Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Crowded Light

William Yeoward in Southern Accents

Hard to imagine a more uncomfortable seat at a dinner party than one sandwiched too closely to the guests next to you or completely unable to move or cut your food for all the clutter and kitsch in the hostess's "tablescape".

A straightforward, if somewhat minimal, approach helps to be certain dinner guests are comfortable and able to maneuver if they need to rise from the table for any reason, or actually be able to use their utensils. No one will enjoy dinner if they are anxious about causing your stemware to tumble, dropping the six ceramic miniatures and napkin rings on the floor which constituted a "decorated" place setting, or cannot imagine a way not to unseat the guests on either side in order to use the powder room. Too many things on the table equals too much stress on the diner.

While these are lovely tables, I cringe at the lack of practicality suggested in some styled settings...

William Yeoward in Southern Accents

Martha Stewart Weddings

Martha Stewart Weddings

Better, it seems to the Hostess, to leave a bit of space and be conscious of how much room is left on the table for fluidity or dishes to be placed during the meal:

Style Me Pretty

Martha Stewart Weddings

One way I have helped myself to be certain I have not stacked the deck too tightly is to have the dishes and bowls for each dish ready in advance (they need to warmed anyhow and who wants to run around unstacking things when guests are waiting for supper?) and to place them on the table as a practice-run once the table is set but before the guests arrive. I will have to decide then, usually that morning, if I need to add leaves to the table, serve the food plated, or reduce the size of the centerpiece(s).

It might also help a host visually if one took a moment to step upon a chair and look down over the set table: In bird's eye view, does it leave enough space for comfort? For dishes, if the meal is family style? For personal space? This is how I see it before you see it...


Madame Meg said...

Hear, hear! One of my favorite ways to ensure both a compact centerpiece and space for food is to have the entire centerpiece contained within a tray or decorative plate that can be removed to a sideboard when the main course is ready to be served.

Teacats said...

Brillant posting! And so very true -- one needs a bit of room to put down a dish or bowl - unless someone wishes to keep zipping back-and-forth to the kitchen or butlers pantry! Also the trick is decide BEFORE the party what dishes need to be kept hot or cold! I always post a Battle Plan on the fridge to keep things moving along nicely (and to remember that the dinner rolls are in the oven! LOL!) Also -- a wise move to choose and prepare serving dishes before the party -- as well as serving utensils! LOL! Digging in the drawer to find a lost serving spoon can be very annoying! Thanks for a very useful and pretty posting!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Blushing hostess said...

Oh, so very true and saavy, Meg and Jan. My pleasure always. Be well...

Pigtown-Design said...

Love William Yeoward. I had the chance to meet him in London last fall. He's hilarious. I have two dozen of his crystal goblets. They're gorgeous, but weigh a ton!