As an Associate Buyer for our Linens and Tabletop department here at Sur La Table, Karrin Sporer knows a thing or two about setting the perfect table. Her eye for functional, beautiful design and knack for entertaining have led her to a career that focuses on bringing customers the best dining products. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we asked Karrin to share her personal insight on hosting a memorable meal. Here’s what she had to say:
Growing up the youngest of five children, I’ve been setting the table since I was seven years old. My eyes would widen as I stared at our tall shelves of different colored bowls and platters in multiple shapes and sizes. I would run them into the kitchen for my mom to fill with her perfectly whipped mashed potatoes. Every square inch of the table would be covered, from the speckled gold serving bowl to the perfectly placed gold-rimmed plates. The table was my canvas and the possibilities were endless.
However, when we sat down to eat, someone was always getting up to grab a forgotten butter knife, to pour themselves a glass of water, or to reach for a glass for wine they decided they wanted halfway through the meal. Every exit from the table disrupted the flow of our dinner conversation and in turn the dining experience failed to meet its potential. It wasn’t until I grew older that I learned a table setting is a balance of both art and science. Yes, serving vessels are important, but they shouldn’t overshadow the significance of a curated place setting.
You need to enable your guests to take their experience of the meal to the next level by making it easy on them. Save them the guesswork by setting the utensils in order of their use, starting from the outside and working inwards toward the plate. With this formula, no one should need to get up from the table and interrupt your funny story, again (unless to use the restroom, of course).
The perfect place setting (from left to right):
- The napkin goes on the leftmost side of the plate (or on top of the plate), followed by the salad fork and then the dinner fork
- The center of the place setting contains the charger* followed by a dinner plate, then by salad plate, with soup bowl* stacked on top
- The butter knife is placed on the right side of the plate, followed by steak knife* (blades facing the plate), followed by tablespoon and then soup spoon*
- Above the place setting (left to right):
- Butter knife* and bread plate* (place above the forks, the spreader angled across the plate)
- Dessert fork* and dessert spoon*
- Place card*
- Wine glass(es)* of your choice
*All items with an asterisk are optional and only needed if you are serving food that will require this utensil/item
Additionally, here are some tips to keep in mind to make your meal extra memorable:
- Ensure that every serving bowl or platter has a serving utensil.
- Large centerpieces will inhibit your guest’s conversation, so keep them low! If they are floral, make sure the fragrance won’t overtake the aroma of your meal. Stay away from scented candles.
- Fill the water glasses before your guests sit down and have a full pitcher ready so no one has to leave their seat unnecessarily.
- The same goes for wine; have a backup bottle handy for when the first one runs out.
- If you are feeling ambitious, it’s always impressive to have infused or sparkling water on hand as a non-alcoholic alternative.
- Don’t clear the plates and start dishes immediately after the meal – enjoy yourself and relish in the delicious food and conversations. The dishes can wait until guests leave.
Lastly, here are some current trends to test out and impress your guests this coming holiday:
- Copper is everywhere and adds a great harvest flare. I’m currently using these great copper serving utensils.
- Upgrade your stemware! Thin stemware is especially trendy. I love the Air collection from Schott Zwiesel. They are durable, yet feel weightless in your hand.
- Add depth to your table with textured natural materials like these cornhusk placemats that can double as a charger.
- Try serving in your cookware—not everything needs to be plated. I’m obsessed with the Staub Pumpkin Cocotte.
Trends of the past to shy away from:
- Mason jar water glasses. I still love them and use them, but it’s time to mix it up!
- Having everything match perfectly isn’t necessary. It’s okay to use a vintage platter that doesn’t match your dinnerware. Try adding in mixed materials. I love this marble and wood serve board.
- Forego the buffet table and try eating family style. It’s so much more fun to pass the potatoes.
With these tips, you’re not only guaranteed to have a fantastic looking table, but you will enhance the experience of your guests by having everything they need within arm’s reach. The best part is, you’ll get to enjoy the meal as well!