The art of table-setting is a subtle one indeed. Rigid rules such as the strict order of utensils or exact placement of glasses creates a formal atmosphere, but placing intention into your table setting makes sitting down for a meal feel special. Our favorite table settings are authentic, inviting, and warm. In our view, using a bit of creativity to set the table is just another chance for self-expression — it doesn’t need to be perfect! Rather than worry about old-fashioned conventions, consider your reasons for gathering. Are you honoring someone? Reconnecting as a family? Celebrating a holiday? Creating a beautiful table setting is an opportunity to bring magic to an everyday moment. After all, sitting down for a meal at the end (or beginning!) of a long day is a moment worth savoring, no matter what.
Here’s our guide for styling your table the abc way, complete with real world examples from our beloved restaurants: abcKitchen, abcV, and abcCocina.
Choose your color palette
As with any blank slate, color is the starting point, and your chosen palette will set the tone for the occasion. Lighter hues lend good cheer, while deeper ones create a moody atmosphere — for instance, at abcCocina, we use tableware in inky charcoal hues to play up the elemental, darker ambience.
Don’t worry about the exact placement of utensils or plateware. Have fun and experiment!
Layer your textiles
Layering in textiles to your tablescape adds dimension, texture, warmth, and a touch of drama. Feel free to stray from the traditional placemat and use whatever you have on hand for a more lived-in appeal. Using table linens that have been hand-dyed with vegetable pigments is a wonderful way to introduce beautifully nuanced shades drawn from natural sources like onion skin and avocado. Mixing and matching makes each setting feel like a personalized vignette, so your guests (or family) feel like they are sitting down to an intentional moment.
Layering your tablescape with candles and unconventional floral arrangements brings your table to life.
Create intimate floral arrangements
Floral arrangements may seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. Instead of a large central arrangement, small bud vases can be placed at each place setting and easily filled with a few simple sprigs, from wildflowers to weeds. We place miniature floral arrangements on each place setting at abcV, and we love how they mirror the freshness of the ingredients, instantly making each table feel extra vibrant and bright.
Choosing a color palette doesn’t have to be complicated — clean, crisp whites always look great.
Consider candles and lighting
No matter the time of day, when it comes to setting the mood, lighting is key. An evening meal feels more intimate with candles ablaze, but if it’s too dim, you won’t be able to see what’s in front of you. Striking the right balance between ambient and accent lighting can be achieved through a combination of gentle overhead lighting, wall sconces, and the placement of candles in the center of the table. Likewise, to keep breakfast bright and cheerful, you can amplify natural lighting by placing a decorative mirror to reflect the sunlight back towards the room.
Add vintage and heirloom touches
Incorporating vintage tableware gives your tabletop a distinct spirit. When everything goes too perfectly together, it can feel uninspired or forced. Taking a few risks like using mismatched vintage silverware or one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces imbues your tablescape with character and meaning. At abcKitchen, locally-sourced ingredients are plated on handmade ceramics so that each dish tells its own unique story.