Curate an aesthetic that reads inviting and elevated.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to setting a table—be it for formal affairs, holiday gatherings or special guests. We embrace many lines of thinking when it comes to creating an ambiance of choice. Some hosts employ the more-is-more attitude and embrace layering, starting with table linens, chargers, every piece from grandmother’s china set, including serving pieces galore. And we’re here for it. All of it—right down to the fish forks and soup tureens.
Other hosts prefer to dial back when it comes to place settings and other table extras, allowing the food to savor the spotlight. Let’s create a dining table setting that doesn’t take over the dinner conversation—rather, it enhances it.
There is an art to the less-is-more approach. Making a quiet statement requires forethought and purposeful editing. To achieve the look, Lisa Robbins, founder and principal interior designer with Brick + Linen in Stillwater and Wayzata, offers suggestions.
“Guests at a table should feel pampered by the dining experience but not overwhelmed by décor,” she says. “Save room for serving and for guests to be able to place things around them for a comfortable experience. Having white space is visually appealing. Keep in mind that décor can also be functional. Napkins, serving bowls, cutting boards are ways to add functional décor.”
Planning around a color palette is a good foundation, but remember: The food is the star of the show. “Match the accent color around the occasion or holiday,” Robbins says. “Keep in mind traditional colors do not always need to be the answer. The mood of what you’re creating for the meal should inform the palette.”
Once the color story is set, it can be introduced by way of various methods. “Emphasis can come in many ways,” she says. “[Decide] what will be the star of the table and accent that element … let everything else play a subtle, yet elegant part. Having a collection of candlesticks can be the bold, yet elegant statement. A vintage vase of flowers can also be a statement.”
Are brass and gold still the way to go this fall? “Mixed metals continue to be a trend that I hope doesn’t go away,” Robbins says. “Pairing burnished brass with vintage silver is a good way to mix old and new. Iron and polished nickel can create a dramatic look.
“Don’t forget that nature is the best decorator,” she says, suggesting utilizing cut branches from the yard or garden to create a centerpiece. “Wood always warms up a table, either in a cutting board, bread bowl, individual salt cellars or wooden salad spoons,” she says.
Discover the importance of napkin presentation. “So much creativity can happen in a napkin fold,” Robbins says. “Recently, I found the inspiration for [a napkin folded like an envelope] and thought it felt like a gift was at each setting. A loose napkin draped on the plate is also an expression—casual and informal.”
Speaking of napkins, where do we stand when it comes to paper or cloth? It can be both, depending on the occasion. “… nothing compares to cloth for special occasions, but don’t save cloth for just the holidays. Surprise your family with a treat of cloth from time to time,” she says. “You will be surprised by their reaction.”
Tableware should feel special, Robbins says. And that can come by way of tending to its upkeep. “Notice when plates and bowls get scratches, and use Bar Keepers Friend cleanser to maintain their look,” she says. “Having things clean, polished and ready for guests is not only appetizing, but relaxes your guests. For table linens, choose fabrics that clean easily. For items with troublesome stains, repurpose them for other home uses.”
Brick + Linen’s storefronts offer home décor elements that read elevated, curated and tailored. Featured lines include CR Laine, Palecek and Woodbridge, as well as many boutique lines of accessories and elements that enhance daily living. “We carry handmade products, such as essential oil soap and linens from France,” Robbins says. “All of our candles are soy based and nontoxic. We believe in designing a life you love.”
In addition, Brick + Linen offers design services for new builds and renovation projects that include, but aren’t limited to, cabinetry, countertops, fixtures, furnishings, tile and more. “Our aesthetic is elevated organic,” Robbins says. “It is simple elegance achieved by harmonious balance of nature and art. We love a neutral palette as a base layer. Color is added in sparingly and meaningfully.”