Styled: How to Set a Modern Table

We all hit that point in life when we are expected to magically know how to set an attractive table. And unless you went to finishing school (if you did, can you teach me how to curtsy properly??) then how are you supposed to know this stuff? From engagement parties to the wedding reception to setting up house with your soulmate, you are expected to immediately have all sorts of opinions on how to make dining both pretty and functional for your guests.

Fear not! I also work as a photo stylist and have literally spent hours googling the difference between a water goblet and and a tumbler, and how many forks you really need and so on. We live in a very casual world in the Pacific Northwest and there are many opinions out there (I swear I've read them all), and here's what it really boils down to:


Give folks what they need to eat their meal. If you're serving bread, set the table with a bread knife; if soup, then a soup spoon (that's the big one); if steak, add a steak knife, etc. Unless you are serving courses on separate plates and clearing those plates in between courses, there's really no need for a special salad fork.


If you want a table setting that delights the eye (and photographs well), think about layering textures. If every layer is shiny and smooth, your eye won't know where to land. For the dinner party below I layered cowhide under glazed ceramic dishes under linen napkins held together with shiny brass wire.


Finishing touches include centerpieces, place cards, favors, and the like. This is where you can unleash a flood of hospitality and festivity on your friends and family. Choose flowers, paper goods and other details that tie in with the rest of the decor and suit the occasion. Go for harmony, and you can't lose. You got this!