Setting a Flawless Table

Follow these timeless tips to create an impeccable tablescape.

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Set a Flawless Table

 Howard L. Puckett

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• Plates belong about 2 inches from the edge of the table, centered in front of each guest's chair, with ample room between settings (about 24 inches from plate center to plate center).

• A service plate or charger may be set underneath the dinner plate, and a soup bowl may be placed on top of the dinner plate.

• Set salad plates to the left of the dinner plate, just above forks.

• If serving bread or rolls, place a bread plate to the right of the salad bowl.

Designer's Tip:
 Mix and match. Plates and napkins of different hues add a colorful element to the table. Vary textures for each place setting. Use acrylic, glass, wood, and metal to create a variety of patterns and reflections.

• A water goblet belongs to the right of the plate, directly above the knife.

• Arrange wineglasses in the order in which they will be used, to the right and slightly below the water goblet.

• If you serve coffee with the meal, place the cup and saucer to the right of the place setting, with the coffee spoon on the right side of the saucer.

• Set other beverages to the right of the water goblet.

• Arrange utensils in the order you'll use them, from the outside of the place setting toward the dinner plate. Space silverware uniformly to keep the table balanced.

• Knives, spoons, and any special utensils, such as a seafood fork or fish knife, are placed to the right of the dinner plate. The knife belongs closest to the plate, with the cutting edge facing in.

• Place forks to the left of the dinner plate in the order they will be used. Usually, the salad fork is on the outside left edge, with the dinner fork next to the dinner plate.

• Lay butter knives across bread plates with blades pointing toward the table's edge.

• Set dessert utensils horizontally above the dinner plate, with the fork handle and the bowl of the spoon facing left.

Caterer's Tip:
 It's acceptable to skip the flatware if serving finger foods.

Other items:
• You can place napkins to the left of forks, or fold them and set on top of the dinner plate or in a wineglass.

• Name cards belong to the left of the drinking glasses, above the dessert utensils.

Designer's Tip:
 Enhance the table with one or more centerpieces. Keep floral arrangements loose, and place citrus fruit in wide-mouth vases to secure bright, seasonal flowers. Use shells and sea glass as place markers and centerpieces.

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