Modern Table Setting Etiquette

July 13, 2017

Practical lessons in setting an elegant spread.

Dream gig: lady who lunches. Real gig: lady who scarfs down lunch at her desk. Luckily, there’s weekends and holidays to plan memorable meals for your family and friends. Whether you’ve set plenty of tables for guests or you’re new to the hostessing game, we’ve gathered a set of lessons that cover the basics. From selecting a palette to where your knife and spoon should go, we’ve detailed modern table setting etiquette below along with our favorite products that bring sleek style to the table.


1. Pick out a (color) palette for your (food) palette.
How you set a table sets the tone for the meal to come. Dressed-up dinnerware implies a more special feast. And if you’re serving a colorful meal, strike a balance with serveware to make sure the food really stand out. Start with a subtly patterned placemat to round out each setting, then add a dinner plate. Our picks: register placemats and costa blue dinnerware—a sophisticated and easy combination that says “Yes, my table always looks this cool.”

2. Stack the deck with a fashion-forward pattern combo. We’d go with a floral serving tray and black and white plaid napkins–because there’s no place for paper towels at a grown-up table setting.

3. Keep cutlery in order.
An easy way to remember the fork, knife, spoon line-up is think left to right in alphabetical order: F, K (blade facing in), then S. Our knight flatware set is a great choice because of its clean lines, timeless style, contributing just the right amount of edge in black.

4. Pair up versatile glassware.
Don’t limit your drinks or your drinkware options. In the setting above, versatile suave barware sits pretty with ambient lighting from a black candle bowl.

5. A simple centerpiece is all you need.
If you want blooms, go for a single variety of flowers or branches from the yard. In this case, appetizers on a tiered server adds a hint of drama without being too distracting–colorful veggies and fruits look more vibrant against the black backdrop.

6. Shake things up with small details.
A stylish salt and pepper set will add flavor to the meal, and to the conversation–this set of cobra shakers is our current favorite. Here’s the rule for seasoning: Always pass salt and pepper shakers together, even when only one is requested. Also, never season your food before tasting it first.