TOUCH of class
American etiquette author Emily Post once said: 'As the host or hostess, it is your responsibility to make sure that each guest feels as comfortable as possible - while not feeling completely overwhelmed yourself. Even the most casual dinner party, however, requires careful preparation, thoughtful execution and courteous manners.'
Entertaining at home requires dashes of flair and artistic whim, and a beautifully presented table can mean the difference between social success or the wooden spoon award.
'For an informal lunch try adding unusual wine or water glasses and creative table mats,' says Wendy Siu, president of Heather and March, which specialises in French and other European home products.
'Something like a Sunday buffet brunch calls for special Champagne glasses, a nice juice jug and cute bread basket, while a special-occasion dinner can be elevated with an elaborate candelabra or exquisite tablecloth,' Siu says. 'Always decorate them with a nice tasteful floral arrangement as this never fails.'
Aside from these essentials for various occasions, if you really want to impress, try creating a theme - it doesn't have to be too complicated, Siu says. Some of her favourites are themed around nature with romantic patterns and a mix of contemporary classics.
When it comes to cutlery, luxury pieces are being created using unusual materials instead of the usual stainless steel. 'For example, the use of sterling silver mixed with semi-precious stone handles,' Siu says. Cutlery is also gearing towards more geometrical shapes, such as knives designed to stand up at 45 degrees by themselves.
She says pure linen is preferred for sophisticated dining. Mixed cotton and linen are popular for practical and cost reasons, while table mats are in demand for casual dining.
The final essential is the centrepiece. 'Besides silver, vermeil, crystal candelabra and vases, contemporary and creative options include acrylic, ceramic, glass and rattan,' Siu says.
As for what is suitable for this summer season, Kate Babington, TREE's managing director, recommends bold, bright colours and playful dinnerware. 'Colourful accents, such as decorative bowls, trays, candleholders and ceramics are a great way to add character and to spice up your home without having to make major changes to decor,' Babington says.
'Don't be afraid to mix and match different colours and motifs to create a table setting that is not only fun and elegant, but also uniquely you.' She says pieces that are handcrafted, with their own stories, create a perfect talking point when you have guests over.