The essentials of designing the perfect table setting

Yes, it's time once again to set the table for dinner! At Chez Pluie, we believe setting the table is not a mundane task, but a uniquely artistic ritual that reflects our values of hospitality and elegance. In this article, we’ll delve into the art of setting the table and provide a step-by-step guide to creating the most beautiful table setting, which expresses your own tastes and traditions.

Elegant table setting with florals and green glasses

So, where do we start? The first element to creating your perfect setting is considering what theme, colors, and style to choose. This initial vision will help you choose the other elements of the table setting and can also help you look for inspiration. 

For example, if you’re planning to host a beachy casual event, you could play with incorporating décor like wicker placemats, sea glass flower vases, pearl-rimmed plates, and using lots of soft blues and white to add to the beachy feel. Or say you’re looking to host a formal dinner party, with an elegant, sophisticated atmosphere. For this you could consider decorating with white table linens, fine china, crystal glassware, and refined centerpieces, like tasteful candleholders or crystal vases with tall floral arrangements. 

If you’re unsure in which direction to go, it may help outlining some popular décor themes to give you some inspiration.

For a casual, summertime gathering there are:

  • Boho Chic – A casual and fun theme with vibrant colors (often dark, like brown and purple), patterning, mixing and matching, natural accents, and plenty of potted plants to complete the atmosphere. Majolica ceramics and an assemblage of vintage and antique plates would be a perfect starting point to achieve this style.
    Image may contain Tree Plant Grass Yard Outdoors Nature and Building
  • Garden Party – A charming theme for an outdoor party that uses soft pastel colors, floral patterns, and of course, fresh flowers.
Sanctuary Home Decor summer centerpiece
  • Cottagecore – An increasingly popular theme for cozy, nostalgic settings. Think floral patterns, vintage décor, and all the makings for countryside comfort.
  • 4 Ways To Set Your Table This Summer
  • Rustic Farmhouse – A rustic, charming collection of distressed wood, antique accents, and neutral colors.

For a more sophisticated event, themes include:

  • Art Deco Glamour – A revival of the bold colors, luxurious accents, and geometric patterns of the 1920s.

  • Classic Elegance – Timeless sophistication with neutral colors, gold accents, and beautiful fabrics.
  • French Country Chic – Where the French countryside’s rustic charm meets elegance. This theme often uses porcelain and crystal dinnerware, a muted color palette, weathered wood and wrought iron (to accentuate an authentic countryside feel), delicate linens, and antique accents. Naturally the Chez Pluie specialty!

You can also never go wrong by decorating seasonally:

  • Winter Wonderland – A cozy yet stylish collection of shimmery accents, soft cozy textures, and a light, muted color palette.
  • Rustic Spring – To celebrate winter’s end, decorate with blooming flower arrangements, bright colors, and natural elements like wood and wicker accents.
Ensemble cottagecore table setting
  • Fall Farmhouse décor – This theme uses warm colors and unique accents like leafy garland and pumpkins to decorate for the season.
  • Chic Halloween – Take traditional Halloween décor and mix it with a sophisticated aesthetic for Chic Halloween. It uses stylish black and gold accents, elegant pumpkins, cascading candlesticks, and spooky minimalist décor.
  • Bohemian Summer – This theme incorporates vibrant summer colors into beautiful bohemian style, mixing with a variety of patterns and woven accents.

  The possibilities are endless! 

Veranda table setting

Now that you have some ideas, it’s time to set the table!

The key to designing a visually interesting table setting (for any style or occasion,) is creating a sense of depth, achieved by layering a variety of elements on your table. Here’s a good way to separate the many levels of the perfect table setting:

  1. Base Level - This is where we’ll place the tablecloths, placemats, etc.
  2. Decorative Elements and Table Centerpieces – Any decorative elements, such as garland and candles, should be added along with the table centerpiece. Add these items before you place your dishes and glassware.
  3. Dishes - Next, we add the dishes and accessories, like linen napkins, silverware, and serving boards.
  4. Glassware - Now we add the glassware! This may be a couple of sets of glasses, one for water, one for wine, and maybe even another for champagne, coffee, or tea.
  5. Dessert! - Lastly, we’ll bring out desert trays and coffee service.

1. Base Level

Firstly, we’ll start at the base level of the table. This is where you choose your tablecloths (or placemats,) and table runners.

Note - Although you’ll place them later, it’s often nice to match your napkins to the tablecloth or table runner either using the same fabric pattern or choosing one of the colors in the tablecloth or runner and going with that for your napkins.

2. Decorative Elements and Table Centerpieces

Next, we can start to place some decorative elements like garlands and candlesticks on the table, along with the table centerpiece. A centerpiece is typically at the middle of the table and sets the tone for the rest of the décor. This is where your creative taste and decorative themes will really start to stand out, so be sure to choose pieces that will complement one another.

Holiday table setting with garland and candelabra

We are delighted to share with you an exclusive sneak peek photo of this year’s holiday table setting by Chez Pluie. We hope this might give you some inspiration, or at the very least show you how effortlessly you can style a beautiful table centerpiece with a touch of creativity and thoughtful selection of your centerpiece elements. For our table, we’ve chosen a seasonal garland and a pair of Napoleon III candelabras that complement the light fixtures and the holiday ambience. 

Holiday table setting with garland and candelabra

 If you’re not sure what to choose for your centerpiece, floral arrangements are always a reliable choice to add freshness and vibrancy to the table. Floral arrangements are not only a great choice for their aesthetic appeal, but also because they’re extremely versatile. There are so many different ways to style florals, as well as an array of colors and species to choose from. To sum up, whether you’re catering to a large summer party, a family dinner, or a romantic date night, florals are a forever fail-safe option.

Happy Happy Nester florals

When displaying florals, there’s really no way to go wrong. You can choose a vase for them that fits your overarching themes, colors, and style, or use the arrangement as the main pop of color on your table. We also love florals in champagne and ice buckets, as shown above. Here are a couple of our favorite flower buckets and vases that we think would look great on any table, followed by a few of our other favorite centerpiece items here at Chez Pluie:

Vintage French champagne bucket

Vintage French champagne bucket, lovely for champagne or floral arrangements!

Exceptional pair of wine bottle coasters date from the early twentieth century

Napoleon III Bronze and Blue Faience table centerpiece

Napoleon III bronze and blue table centerpiece 

Weighty pair of bronze candlesticks from the eighteenth century

Beautiful large French cachepot from the nineteenth century

Louis XV style large bronze candelabras

Beautiful pair of Louis XVI style bronze candelabras

3. Dishes and silverware

Next, it’s time to add the dishes. Whichever theme, colors, or style, our greatest advice is to stick to layering! Choose a couple of dining sets with different sizes of dishes, the larger set to serve as the dinner plates, and the smaller being the salad plates. At each placemat, stack the dinner plate, followed by the salad plate and napkin. Not only does this add visual interest to your table, but it also shows your guests you’ve put in a little extra effort to set the table and prepare the meal.

Although it’s always fun to mix and match when choosing dish sets, you can also choose a dinner service set, which helps to create a cohesive look for your table setting in whatever style you choose.

Here are some of our favorite dinner service sets from Chez Pluie:

A rare antique French porcelain dinner service from the late 1800s

A superb 19th century Parisian porcelain dessert service, white & gold

German meissen oignon blue dinner service set

Beautiful Meissen-Oignon hand painted dinner service set 

Set of asparagus plates dating from the 1940s or 1950s

Limoges dinnerware set with gold rim

Limoges dinnerware set with gold rim, dating from the 1960's

For the complimenting dishes, you’ll want to think about what you’ll be serving so that you can choose the perfect items. Wooden troughs make excellent bread and salad bowls, and we always recommend using some beautiful ceramic dishes and platters. Below are just a few of our favorites at Chez Pluie. 

Rustic wooden trough/dough bowl

A lovely pair of antique French earthenware platters from the early / mid twentieth-century. Branded Digoin. 

Vintage Platter from Dieulefit  

Green and yellow tian bowls from the village of Saint Jean de Fos, known for their pottery. 

French salad bowl with fig detailing, comes with garlic grater 

Utensil pot with fig detail, from Provence

It’s also a great idea to serve the meal on multiple levels. You can do this with raised serving boards, tiered trays, and even blocks to elevate the dishes. This layering adds an aesthetic element to the table and also can help your guests reach the dishes, which can be especially helpful if you have a large group at the table.

A gorgeous fruit bowl or coup dating from the 1930s / 1940s

Items like this raised bowl or coup are great for plating food and can help to open up the table. This is especially nice if you’re using centerpiece items like garland, (like the garland in our Chez Pluie holiday table setting,) which you'll find can separate the table down the middle.


Next, we add the silverware! When setting the table, it’s customary to have your forks on the left, (the salad fork on the outside, followed by your larger dinner fork on the inside next to the plate,) your knife and spoon on the right side, (the knife on the inside, and the spoon on the outside,) and lastly, your dessert spoon at the top, above your plate. For formal table settings, you'll also have a bread plate, butter knife, and typically a place card at the top of each plate. 

Informal table setting

 It’s hard to go wrong when choosing silverware, but it can be especially fun and memorable for your guests to choose unique silverware sets. Below you’ll find some photos of a few of our favorites.

An exquisite 72-piece Christofle cutlery set dating from the late twentieth century. The design is called the Orly Model, designed by Lino Sabattini (Italian, 1925–2016).

Victorian silver plated seafood flatware set

Victorian seafood flatware set, made by Joseph Gloster of Lion Silver Works (1908-1978)

It can also be fun and unique to add some silverware accessories, like these vintage knife rests, which are also featured in our holiday table setting! 

4. Glassware

Now we can add the glassware. When setting the table, it’s usually customary to have a wine glass and a water glass at the top right of each plate. However, depending on the occasion, you could also have a champagne flute at each plate, or even two different sets of glasses for white wine and red wine. Vintage bar carts can look great set against a wall or corner of the dining room.

Here are some of our favorite glassware sets: 

Four rare signed Daum crystal champagne flutes with green pâte de verre petal-shaped stems

12 French silver plated wine glasses

Set of twelve French silver plated wine glasses

Antique French crystal wine glasses

Twelve elegant French crystal wine glasses

Set of 5 tiny liqueur glasses from the 19th century

Crystal Lorraine wine glasses and flutes

This beautiful set of eight crystal Lorraine wine glasses and champagne flutes was a highlight of our holiday table setting! 

Baccarat crystal stemware set 35 pieces

Baccarat crystal stemware set, 35 pieces total


Rare wine glass dates from the nineteenth century and is entirely handmade and made from Bohemia crystal.

Some other great additions to the table are glass carafes, pitchers, bottle carriers, and buckets for champagne or wine.  

 Cut glass crystal carafe with stopper

Vintage cut glass crystal carafe

"Porte-verre", or glass carriers

 But the work isn’t quite done, because what’s a dinner without dessert? A tragedy.

5. Dessert!

For the last hurrah after your beautiful meal, we recommend bringing out some desert trays and a coffee/tea service as the perfect final touch.

 Vintage green biot coffee service

Vintage green coffee service set from Biot

Vintage silver plate coffee service set

A lovely tea, coffee, and dessert service set from Paris

Two rare cake presentation stands from a Parisian patisserie, perfect for displaying deserts or snacks!

19th century crystal silver compotier with 12 spoons

19th century crystal compotier with spoons, typically used for desserts and fruit

As we come to the conclusion of this blog, we'd like to thank you so much for reading and for allowing us to recommend some of Chez Pluie’s products for your table. As a final word of advice to you before you go off into the world and become the incredible host we know you’ll be, allow your creativity to flourish! Let the table become a canvas for you to express your unique tastes and style, and then a retreat for you to spend time with loved ones and guests. Cheers to the joy of setting the table and creating cherished memories,

Et bon appétit!!

Image credits: Junebug Weddings, Natalie Joos for Vogue, Mrs Alice for British Vogue, French Country Cottage, Sanctuary Home Decor, Ensemble, Stephen Karlisch and Veranda magazine, Alfie & Gem, and Chez Pluie.

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