Dinner party table setting for dummies

Got guests coming ’round for dinner? Chris Carroll is here to make sure your dinner table looks the part of a Pinterest board.

Chris Carroll, our resident interior stylist, knows a thing or two about styling up a stunning table top – it’s a task he can quite literally do with his eyes closed (and the proof is in the video above).

But for the rest of us, creating a gorgeous dining setting can prove a tad more challenging, which is why we’ve asked Chris to share all of his hot tips.

Chris Carroll can style a table setting with his eyes closed. No really. Picture: Ross Campbell

Tabletop necessities

Plates, cutlery, glasses, yada, yada, yada. We’re not about to bore with the checklist you’ve already come to know so well, because Chris really only looks for one thing in any dinner party setup.

“The largest bottle of wine you can find is the starting point for me,” he says. “The more you consume, the better the table will look!”

“Outside of that, you’ll need to create what I call a ‘visual story’ (I know, it sounds naff), but you do want your eyes to travel across the table when you lay eyes upon it.”

Create a visual story with height. Picture: Linen House

“You can achieve this by incorporating decorations in different heights – think flowers, candles and salt and pepper grinders – and be sure to include some pops of colour to stimulate the eye,” he says.

Patterned linen or napkins and metallic cutlery do a great job in creating some ‘high’ moments, while a subdued table runner in a neutral tone is ideal for balancing it out with some ‘low’ moments.

Create ‘high’ moments with metallic pops. Picture: Neue Blvd

Give food a starring role

Food should not be reserved for the main course at your dinner party. In fact, Chris advises that you weave appetizers into your decor.

“If you’re hosting a dinner party, let food be part of the styling and house stuff like bread and dips in nice bowls,” he says.

“It not only looks nice to include food (and make sure you match the colour of your dips into the flowers you have on the table – I’m not kidding!), but it saves on cleanup time. When you use food as a styling prop you literally deconstruct the table setting as you eat. It’s a win-win.”

Most importantly, Chris says to include cheese. “Multiple types. If I rock up to a dinner party and there’s not a full wagon of triple cream brie available solely for my consumption, heads will roll.”

Never skimp on the cheese. Picture: Villeroy and Boch

Let’s talk centerpieces

When it comes to centerpieces, Chris prefers a full-looking table, and is of the opinion that ‘more is more’.

“The idea of having just one visual moment (like a vase of flowers) in the centre is a little outdated. You need stuff around the flowers like candles, some platters, bowls, and grinders.

“Oh, and gigantic vases of flowers are amazing if there’s someone coming over you don’t like. Sit them across from you and use the flowers to avoid eye contact throughout!”

Flowers are great for blocking your view of your least favourite guest. Picture: Annette O’Brien

Table setting no-nos

“Doiley tablecloths are the stuff nightmares are made of. If you have one, you need to seek help immediately,” Chris says.

But jokes aside, it’s best to avoid anything that’s going to make your space look cheap and nasty, and this includes plastic and paper equipment.

“For a dinner setting, you want it to feel a bit spesh. Elevate the scene; use linen napkins, napkin rings, splurge on some nice placemats, have a special vase you use for occasions.

“I know it takes extra effort to do these things, but you only have one life; why not put in some extra effort to have it look and feel amazing? Yes, I am giving you full permission to go out and buy new stuff.”

Small flourishes go a long way to make a space look spesh. Picture: Erinna Giblin

Know your audience

We’re not referring to allergies and food dislikes, but rather to the unfortunate habits of your clique.

“If you’re having that friend over who always spills red wine, crack out the cheap tablecloth and reserve your indulgent linen set for when more civilised folk come ’round.”

And even though it may be your party, the comfort and enjoyment of your guests should come first.

“Let them eat how they want, use what they want to use, drink how they wanna drink. And always allow enough wine for everyone. Better safe than sober!”

Originally published as Dinner party table setting for dummies by Katie Skelly. Author at realestate.com.au.

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