In bad news for single people everywhere, it appears Valentine's Day is nearly upon us. Gone are visions of Christmas trees and gifts wrapped in shiny paper and bows; in their place are tiny paper-mache hearts, cupid paraphernalia, and a deluge of ruby red rose petals, scattered pretend haphazardly around the room.
It's a festive time, if not a somewhat tacky one, though that is, of course, part of its charm. And despite my tone here, I have personally never identified as a V-Day Hater™; rather, I quite enjoy reveling in the love in the air and chowing down on a candy heart or two, if only to remind myself that they aren't that good in the first place. Plus, many of the best home decor stores run a few sales or drop limited-edition decor around this time — and for a shopping editor like me, that's a mini Super Bowl.
Of course, one of the key tenets of nearly every Valentine's Day celebration is the romantic dinner, often held at home instead of a restaurant for reasons of privacy and culinary prowess, and the tablescape for said affair is not to be discounted. In fact, it can be quite difficult to achieve a romantic-yet-stylish look for a holiday that thrives on kitsch. Luckily for us, however, Kate Pauley, founder of Create Dinners and a Peerspace partner, has shared with me her secrets to the perfect sweetheart table — including the one item you absolutely must include.
'Dinner for two is one of my favorite setups and the one I'm most familiar with, as my husband and I cook and eat at home often,' Kate told me. Listen up, lovebirds!
Building the perfect sweetheart table
Livingetc knows design.
Let's start first with the right table. 'I love a round bistro table between 30-40" in diameter,' Kate recommended. 'It's the perfect size for all the essentials: plates, silverware, glassware, candles, florals, and the food.' For dishes, she suggested a dinnerware set of 8.5" pasta bowls from BX Ceramics: 'They're perfect for all our go-to winter dishes like hearty soups and crusty bread, dan dan noodles with jammy eggs and bok choy, or a creamy cacio e pepe.'
Of course, a romantic dinner is also likely to include a bit of wine. For casual sipping with your lover, Kate loves the Luigi Bormioli Sublime Wine Glasses for their simple yet stunning shape. Other additions to consider? Linen napkins, a 'white or moody-colored floor-length tablecloth, and 'good music in the background from the time cooking starts until the dishes are done.'
These stunning, unique bowls from BX Ceramics are the exact set Kate mentioned — I can definitely see why. Each has a slight variation in size and color, as they are handmade in Pasadena, CA. The best part? They're still microwave and dishwasher safe! (Though hand-washing is still recommended.)
Kate loves these Luigi Bormioli glasses for their shape. But they're also crafted in Italy and made of break-resistant glass, so I think the shape is maybe the ... third-best thing.
There is, however, one table addition that is an absolute non-negotiable in Kate's eyes, she told me: 'A pair of taper candles are an absolute must for setting the mood around a sweetheart table,' she told me. Those plus dimmed overhead lighting means you're in business. 'In fact, I'll go as far as saying it would be a Valentine's Day crime to have the lights fully on.' Honestly, I think I agree — we're so done with overhead lights in 2024.
This is not a set of 5, but rather a pair of petal-colored candles — I believe the multiples in this image are meant to illustrate the different shade possibilities. A very subtle and versatile pink, no matter how you slice it.
A perfect and affordable starter candle holder in a pinch. Two of these + a pack of candles and you're set.
If you're a design junkie like me, you might also be interested in making your table feel fresh and of the moment by adding certain expert-sanctioned decor pieces. To that end, Kate recommends 'anything sculptural, from fruit and vegetable arrangements to funky shaped vessels,' she said. 'I love when things are out-of-the-box, even a little weird. They make for excellent conversation pieces.'
Courting on a budget? Been there, done that. In that case, try a few 'handmade one-of-a-kind touches like painted or handwritten menus or napkins with an embroidered detail.' They double as a gift, are easy to make, and are bound to impress!
Minimalist and amorphous, this sculptural piece from H&M Home acts as both a piece of art and a candle holder.
Featuring the work of decoupage artist John Derian, this ceramic platter is an elegant and show-stopping piece that manages to add a vintage flair to the table.
And for those Valentine's touches ... well, maybe it's ok to lean into all the holiday fun, at least in Kate's book. 'I normally try to stray from clichés or anything that could come across as cheesy, but Valentine's day might be my exception holiday,' she admitted. 'I love all the red and pink, hearts, wine, candles, beautiful flowers, and chocolate!' I can totally agree — and there are so many pieces out there that play into the theme without totally going overboard; stylish and very Livingetc, but also fun and festive (hint: see below).
This advice isn't limited to just couples, either — 'If you're single, invite a friend or parent or sibling over and host an over-the-top thoughtful Valentine's Day dinner for the two of you,' Kate thoughtfully suggested. 'I guarantee they'll feel the love.'
Perfect for storing drink stirrers or toothpicks (or for an after-dinner sip of limoncello), this shot glass embellished with tiny red hearts is the picture of kitsch done right.
This new scent from popular candle brand Voluspa smells like cherries, rose petals, and just a touch of leather. A great V-Day gift, or a simple mood-setter that requires zero additional decor.
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Brigid Kennedy is a style editor at Livingetc.com, where she is responsible for obsessively combing the internet for the best and most stylish deals on home decor and more. She was previously a story editor at TheWeek.com, where she covered both U.S. politics and culture. She describes her design style as colorful and clean, and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, and curating impossibly niche playlists on Spotify. She lives in New York.
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