Most nights it’s enough just to get dinner on the table, so whether you dine on paper plates or on patterned china probably doesn’t matter much. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for crisp linen napkins, a pretty centerpiece, and a delicious meal served on your “good” dishes. Plus, it’s an easy way to elevate your evening using things you already have tucked away in the cupboards. So make like Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate, to friends) will be joining you for dinner, and follow these tips for a perfectly prepped table.
Assemble the basics. Choose a tablecloth in a neutral shade, such as white, beige, or ecru. If you love the look of your table and prefer not to cover the entire surface, opt for a damask runner and beautiful place mats to achieve a more formal look. Choose napkins that match the tablecloth, and add decorative napkin rings for a dash of sparkle or color.
Set a proper table. Not sure whether the forks go to the right or left of the plate? Thankfully there are tons of Websites with instructions (and diagrams!) on the correct order of flatware and the proper placement of water glasses, wine goblets, and bread plates. Although most newer china is dishwasher-safe, your best bet is to hand wash any heirloom pieces—including crystal and stemware with a silver or gold rim, which can discolor in the dishwasher. Lay a towel in your sink before filling it with hot water to prevent chipping. Wash the glasses one at a time with a soft cloth or stemware brush, and after rinsing with hot water, dry with a lint-free cloth to prevent spotting.
Add in the extras. Once the table is set, personalize it with pretty salt and pepper shakers, crystal or sterling candlesticks, and fresh flowers. For an inexpensive option, arrange a tight, monochromatic cluster of white or pale pink carnations in a simple white vase. It’ll add a touch of elegance without breaking the bank.
Keep your linens in tip-top shape. If you notice red wine on your napkins or gravy on the tablecloth after the meal, apply a stain treatment right away, then launder the items with a liquid detergent that will get your linens super clean without sacrificing softness. And always use the gentle cycle for your special linens.