How to style a Dining Table

So I have to admit, I don’t actually own a dining table (does a breakfast bar count?) due to lack of space, but I’ve always wanted one. Therefore, I wouldn’t say I’m the best at styling a dinner table. I can, however, just about remember the layout of dinnerware and cutlery as I did silver service many years ago (only for a month, I really disliked it). So I have a slight obsession with making it completely perfect!

With the Easter fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to host a dinner party. All you need is the right cutlery, glassware, and dinnerware, the rest can easily fall into place.

I asked the leading cutlery and tableware designers, Robert Welch, for their top tips on laying the perfect table without adding to your stress levels! They very kindly provided some great advice and some beautiful images of their products. Hope you enjoy!

How to set a table

Top 5 tips for your table

Starting with the basics of where to put things and the order.

  1. Dinner plates should sit in the centre of the place setting. Set cutlery on the table in the order of use, starting from the outside, working inwards with each course.
  2. Forks should be set to the left of the plate, with knives placed to the right, blade edges facing inwards. Soup spoons should go to the right of the knives.
  3. Dessert forks and spoons should be laid above the plate with the fork prongs facing right and the spoon bowl facing left.
  4. Side plates always go on the left of the dinner plate.
  5. Glassware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate; red wine, white wine and water glasses.

Pure White Tablecloth

To finish off the look

You’ve now got the core of the table sorted, this is the fun bit, creating the overall look and style!

Tablecloth: Nothing says ‘special occasion’ more than a crisp white tablecloth. A tablecloth should fall at least a foot below the top of the table and no less than 15cm above the ground. Before spreading the tablecloth, it’s a good idea to a lay a blanket over the table to prevent spillages or hot dishes marking it.

Placemats: Put placemats in front of each chair that will be used for the dinner party. Try and leave 30cm between guests for comfort. Use a combination of cloth and chargers to add a new dimension to your formal dining table.

Neutral Napkins

Napkins: There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to napkins. If you are simply folding a napkin in half then placing it to the left of the plate, underneath the forks, is perfectly okay. For more ornately folded napkins, the centre of the dinner plate is the location of choice. High-quality paper napkins are more than acceptable for a casual affair, with linen and cotton the choice for formal table settings. For a buffet, cutlery can be wrapped in a napkin.

Bread and butter plate: This small round plate should be set about 10cm above the forks. Place a small butter knife or butter blade horizontally over the plate, the blade facing to the left.

Coffee Cups

Coffee cups: Always set the coffee cup and saucer, along with a suitable stirring spoon, a few centimetres above the outer most utensil on the right.

Extra cutlery: There are plenty of specialist eating utensils available for more exotic menus. Oyster forks, lobster picks, snail tongs and fish knives and forks can all be added to the formal table setting if you’re planning to serve up something different. Just remember to place them in order of use and you can’t go far wrong.

Accessories: The really fun part of setting a table is the accessorising! Candles, flowers, name card holders, runners and napkin rings can all be added to dress up a table for a whole range of events. Setting a colour palette is a good way to start, then you can build up a collection of little extras to make the table shine.

Focus on the little details like tying the cutlery into a bundle with ribbon or twine to create a focal point on the plates.

Big thank you to the team at Robert Welch for sharing their top tips with us. For further information and to shop their large collection of cutlery, tableware glassware, and much more, visit the website: