Tablescaping 101: A How-To Guide for Everything Aesthetic
Yes, your delish food is going to be the star of the show — but accessorizing can take your guests’ dining experience to a whole other level. Curate the vibes for your gatherings with the art of tablescaping. The best part? Although your friends will ooh and aah at your domestic engineering skills, it really only takes a few visual tricks to make your spread look like a shot from Chef’s Table.
With our step-by-step guide you can take a table of delectable dishes to a true edible experience (without any serious thinking on your part).
Set the scene
Match your floralsOnce you’ve chosen a tablecloth, the next biggest focal point on your table is a centerpiece. Since the table is a relatively small space to decorate, consistency is key to keeping it pleasing to the eye. One fool-proof way to keep your table from becoming a mish-mash of your favorite things is to make smaller arrangements to match the centerpiece! With these scattered around, it will bring the entire table together. You can apply this to any item you choose to feature (eucalyptus branches, autumn leaves, baby Bratz dolls, etc.), as long as you keep it consistent! Plus, what guest doesn’t want their own personal flower beside their plate?
… But mismatch your dishware
And if you match your flowers, this opens up worlds of mis-matching in your dishware. Mismatching your dishware is not only an easy way to disguise the fact you don’t actually have a full set of dishes, but it also keeps the table visually interesting that distinguishes it from looking too traditional. Keep it tight with a color palette based on the tablecloth and the flowers, but throw in a contrasting color for a punch up! Balling on a budget? Go thrifting for some statement pieces or give new life to grandma’s old faves for a classy touch.
Take your lighting to new heights
Spend a few minutes considering the lighting scheme. Moody lighting is an integral part of setting the vibe — have you ever been to a restaurant that was just a bit too bright? It’s so distracting! However, you do want enough light to be able to see your food and, of course, your friends’ faces. It’s a delicate balance that takes a little practice. First, consider the natural light: Are there windows in your space? Is there still daylight? This may provide enough light to accentuate the candles on your tablescape. If it’s dark out, turn off the overhead light (unless it’s a pretty chandelier or light fixture on a dimmer switch), and turn on a lamp or two instead. Ideally, these will have low-wattage bulbs or Edison bulbs which provide flattering ambient lighting. Your goal is golden, glowy light that lends intimacy to the experience.
Speaking of candles, though your guests will probably be wowed as much with or without, adding tapered candles to your table creates the visual idea that your table (and space) is much taller than it actually is (and also some quality mood lighting). Go the extra mile by opting for unscented, tapered candles to ensure the delicious smells of your dishes are the star of the show. You can also experiment with pillar candles for a different look, or even tea candles for a budget-friendly way to set the mood! Plus, it never hurts to hit the local thrift store candle holders to complete the look!
Plating for Presentation
No matter how dope your tablescape, the food is still the star of the show at any dinner party or gathering. Plating has a real effect on how your guests will interact with the food: Family-style service, with trays, cutting boards, and deep bowls full of food create a festive, communal atmosphere. Don’t pile the platters too high, though; you don’t want food spilling as your friends pass it around.
Garnishing your dishes with fresh herbs and edible flowers adds pops of gorgeous color, while bringing other finishing touches to the table, like pinch bowls of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cheese, allows everyone to customize for their own diets and palates. For a more formal feel, compose individual plates and serve them to each guest (don’t forget to wipe down the edges of the plates for that clean, cheffy look!).
And remember: don’t get bogged down with making everything perfect. In the end, the main attraction is your friends (and you!) eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company — making it pretty is just the icing on the cake. Follow these tips (and your gut) and you’ll have the perfect vibes at your next get-together!