THE BEAUTY OF CASUAL DINING IS THAT YOU CAN THROW THE RULES OUT AND CONCENTRATE ON CREATING A COMFORTABLE, CONVIVIAL ATMOSPHERE THAT WILL ENHANCE A FAMILY DINNER, A CATCH-UP WITH FRIENDS, OR AN AFTERNOON TEA PARTY.
The key to casual dining with flair is to use colours and decorations to make your dining table and chairs come alive, even before the food arrives. There are no hard and fast rules for setting a table for a casual dinner. However, the diagram below, courtesy of One Kings Lane, is a great starting point.
PLACEMATS AND TABLE RUNNERS
Placemats and table runners are practical, but they also give you the opportunity to spice up a casual dining setting. Placing a table runner down the centre of a large table enhances an otherwise plain surface and creates an anchor for your table decorations. Choose napkins and crockery which complement the colours in the table runner.
If you have a timber dining table, try a simple textured charcoal table runner with matching charcoal placemats and offset them with plain white plates. To finish, add a centrepiece that works with the colour of your napery—perhaps a casual grouping of fresh flowers in a glass vase, a hurricane with a scented candle and a decorative (yet practical) napkin holder. This creates a cohesive look which enhances the natural charm of the timber.
Placemats are an easy option for casual dining with children and they add instant colour and style to your setting. But what about food stains? Forget about plastic placemats (which take between 100 and 1000 years to biodegrade), a quick soak in a colour safe soaking solution overnight should remove most stains from your cotton placemats safely.
PLATES FOR A TOUCH OF COLOUR
For a quirky option perfect for fun afternoon catch-ups or informal parties, alternate different coloured placemats and plates. You could choose blue, pink and purple placemats and put a pink plate on the blue, a purple plate on the pink and a blue plate on the purple. Tie the look together by ensuring all other cups, utensils and decorations are of one matching colour only.
TABLE CENTREPIECES FOR A POP OF PERSONALITY
A centrepiece can be anything that takes your imagination—and it doesn't have to revolve around a floral arrangement (although they are always lovely). Here are some interesting ideas:
- Half fill three or five different sized clear glass vases with water, and place fruit such as lemons, limes or apples inside to create a refreshing, floating visual.
- For a beachy feel, layer large jars or clear vases with sand and top with shells of different sizes and colours.
- To create a shabby-chic look, use a lantern as the centrepiece and place small bunches of dried flowers in pastel shades around it. Use mismatched, vintage dinnerware to complete the look.
- For a long table, use tall vases in alternating colours and sizes such as white and aqua down the centre of the table, and place yellow gerberas in each.
- Even if you're not hosting high tea, try using a tiered cake stand as a centrepiece and place different coloured fruits on each level. For example, green apples on the bottom, lemons in the middle and strawberries on the top. Match the colours with your table décor.
The sky is the limit when it comes to creative ideas for styling a casual dining table. The only rule of thumb is to blend your theme, colours and dinnerware together, so the overall effect has a sense of rhythm and flow. With a small amount of effort and a splash of style, you can turn all your casual dining experiences into memorable events!