little later on in life.
And yet – we’re SO into it.
And, I don’t mind!
I LIKE talking about all these things, just like I love talking about setting a beautiful table for dinner.
I feel like this blog post is one of those where you’ll get the gist of what I’m harking on about in the images, but I’m still going to talk you through it because as we’ve now established I love nattering on about interesting-to-me things. Ha!
So, here goes . . . here’s my formula for laying a relaxed table setting. My rules and go-tos. OH and a little sneak peek at our kitchen . . . !
Table & Chairs
First things first, having a dining table which works with your space is an essential.
Oli and I often have six or more people over, and so we always knew we’d need a big table. This one’s extendable which makes it even better, since we have a choice of how big we want it to be on any given day.
After searching high and low, and being scared off by the BIG price tags on BIG tables, we ended up finding this one for £20 at the tip!
Oli literally wangled it just as a guy was taking it out of the back of his car!
Now, I know that those types of serendipitous finds don’t always happen, but as a rule, buying second hand furniture can be a lot cheaper than buying new. We have so many second hand bits throughout our home – I shared a lot of them in our living room tour.
Try Facebay for one, search Facebook for ‘facebay + your local area’s name’ and you’ll soon see if you have a Facebook group for your area. You can also go to auctions, car boot sales, second hand stores, charity furniture shops . . . there are SO many ways of finding great second hand pieces.
Bonus – a lot of older furniture is really well made, and it’s good for the environment to recycle. Win-win.
I know you can’t even see our table in this photo – ha! – but I thought I’d start with the base of where everything starts.
Our lighter chairs were a hand-me-down from my parents, and the dark chair is from a pub which was closing down. Again – recycling up a charm!
Another life area I did not anticipate being excited about – tablecloths!
I effing love a table cloth nowadays!
If you have a table which for whatever reason you don’t love the tabletop of, you can update it instantly by adding a tablecloth. And even if you do like your tabletop, you can change the whole vibe of your table setting in seconds.
There are SO many lovely options out there. Oli and I now have three: a simple white linen one (seen here), a patterned blue and white one from Anthropologie, and a checked blue and white one which I can’t remember buying!
Overall, we’ve gone for fabric colours which work well with our kitchen: blue, white and grey.
But keep your eyes peeled because tablecloths are one of those random things you can stumble upon when you’re least expecting it!
Oli and I have three dinnerware sets in total: a white, cream and grey set (seen here – which is actually a mix of two sets, but we use them together), a white and blue patterned set and an elegant white set with a gold rim.
I think three is a pretty good number for anything tableware-related if you like rotating things, like I do.
I’ll decide on which dinnerware set we use, depending on what type of occasion we’re having and the look we’re going for.
You can see a more playful look in this post from earlier this year.
For the layout of this dinner table I wanted to go for an elegant, relaxed and natural vibe with lots of texture.
I used my Royal Doulton set in white, cream and grey. I love how neutral it is, without being boring. Here’s the new season version if you fancy having a peep!
If you like simple dinnerware which is slightly elevated like me, then keep an eye out for small but significant details. It could be a texture, a little bit of colour . . . anything which makes the set feel more special.
I’ve only recently taken an interest in our glassware and can now add it to the list of things ‘I didn’t know I’d care about’ – ha!
My advice is to go for wine glasses, and glasses generally, which don’t break easily!
When Oli and I first moved in together we bought some lovely fine wine glasses – they broke ALL the time. We’d be washing them up and they’d crack in our hands – so annoying!
Now, we’ve gone for more heavy glasses which feel Mediterranean-y to me – which I love! These wine glasses were a steal from The Hambledon in the sale, and our water glasses are from IKEA.
I also like the idea of short tumblers for wine – again giving the feel of being on holiday.
Next have some gorgeous heavy tumblers, and glasses which I have my eye on for the new bar cart area I’m styling up. Stay tuned for a before and after of that soon . . . !
You know what I’m going to say right? Have three sets you can rotate! Well, if you like changing things up like me!
Oli and I have a set of simple steel cutlery, and a couple of sets of gold-coloured flatware.
I mix and match them a LOT when we have friends over for dinner, but for this particular table setting I wanted to go for a cohesive look so stuck to the stainless steel set.
Trinkets, Flowers and Napkins
If you read my last home post you’ll know that I LOVE trinkets!
Give me a decorative bowl, a pretty vase, an ornament . . . I’m so happy!
When it comes to laying a table, you don’t want to overload your space with things to the point where people can’t put their glasses down.
But still . . . you can get a fair few lovely pieces on the table to decorate!
I like to create some sort of central focus, and having a tray is a great way to do this. I’ve had this India May Home tray for a few years now and I still absolutely love it! It’s the perfect backdrop for some small candle jars and a vase of blooms.
A tray is also a good place to put things like salt, pepper and condiments.
I always add flowers to my table settings, and keep them low so that people can chat over them.
I’ve rounded up some of my favourite vases RN below. These are all perfect for a dinner table.
If you’ve ever wondered how some floral arrangements seem so ‘together’ (when yours spill all over the place!), try using a sandwich tie to keep your arrangement in place.
I used a simple tie for this arrangement and it helped to keep the shape together perfectly.
And finally: napkins! Oli and I have amassed a nice little collection of late. We have neutrals, patterns, fringing . . . it’s so fun!
Plus once used, napkins can easily be washed, which saves on paper alternatives.
I’m OK with wrinkled napkins (there is NO way I could be bothered to iron them!), and luckily I like that more ‘lived-in’ look.
For this table setting I used a small bit of straw to tie the napkins and added a little bit of eucalyptus from the flowers I bought as a final touch.
The effort is minimal but the results are big!
The most important thing for me when having friends over is that everyone’s relaxed and having a great time.
Since Oli is on cooking duty 99% of the time, I love to take charge of the home prep.
Laying the table, lighting candles and making everything look lovely is my time to relax. Our guests always appreciate the effort and it elevates a simple dinner with friends to make it feel even more special.
I like my dinner setting to be considered and beautiful, but never fussy or overly perfect.
I want everyone to kick back, enjoy their wine and get ready to talk about hoovers. HA!
What’s Your Take?
Do you love setting a table too? And what random conversations are you having which you didn’t think you’d have?!
Tell me we’re not the only ones freaking out over Dyson vs Vax?!
Love, Monica x
Photography by Charlotte Bryer-Ash
Dress: Joanie Clothing c/o – I LOVE this dress btw!
Table: bought at the tip.
Table cloth: The Hambledon (very old)
Plates: Royal Doulton
Wine glasses: The Hambledon
Cutlery: bought in a local store
Small wicker candle holders: The White Company
Silver-hue tray: India May Home
Vase: Magnolia Market
Napkins: The White Company
Flowers: Wildbunch Alresford