It stands to reason at any dinner party that the table should be the centre of attention – second only to the food itself. Oh, and maybe the guests.
But we've all been to enough dinner parties (or at least seen enough episodes of Come Dine With Me) to know that this is all too often not the case.
So here are 10 quick and (relatively) easy ways that you can make your dinner table look on-trend, elegant and – most importantly of all – memorable.
Every dinner party host is looking for more or less the same thing: to give their guests a good time, and to find the finishing touches that make the experience more memorable and more unique.
Making your own personalised decorations is a great way to make your guests feel like you’ve put them at the centre, and origami is a (relatively!) easy way to create simple but stunning decorations.
Most traditional origami themes are nature related, so it’s easy to find instructions for making all kinds of flowers or animals. You can even make whole centrepieces or displays from very simple flower patterns, while if you venture into the world of kusuduma (origami with glue), you can create gorgeous balls of blossoms.
A riot of colour, or a simple theme, all you need is the paper and a little bit of practice.
Lots of you will probably think this some form of sacrilege. We all have some old records lying around that we’re either too embarrassed to play anymore, or are just too damaged to be of any auditory use.
So put them to a culinary one instead – they also make pretty funky placemats or coasters as well as good talking points. Or if your vinyl is too valuable to you, you can do the same with CDs, which you can also use to create mirrored decorations that will reflect candlelight across the room.
Edible flower arrangements
A couple of years ago, edible flowers were the thing for anyone with a pretension to high quality dining, at home or otherwise. They’ve fallen out of fashion a little lately as big chunky foods muscled their way back into the frame (looking at you pulled pork and burritos), but these little flowers look equally gorgeous in flower arrangements as on plates.
Combine these with some fresh herb plants for table decorations with optional table foraging! Expand the theme with other edible table dressings for dessert, like spun-sugar decorations, fruit trees.
Salt is another thing that’s a little out of fashion, and for good reason. There’s more you can do with providing salt at your dinner party table than finding some novelty shakers. Try providing a few different types of coloured ‘finishing’ salts – check out examples like Himalayan Pink Salt, Hawaiian Black Lava Salt, or infused lemon or chili salts.
These will add colour to table and dish, with the added benefit of making you look like you really know your food. These often come coarse and in quite large chunks that need to be broken down with grater, or mortar and pestle – grind them down beforehand, but serve them in the mortar and pestle, throwing in a few of the big chunks for a rustic look.
Bold colours out, patterns in
Black and white, red, silver: classic colour schemes that still work. Brash and bold colour pairings are exciting but can put people on edge; try some art nouveau-inspired floral patterns for tablecloth and textiles are subtle but easily complemented by bolder statement colours in decorations.
Explore pairings of delicate blues with vivid red splashes, or curling natural greens with flashes of deep purple.
Tea floating candles
Some teas are a gorgeous colour. Maybe not the wee yellow of some green teas, or the muck brown of your bog-standard teabag, but the gorgeous reds of rooibos and lapsang suchong, or purples, oranges and pinks with fruit infusions.
Cold coloured tea in a glass bowl or candle holder with some floating tealights will give your table a fabulous glow and aroma.
We’ve been drinking our beers from jam jars for the past year or so, and there’s something to be said for it – repurposing old containers and materials is all for the good. And just as every house has a jar or two, every one seems to have one of those old metal teapots nobody uses anymore.
If rustic and recycled is the vibe you’re going for, a little bit of spit and polish, maybe a bit of home decorating, a bit of rigging with a tea-light or two and some stands…great little communal table saucière!
Wineglass candle holders
On the subject of repurposing, we’ve come a long way from dribbly wine bottle candle-holders. Wine glasses are a much brighter and more elegant solution.
Round-bottomed wine glasses can hold big bright candles, while patterned crystal tumblers will create reflections and refractions for you to play with. Also, flower pots for cutlery, jugs for flowers, and…
Not just for dessert. Whatever our good intentions when we buy them, most people simply don’t have afternoon tea and scones in their own homes all that often. These multi-tiered constructions tend to sit in our cupboards gathering grime and dust – so it's probably best to find more ways to make use of them.
Thankfully, they do make a great way to serve starters, dips, sides, condiments, sambals, anything you’re serving that you might want to share. They’re not so big that they’ll obscure the dinner guest opposite you, and they’re usually rotatable, so that your guests can browse as they like.
And for dessert… loose tea afters
Place a tray of small clip-top jars or pots of loose teas in the middle of the table – fruit teas, green teas, black teas, herbal teas are cheap to pick up for 50-100g for your guests to explore and experiment with.
Give each guest their own small glass cup or tea bowl with infuser, and have a few pots of hot water for the table. Guests can choose just one, or have small cups of a few, plus the colours and aromas will wash away any lingering garlic breath…