THE TIMELESSNESS OF FORMAL DINNERWARE
These days, you very seldom need to pull all the stops when setting a table, at least not when it comes to the degree of formality you should resort to. But here’s the thing: if we unlearn the old skills – those mainstays we always had at our fingertips when someone important came to dinner, or when we simply wanted to revisit the golden era of dining – will we ever be able to tap back into them? Not only that, but the formal table setting has remained the gold standard since the Renaissance. We can deviate from it, zhoosh it up or down, but in the end it’s the true north of table settings, and a great skill to have in your decorative arsenal – even if it’s just for your Sunday-night brie and crackers. Go on, spoil yourself.
STAY TRUE TO STYLE
Tableware should always reflect your personal style and the style of the occasion in some way, not some unrealistic ideal you saw on Downton Abbey. To do this, opt for a classic dinnerware set, but change things up with your table décor.
ADD YOUR PERSONAL TOUCH
Choose decorative elements that say something about your inspirations. Even dinnerware with a flourish, like a gold rim or monogram, can convey subtle messages about your taste. Bring in personal quirks, like foliage from your garden, candles that create a talking point (even if they seem a little unusual), and ornaments like statues and stuffed animals (choose your crowd well). Let your imagination go wild.
A formal table setting should be classic and timeless. In other words, understated and refined rather than loud and à la mode. Opt for solid or banded pieces. They’re more versatile, and you can use them as bases for more colourful or adventurous pieces to anchor the overall style of your table setting.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU’LL USE IT FOR
Most dinnerware comes in sets of four, so consider whether you mostly plan on hosting double dates or dinner for groups of friends and family. A set normally includes a charger (the big under-plate), a dinner plate, a side plate, a pasta bowl and a cereal bowl. Get a set of these and you can’t go wrong. Most experts recommend having 8-12 pieces in a set.
WHEN IN DOUBT, GO NEUTRAL
There are truly beautiful options in the formal dinnerware arena ranging from lurid Versace-style items to ornate, floral and downright Argentine in their craftsmanship, but in the end, if you don’t have the luxury of keeping 5 sets of dinnerware in various cupboards around the house, go for white or off-white with very little or no embellishments. You’ll grow tired of anything that’s too busy far sooner than you think.
By nature, formal dinnerware is not for everyday use, but you shouldn’t deny yourself the joy of making an occasion of the small triumphs, like mastering your first risotto or getting that promotion.