MAYBE IT'S THE THREE-DAY WEEKENDS OR BECAUSE THE KIDS ARE OUT OF SCHOOL, but summer puts people in a celebratory mood. Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner party or opening up your yard for a family-friendly cookout, the details matter — and when food is the main event, those details focus on the table.
For a small dinner party for six
With guests’ tendencies to Instagram everything, it’s understandable to want to create a stunning table, but resist the urge to go overboard. Minimalism is in, and even the most enviable local trendsetters advocate for a light touch.
“A great table setting means that, with the exception of maybe a centerpiece or two, everything is both pleasant to look at and functional,” says Beau Ciolino, co-creator of the lifestyle blog Probably This. “Not everyone needs a personalized succulent or a table full of pine cones — those will just get in the way of what will hopefully be a bounty of food and wine.” Bring the focus back to the food and the company, and the result will be much more memorable than an evening spent dodging trendy clutter.
A good rule of thumb is that decor should not impede the conversation across the table. “We keep it simple,” Ciolino says. “A single centerpiece, a few candles, and maybe carafes for the wine.” The minimalist aesthetic extends to the place settings, too.
Dishes should be “simple and muted both in shape and color palette,” Ciolino says. “We’ve really been enjoying all of the creamy whites and pale blushes going around.” Blush and millennial pink hues continue to dominate dishware with no signs of slowing down. Embrace the simple-yet-textural look by pairing stoneware pieces with rumpled linen napkins. Neutral tones will show off the trendy fabric’s natural variations and give the table tons of character.
For a family-friendly outdoor gathering for 12
“Unfussy” should be the mantra of any backyard party. Leave glassware indoors (a broken wineglass in the grass spells “emergency room” with kids around) and opt for something more durable, such as melamine plates in artisan-inspired shapes and finishes that will leave guests doing a double take. Shatterproof stemless wineglasses (like those by GoVino, also available at Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply) are dishwasher-safe and reusable, and it’s no tragedy if one gets tossed in the trash.
Expanding on that tip, consider disposable dishes. Made from compressed leaves, VerTerra plates are sturdy, eco-friendly, and have a midcentury modern look, thanks to their woodgrain-esque finish. When dining with disposable pieces, keep embellishments to a minimum.
“We’ve seen folks attempt to ‘fancy up’ disposable plate ware, and it’s often done through adding clutter ... and it almost always just gets in the way,” Ciolino says. “If you’re going to use disposable plate ware, it is what it is — just remember to use compostable or plant-based materials.” (VerTerra pieces are both.)
“Bamboo plates are also a big trend, which we love,” adds Anna Schaefer of Angle Events.
For an open-invite affair with a growing guest list
When entertaining a crowd, it can be easy to overextend oneself. The best sanity-saving tip? Embrace the eclectic.
“Mix and match and make it fun,” Schaefer says. “You can always start with something neutral and add statement pieces to your collection over time” to create a look that feels more personal and modern than a stodgy 12-piece serving set, she says. Pair disparate sets of silverware with plates in the same color family to create a high-low mix that feels custom.
The mix-and-match approach also can apply to the table. Local rental company Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals offers an offbeat array of mismatched chairs and long farmhouse-style tables to accommodate more of the people who make your party truly special.
“A great crowd makes the party,” Schaefer says. “You can have the most beautiful table, but you have to make sure that the people sitting there will appreciate it and enjoy each other’s company as well.”