It’s a well-known fact that a beautiful table setting complements almost any style of food for any type of entertaining. Never forget that first impressions are nearly always determined by decoration and layout of the table and the that they set tone of a meal . Here are some tried and tested basic rules to help you set the perfect table.

Try to match the style of your table to the type of food you are serving, e.g. a country lunch in the open will look much better served on a pretty gingham tablecloth with plain crockery than on a starched white linen cloth laid with cut glass, bone china and polished silver.

Once you have settled on a theme for your table, choose a suitable colour scheme using subtle shades throughout the setting.

Remember that coloured linen can transform the look of even the plainest table, while crisp damask napkins laid across Meissen charger plates speak volumes. Don’t use paper serviettes, no matter how pretty, if you want a truly stunning table.

Carefully selected bone china can dress a table up to the rafters, especially when it is embellished by antique silver cutlery, crystal and cut glass.

Elegant glassware has always been prized for its delicate colour range and unusual shapes, so incorporate lots of lovely glasses in your table design. If you want to make a real impression consider cashing in on the rare beauty of Venetian glass with twisted stems or gold embellishment.

Eating utensils can come in many guises from old family heirlooms to modern no-frills stainless steel. It is important for the well-dressed table that not only is the cutlery laid out in the exact order needed for use but also it should be very exact and straight.

Knives, forks and spoons almost thrown on the table gives an asymmetrical look that will detract from everything else you have done. Sometimes it pays, on a large table especially to measure out each place setting, starting from the middle.

Do always check that you have all the linen, plates, serving dishes, cutlery and glasses etc. that you need long before you intend to set the table.

For posh parties place cards and printed menus add a sense of occasion. Display them in silver holders or use folded cards that stand up on their own.

Although a little predictable candelabras can look very effective, particularly when used as almost the sole lighting. However be careful not to block guests’ views across the table with over tall combinations and don’t use scented candles in the dining room, as they can swamp the delicate flavour of your cuisine, and above all NEVER leave lighted candles unattended at any time.

Flowers are always a beautiful addition to any table and can also be combined successfully with fruit and even exotic vegetables such as globe artichokes or ornamental cabbages. However, don’t be too ambitious and place over-large, over-tall arrangements arrangements on tables as they will almost certainly block your guests’ view of their fellow diners.

Finally, if you organise lots of dinner parties be sure to take good care of your tableware, as you may need it as a friend for years to come. For example, wash all quality glassware by hand (a dishwasher will often leave an unsightly bloom when dry), never put a piece of china with
a metallic rim in the dishwasher or the microwave and store silver away from the air for optimal preservation.