Gathering around the dining table has been an important part of life for centuries. From everyday family dining, where we share our day’s trials and tribulations, to special occasions with guests, the dinner table is more than just a piece of furniture, it is often the heart of any home. A prominent part of culture throughout the last centuries, the strict social constraints surrounding the dinner table may have faded along with such class divides but thanks to influx of period dramas such as Downton Abbey the formal dinner setting is now back, and bigger than ever.
For diners in eighteenth-century England, the cultural customs of dining were the focus of the meal, and today the importance is about the appearance, the art of setting a table, or ‘Tablescaping’ as it has been newly coined. Traditionally of course a table was covered with a cloth, originating in Rome, the humble tablecloth came to represent wealth and dignity during the medieval period. Later, several tablecloths were laid upon one another and each removed after a course. In 18th century England fine wood tables were meant to be shown off, here dollies appeared, named after D’Oyley a London draper who is said to have invented them. Doilies then became placemats, which now are available in every colour, style & shape imaginable, allowing you to create the perfect base for your setting.
Sandy Chilewich, New York designer and founder of Chilewich home textiles has unquestionably redefined how the world dresses their tables at home and in restaurants. The ever growing tabletop collection of hardworking textiles is revered internationally for its modern design, ease of care and durability. Recently Chilewich was chosen to be the exclusive tabletop and flooring partner for the iconic ‘Oakley Safehouse’ at the London Olympics. Placemats, runners, napkins and more in a variety of colours and styles were rotated throughout the days to create a fresh look and feel for each meal service, catering for over 600 athletes during the Games earlier this summer.
Dinner services are now used for a lot more than pure function, they are an expressive feature of any table setting. Formal dining doesn’t have to be traditional in looks, a more modern movement amongst ‘tablescapers’ is the mix & match style of setting your table with pieces made from different materials and patterns. Gone are the days of always having to buy a complete dinner set, now you can simply update your table for different occasions with key pieces.
More and more fashion designers are stepping into real of home fashion and creating tableware. Diane Von Furstenberg has created ‘artistic abstraction’ for the dinner table with her Miro dinner service. Combining floral shapes with bold red, yellow, blue and black shades, just a few of the Miro table pieces will turn everyday meals into works of art. The iconic designer believes that how you dress the table is as important as how you dress yourself. “Never ‘dress down’ the table. Even if it’s just two of you in the kitchen, make it pretty. If you’re eating in the bedroom, make a beautiful tray,” she explained in an interview with House Beautiful magazine.
Designers Guild have released tableware collections for the first time this year, creating four ranges specifically designed to complement each other. Tricia Guild, the matriarchal founder explains “I am delighted to introduce Designers Guild for the table, a beautiful collection of luxurious contemporary tableware featuring stunning designs hand painted in our studio. The collection works in the most elegantly formal or relaxed, modern setting. Sparkling glassware, some with touches of colour, complements each design.”
Creating adaptable pieces is the way forward, being able to make the transition from everyday to formal is key, especially in these recession fuelled times. Following in the footsteps of fashion, tabletops can now be updated regularly and changed with the seasons and according to the mood. Use strong coloured pieces to add interest but always mix with classic white to maintain a balance. Also use texture, mixing smooth porcelain with natural wood and mixing linen with metallic fabrics can also create an inexpensive yet impressive style.
Add personalised finishing touches with pieces found on travels or from relatives. A unique serving bowl from somewhere exotic can spark conversation and offset the perfect table setting. Get creative combining shop bought staples with one off quirky finds and create a tablescape that will dominate your setting, making every meal unforgettable.
Home Design, How To