When it comes to setting the table for a formal or semi formal dinner party, I prefer the classic look. Here are a few guidelines I go by:
- Use white or light beige table cloth, with an under cloth (I use a white Army blanket or a rubber mat). Do not use brightly colored table cloth such as red, navy or black or even yellow for that matter. Special occasions like Halloween are different, but even then I’d stay with white or pastels
- A little bit of lace (A LITTLE BIT) is great if it fits the mood
- For lunch or dinner with friends and family, you can do without a table cloth, as long as your table is made of a nice material such as rosewood, oak…
- Try to avoid place mats even for breakfasts
- Do not mix bright colors (do not use bright colors unless you absolutely have to because of a theme etc…)
- Avoid nick nacks on your table. It is not a yard sale. All items should have a purpose!
- Make sure the flower arrangements match the rest of the setting both in color and style. Flowers and other plants on your table are where you can freely play with colors (as long as they are natural).
- Flower arrangements should be short enough or high enough so people can see each other at all times
- Never put more than 3 pieces of silverware on each side of the plate at any one time. Vintage silverware is really cool (and really cheap these days; at least in France)
- You can never go wrong with white china. Only use gold or bright colors for the holidays (I avoid them altogether).
- Pattern china is fine as long as it is not for a formal business function. Mixing vintage plates can be a lot of fun too.
- Never, ever use glass or translucent plates. They are just atrocious to look at and show all sorts of finger prints, scratches and smudges
- Candles are a nice touch. They set the mood quite nicely I find
- Use classic shapes for your wine glasses. You can play around with the water glasses. I love the cobalt blue Ritz-Carlton glasses
There are lots of other tips I could give you. As a rule, keep things simple and elegant.