A table, like a bed, is one of those things it’s easy to over-style. But in long summer evenings in particular, we much prefer the undone look mastered by the French, with perfectly imperfect tablecloths; unkempt, not-too-arranged flowers; and plenty of candles.
You don't necessarily need to bring out your best silverware or show off your speciality dish: a successful meal also comes down to the small details and the quality of your service. The French have set the rules for etiquette, which we can adjust a bit today. So let's learn how to set a table and entertain the French way.
Firstly, make sure to choose a color palette and stick with it. Limit your options to two to three colors max. It is recommended choosing calming shades of gray, pale pink, browns, and tans. The French countryside is made up of these colors.
Choose a tablecloth that is informal but elegant. Washed linen adds just the right relaxed and rumpled elegance to a dinner party table. Throw on a linen tablecloth and some complementary, but not matching, linen napkins in a shade or texture that differs from your table spread.
Keep your colors muted and flowers wild. Think more weeds and vines in your vessels than floral shop stems. When doing flowers for a table, play with dimensions and have several floral arrangements spread along the table with different heights and sizes. You can mix very low arrangements with higher ones, and even some vegetal elements—fruits, leaves, berries—installed directly on the tablecloth. And of course, make sure to choose a color and texture palette that will best combine with the other elements on the table.
Keep your flowers below the eye-line of your guests. This way your guests will be able to talk and interact without having to crane their necks over or around your floral arrangements.
Lastly, a few candles on the table always add a bit of elegance and romance. Either pared-down taper holders or small, low bowls with tea lights are a great option. The end result should look elegant but not stuffy, like your guests can really sit down and relax and stay for a long evening of wine, good food, and even better company.
Purchase the new issue of My French Country Home Magazine, and discover the magical way of table setting. My French Country Home, the magazine July/Aug 2022