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Mad About . . .

Elevating The Ordinary: Tablescapes

21st January 2021
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I have never been one for what is these days called a tablescape – readers of my generation will refer to it simply as laying the table in the same way that we used to put things on the mantelpiece rather than style it up…

gingham tablecloth from etsy

gingham tablecloth from etsy

But here we are in the third lockdown in the UK and it seems to be universally harder this time round. We know what to expect; we have lowered our expectations of sourdough, decluttering, redecorating and the plan is merely to get through it in the best way possible while preserving mental health and relationships.

It is The Mad Husband’s birthday next week. Clearly we won’t be going out for dinner. Added to which he usually has a weekend away with his university mates around this time and that ain’t happening either.

nona pink plates from Habitat

nona pink plates from Habitat

So, as our worlds get smaller and we can’t go out to experience things we have to bring them home to us. And I find myself wondering how to bring the restaurant experience home and I don’t just mean delivery.

One of the things that we have stuck to religiously throughout every lockdown is having supper together as a family. Breakfast comes and goes – usually because everyone gets up at different times. Lunch is also a moveable feast as the 19yo tends to breakfast at that point and the 17yo is a law unto himself when it comes to acceptable food groups.

linen napkins from la redoute

linen napkins from la redoute come in 10 different colours

But dinner is a fixed point in the day when we all sit down together and even if we have no news to share –  I walked upstairs today, I had a zoom meeting, I started my essay…scintillating stuff – we can share a meal.

And I find myself contemplating the tablescape. The food will be Italian – because we all like that. So the room needs to become a trattoria for one night only.

There will be a gingham tablecloth. I’m not one for red so perhaps it will require something like this (see top image)  in liquorice gingham (and doesn’t that already sound nicer than black and white)?

scandi coloured glass candle holder from etsy

scandi coloured glass candle holder from etsy

You could add candlesticks. I rather love these but if we are going to be really authentic you will jam a white candle in an empty wine bottle. These will hold either tea lights or traditional candles or even, as you see here, flowers.

I already have these pink plates, (see above) which will look so pretty on the black and white tablecloth. And napkins – we are trying to be restaurant don’t forget. Of course you can swap this all out for stuff you already own or colours you prefer.

In the same way that a mundane present feels so much more exciting when it is beautifully wrapped so a bowl of pasta on a Monday night feels more special on a beautifully laid table.

olympia pepper mill from nisbetts

olympia pepper mill from nisbetts

Our worlds are currently small people, we need to elevate the ordinary. And, well, it wouldn’t be Italian without the comedy giant pepper mill now would it?

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  • Anna 26th January 2021 at 6:26 pm

    But do please iron the cloth…..no Italian restaurateur would approve of the creases in the check cloth in the first photo Kate!
    No bread rolls with the pasta but bread sticks to nibble before hand is permitted. I hope you won’t follow the Italian habit of full on over head lighting….In truth Italian like to see what they are eating!!!

  • Kirsty 21st January 2021 at 6:35 pm

    Loving these ideas and it’s good to keep it changing. Laying the table was once about sliding cork-backed table mats into vaguely correct areas and successfully pairing cutlery rather side of them. In my youthful phase of eating ‘limited food groups’ these table mats had Constable paintings on and even now his paintings remind me of bland overcooked pork chops, cold peas and early oven chips.

  • Susan McCabe 21st January 2021 at 10:17 am

    What a fantastic post! On the surface, all things house and home – a beautifully set table but again much more! Laying the table is a sign of gratitude for your food – however simple it might be. And eating well is a form of self care and sharing your meal is a bonding act to saviour . Many people are saying how much more they enjoy food and meal times are the highlight of the day. They think it’s because they are bored and meal highlights illustrate the level of boredom. I think they have discovered the importance of meals together that they may have overlooked in a busier life. The same with gratitude for the things that matter. Also candles light the darkness and help you through dark times etc etc but that is getting really deep …………….😁 but as always Kate your articles always are inspiring and always illustrate the importance of home.

  • Annie 21st January 2021 at 10:11 am

    I have to say I am loving family meal times, for all the downsides of lockdown 3.0 there are some lovely things to come out of the darkness. Our children are much smaller so lunch is our daily meal together, but we also have dinner together at the weekends where we lay the table properly too. The candle sticks went away at Christmas but I love those Etsy ones you linked above, might need to indulge!

  • Sarah Gilmore 21st January 2021 at 10:06 am

    I really like the look of the table in the Habitat photo but can’t see it on their website which seems a bit odd!

  • Vicky 21st January 2021 at 8:40 am

    I have 3 friends that are 50 in the next 4-5 weeks so planning a virtual get together and its all about getting dressed up (out of the sloppy joggers) and back into the sparkly tops and a full face of makeup 🙂 ! I am planning a cocktail making session and will be delivering all the ingredients to their homes but rather than it just be shoving some drink in a box its about elevating the experience – nice box, napkins, posh snacks, funny stirrers etc Its likely the only thing I’ll do in the 1st 3 months of 2021 so going big 🙂

  • Myra 21st January 2021 at 8:22 am

    I see….so instead of asking “who’s going to lay the table”, it seems I should be asking who would like to to create a tablescape. This may explain where it’s all been going wrong in my house for so long….!! Love waking up to read your posts, Kate. Thank you.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 21st January 2021 at 3:45 pm

      Yes exactly that! I can just imagine the reaction of my teenage sons!!!

  • Catherine 21st January 2021 at 7:50 am

    Good luck with the birthday dinner!
    I love candles at dinner and we usually have an array of candles and tea lights lit, even last night which was a Wednesday (although that was a particularly special Wednesday night where we drank sparking wine and toasted the new president and VP in the US!).
    However I think there’s a huge demand/ shortage of traditional dinner candles. I haven’t been able to buy them for months in my small town. Might have to resort to evil empire of Amazon for supplies. This suggests to me that a lot of people are lighting candles during the pandemic – to elevate the mundane in some way and make dinners at a table more special.

  • DrS 21st January 2021 at 7:31 am

    It’s my birthday next week as well, the big 5 0 no less so feeling very sorry for myself at how unexciting it’s going to be. We were actually discussing what to do last night so this is a very timely posting Kate!

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