October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Let’s face it, there isn’t much enthusiasm for Grandma’s china these days. Fine chinaware is a forgotten treasure for many families.

Too many Generation Xers and baby boomers are content to treat their kitchen islands like buffet troughs (or they just eat out). Hardly anyone wants to whip out the fancy stuff these days. 

I’m guilty, too. I have neglected my grandmother’s rose-patterned china for 15 years. But with my children grown, I’m discovering an appreciation for old heirlooms and how they can be incorporated in fresh ways to enliven my own home.

And what better occasion to try than the holidays? In this DIY article, I demonstrate a proper holiday table setting while incorporating the china that I have inherited from the family.

But who says chinaware is only for the fanciest of occasions? For this issue’s DIY, I present a less formalistic table setting for four people.

First impressions begin with the table setting (also known as “place setting” or “laying the table”).

Making certain the eating utensils are located in just the right spot can be tricky. The precise arrangement of tableware has varied across cultures and historical periods.

As I did my research, I found that there is a whole sector devoted to churning out new ideas for table setting.

The Western craze for dressing the table seems to have taken hold in the late-18th century, when European aristocracy turned table setting into a form of artistic expression. 

As dinner party fashions trickled down to the middle class—especially in the 19th century—women began to use the table setting as a way to express their own creativity and personal taste.

Follow along to serve a dinner consisting of salad, bread, beverage, and the main course.

Have fun and don’t forget: No matter how beautiful or antique the china, a dinner party should be more about the people gathered around the table than the table setting.

Instructions

1. Dust Off the China

I was fortunate to have cherished family dishware passed down, but you can find affordable china easily. Just check garage sales, estate sales, auctions, or local thrift stores. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

2. Plates

Place dinner plates approximately 2 inches from the table’s edge. Center them squarely in front of each chair. I also chose to incorporate gold chargers to bring out the gold in this beautiful china (also called service plates, chargers go under your dinner plates). 

 3. Bowls, Salad Plates, & Bread Plates

Soup bowls typically sit atop the dinner plate; salad plates go above the forks (on the left side of the dinner plate); and bread plates belong slightly above the salad plate, closer to the dessert fork/spoon. I modified the typical arrangement, placing the salad plate on the main dinner plate and altogether skipping the soup bowl. 

4. Utensils 

Flatware should be laid out in the order that the guest will use it. Work your way from the outside in. Forks belong on the left of the dinner plate; table knives and spoons go to the right. Knife edges should always face the dinner plate. Butter knives should be laid flat on the bread plate with the cutting edge, again, facing in the direction of the dinner plate. Dessert forks/spoons can be placed horizontally at the top of the dinner plate.

5. Drinks

Place water glasses above the dinner knife. Optional red and white wine glasses or champagne flutes should be staggered around the water glasses.

6. Napkins

There are options here. Napkins go to the left side of the plate, inside the drinking glass, or folded in the center of the plate.

7. Assigned Seating

(Optional) Write guest names on place cards. They work best placed above the dessert utensil, centered with the plate.

8. Table Decorations

Do not forget to dress the table with flowers and lots of candles. The ambiance makes a difference. At the end of the day, however, dining is about getting people together. And there is nothing cozier than entertaining at home.


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.