The art of living is inventing your own personal universe, into which you can then welcome family and guests alike, be it for a casual dinner, or several days' stay.
The art of living happens first and foremost at the table, where the gift of a meal shared with family and friends is one of life's greatest pleasures. Dinnerware, cutlery, glassware, and decorations all add to the wealth of the experience.
The art of living is filled with warmth and softness. Lighting, fabrics, textures and colours all contribute to the glow and charm of a bedroom or a bathroom. Sheets and pillows, dressing gowns, bath towels- every detail adds to the comfort and pleasure of all those who share your space.
Whether you are hosting family, friends, or honoured guests, let 'beautiful' and 'good' be the words that guide you. Day to day, or on special occasions, it's the colours, objects, materials, tastes and smells in your environment that contribute to a sense of well-being. No need to be too sophisticated- all that's necessary are good intentions, and a desire to host with refinement and discretion.
But this simple goal is not always easy to achieve…
The art of receiving guests, whether for a meal or a visit lasting several days, is above all else about lifestyle, your style…
Here are some tips and tricks that may help you to define your own unique art of living…
The table itself is your first contact, your introduction to the shared feast to come.
The elegance of the line, the beauty of the decor, the finesse of the object, the harmony of knife and fork and glassware, all of this is a product of taste and of means.
But regardless of cost, a pretty table setting is a marriage of imagination and taste that bring together materials, shapes and colours that complement each other, be they fancy or ordinary.
It's all based on your impulse to create, not your capacity to spend!
Here are some ideas and suggestions that will help you to discover the pleasure of designing an attractive place setting:
|The dinner service||The glassware||The cutlery|
|The tablecloth||The table setting||The lighting|
|The seating arrangements|
China and porcelain make up the vast majority of today's dish sets. The large French china houses offer a broad range of high quality products, able to rival porcelain.
With regards to dishware, the ideal would be a porcelain service for entertaining, and another set, in china, for daily use. If that's not possible, then select a set of china that makes you happy, and that you will enjoy not just on special occasions but every single day. Regardless of your choice, your set should be comprised of at least 8 table settings.
Ensure that the store can guarantee that your model will be maintained, especially if you fear breakages or if you plan to add certain platters and accessories at a later date. Be sure to ask if the model you like is dishwasher-safe.
Most stores offer sets made up of a dinner plate, dessert plate, shallow bowl, cup, and saucer. Some sets will also include a side plate. Then, it's up to you to complete the set according to your needs and preferences!
A small bit of advice: double the number of dessert plates, if possible- you will use them more frequently than the larger plates, to serve an entree, some cheese, dessert, breakfast, a light lunch…
Both glass and crystal begin as sand. Different types and colours of glass are created by varying the proportions of the materials added to the base composition. This is how one gets crystal, crystalline, regular glass and even window glass!
The shape of every type of glass is adapted to the beverage it is meant to contain.
The main ones are as follows:
One can add other types of glasses from other sets, for beer, liqueur or port.
According to connoisseurs, the long-stemmed tulip glass is a must in order to properly savour a wine. The glass should be tall and bulb-shaped, narrowing at the mouth in order to concentrate and release the wine's aroma.
For a formal dinner, transparent glass is the preference. Wine enthusiasts are not fond of coloured glass as they disguise the wine's colour (robe). Coloured glass can, however, be used at a more informal, intimate meal, and also for an Alsatian wine or a rosé champagne, for example.
It's fun to look for old glasses at antique dealers and thrift shops, bazaars and flea markets, in order to build unmatched sets of glassware. There's nothing to stop you from setting your table with these finds- it's different, and so pretty! And as an added bonus, everyone's glass will be easily recognizable.
Knives, forks, spoons- for a dinner party one usually opts for silver or silver-plated cutlery.
For a more simple meal, stainless steel cutlery is perfectly suitable.
Seeing as a complete list of serving utensils would be extremely long, here are some of the more popular choices:
The tablecloth is the starting point to any table's décor. Will you choose the simplicity of stripes, the elegance of damask, a giddy print or a rustic check as your mood of choice? The tablecloth doesn't only dress up the table, it also protects it. It showcases your choice of dishes. It should be soft and inviting to the touch. It should also resist stains and clean easily. These days the tendency is toward natural fabrics. Linen, cotton, and mixes of the two remain your best choice, although synthetics can offer certain advantages.>
Before you even begin to dress your table, start with an indispensable quilted table pad. This thick layer holds the tablecloth in place, and provides a cusioned surface. It protects the table from damage caused by hot serving dishes or spilled drinks, and it mutes the noise of dishes and glasses.
When you have your table pad cut, make sure it correctly reflects the dimensions of the table. Add a slight excess of about an inch and a half per side. If your table has an extension, it is recommended that you have a pad for the all the different size options.
The first thing to consider is the type of event or occasion- is it a family gathering, an official reception or an evening amongst friends? This will influence your choice of table setting- tablecloth, dish and glassware, and cutlery. The elegant results, the complimentary colours and fabrics- it's all a question of style and planning!
A tablecloth cannot really be too long or too wide, but ideally one should aim for a 10' to 15' overhang on all sides.
Don't forget that a tablecloth made of a natural fabric will shrink 8 to 10 % at it's first washing.
It's not necessaary to use a round cloth on a round table and an oval cloth on an oval table. You can easily cover around table with a square tablecloth, or an oval table with a rectangular one- they will fall better and warp less. If you opt for this method, be sure to align the corners of the cloth with the legs of the table.
Should you decide to overlay two tablecloths, allow the first layer to fall low enough that the second does not cover it completely. On a round table one could, for example, use a smaller round cloth, or a square. On a square table, experiment with a second square tablecloth at a 90 degree angle to the first to form a diamond shape.
The anglo-saxon style of table mats, or placemats, are mostly used for casual family dining. Plaacemats come in a variety of different materials, such as plastic, straw, or quilted or woven fabrics. For a more formal meal one could use a lace or embroidered placemat. One could use a whimsical placemat on a solid tablecloth for effect. A placemat should always be large enough to contain the entire place setting.
Everyone's collection should contain at least one good quality white tablecloth ( with a damask pattern if you like). It will serve for a fancy occasion, but also more casually, if you overlay it with a smaller, more colourful cloth, or placemats.
Choose a colourfast fabric that will hold up well to frequent washings when purchasing a colourful tablecloth.
Keep in mind the style of your space, and that of your dishes. Consider the ambience that you would like to create. If your dishes are patterned, then opt for a solid tablecloth. If they are more plain, then feel free to choose something more eye-catching. Shoot for a harmonious blend in terms of colour. Unless you are buying a tablecloth as part of your room décor, do not worry about matching the wall colour- match the dishes instead! The ultimate goal is a beautiful table, not necessarily one that matches the room in which you are sitting. The meal is the thing, and the table is where it's at!
It's not necessary to match napkins to your tablecloth, either. Crisp white napkins will complement any tablecloth. And inversely, varied and colourful napkins can liven up a plain white tablecloth in a jiffy (and make it easy for everyone to recognize which one belongs to them!). If your tablecloth is very patterned or colourful then the napkins could certainly be a solid colour that picks up one of the main tones in the tablecloth.
If you happen to be handy, then have some fun and fold the napkins into pretty shapes! The easiest options are folded into triangles and placed in the plate itself, or folded into a rectangle and placed to the left of the plate.
Try to avoid paper napkins. Save them for picnics, buffets, and children's parties, or for cocktail hour.
A pretty table is the first point of contact for your guests. The tablecloth is indispensable as a canvas for a neat and proper table setting.
Glasses are placed above the plate, and their quantity depends on the gravity of the occasion. For a friendly dinner, two is sufficient- one for water and one for wine. If your guests are wine buffs, then at least three are in order, one for water, one for red, and one for white wine.
Glasses are placed slightly offset, on the righthand side, according to one of these formulas :
The champagne flute is always placed a bit behind the other glasses since it will be served along with the dessert.
The knife is to the right of the plate with the sharp edge facing in. The spoon is also on the right. The fork goes to the left of the plate (with the tines pointing upwards in the English fashion, or downwards in the French).
If they are set before the start of the meal, then the cheese knife and fork, and the dessert spoon, are placed between the glasses and the plate. The dessert spoon and the cheese knife lay with their handles to the right, with the knife edge always toward the plate. The fork is inversed, with the handle on the left.
If your flatware consisits of multiple forks and knives, place them in the order that they will be used, with the first on the outside, and the ones that will be used last right next to the plate.
Tablecloth and table setting are important, and so is the food on your plates. But when weaving a magical atmosphere around your meal, lighting is paramount. Here again, the key words are softness and warmth. Whether electric or candle, lighting the table is an art in and of itself. Be creative!
They make eyes shine, and create a soft and intimate setting around your table. Inside or out, in candleholders or lanterns, even in hanging lamps- candles will infuse both your quietest dinners and your craziest parties with spirit.
Mostly cylindrical, candles can be found in many other shapes- squares, balls, flowers, pine trees, and so on.
A more traditional candle in cream or white will match any tablecloth. Once again, a less formal setting allows for candles that match the tablecloth, the flowers, or the dishes.
A high quality candle burns slowly. Burning at a rate of approximately an inch per hour, it should easily last the length of a meal.
Scented candles are not appropriate for the table, as the perfume can distort the taste of the food.
Floating candles are most often presented in glass vases or bowls. The flame is magnificent when reflected by the water. You can even add some flower petals, with the stems removed…
Vented candles have a hole in the center, allowing the advantage of the wax dripping down the center, not the outside, of the candle. Without the vent, it is suggested that you use a drip tray, a small glass ring that collects the wax and prevents it from dripping down onto the tablecloth.
A candlestick- a vertical shaft on a base that holds a single candle- is the simplest incarnation of the candelabra. They are placed in the center of the table, in clusters of three or four.
A candelabra holds multiple candles. Many shapes and sizes of both candlesticks and candelabras are available. They can be further decorated with flowers, fruit, vines, or ribbons.
Lanterns enclose a candle, in order to protect the flame from drafts and wind. They are often, but not always, made of glass. They are ideal for dining al fresco.
All glasses, and even an assortment of different ones, can work as lanterns.
Tealights are, essentially, mini lanterns. They can be easily placed on the table, or in a windowsill. They can be strung on branches or balcony railings. If you have enough room, you can even place one for every guest.
It is not necessary to store your candles in the refrigerator in order to keep them longer. In point of fact, the cold can result in cracking. Store them in a cool, dry place, flat in a box, and out of the light in order to avoid discoloration.
Deciding on where to place your guests at table is often perceived to be more complicated than a jigsaw puzzle!
When it's time to be seated, guide your guests to the table and show them where they are sitting. Placecards, little folded cardboard cards personalized with the names of the guests and waiting at their places, are a thoughtful touch.
Here's a little trick for when your guests do not all already know each other: write their names on both sides of the placecard. This will allow the guests to see their fellow diners' names.
The custom is for the host and hostess to sit facing each other, at either end of the table (in the French style) or at the center of the tanle (in the English style).
If the party is being held in someone's honour, then this person presides over the meal, and is seated in the host's place. To the right and left of the hosts, place the most important and the most senior guests, and also those who are being welcomed for their first visit.
Ideally, insofar as possible, men and women should alternate in their positions around the table. Close friends, or married couples, are normally seated separately, but always leave an engaged couple next to each other!
You can choose to group the children all together at one end of the table. However, more and more often these days, we prefer to see a mix of generations.
When there are several small tables, custom dictates separating the host and hostess, and couples, from each other.
At informal meals, the most important thing is that your guests be comfortable. One must therefore take into account everyone's likes and dislikes, so that everyone is fully at ease.
If you have a guest who is especially tall, watch out for the legs of the table, as accidents will happen, and quickly!