The joy of entertaining – table setting ideas for fabulous feasts

In her third and final post, Thyme's founder Caryn Hibbert shows us how to create a layered and inviting dinner party table setting.

In my kitchen, I have an old dresser with three weighty drawers, all brimming with table linens. Brightly coloured, heavily patterned, or plain white, some with beautiful embroidery – there is one for every occasion and each with an interesting provenance.

1. COLLECT, INVEST IN AND LOOK AFTER TABLE LINEN

This is where all my tables start, with the linens. My kitchen table is usually draped with a cloth I have picked up somewhere along my travels. Block printed by hand with pink paisley patterns from India, or with elephants and floral designs from Kenya.

The kitchen is bright and airy, and the afternoon sun streams in across the table lighting these designs up. My dining room, more formal with panelled walls and low lighting, is laid with a more traditional, white cloth; vintage-style with detailed embroidery around the edging – I have some treasured hand-me-downs from my mother that have seen a good few dinner parties!

The latest additions to my collection are our own Bertioli by Thyme table linens, which we launched in the summer, with my ‘Patterns of Nature’ illustrations. Taking inspiration from the plants and botanicals that grow in and around Thyme’s farm and gardens, we have now released five prints: Fern, Copper Beech, Cobnut, Wild Rose and Yellow Rose.

2. LAYER

When it comes to place settings, I love layering placemats, either linen on linen, or with woven pieces. Not only does it look gorgeous, it also helps to catch any spillages, so you don’t need to wash the entire tablecloth for messy eaters!

With the linens being the focal point, my place settings are made up of simple, elegant pieces. I have a trusty set of white Wedgewood crockery with pretty, discreet detailing around the edges. They work with all types of linen and are a lovely blank canvas if you are plating your dishes.

3. STICK TO SIMPLE GLASSWARE

Similarly, with glassware, I am a fan of simplicity. Fine glassware with delicate engravings and a smoky tint. Although, adding in a heavy antique cut glass or a brightly coloured Murano glass for a special dinner party never goes a miss!

I also use the jugs of water or cordial and bottles of wine at dinner down the centre of the table to add to the setting.

4. PLAY AROUND WITH A CENTREPIECE

No table is complete without the centrepieces. I always use a variation of height to create undulations in the tablescape and elevate the setting, importantly always ensuring not to interrupt the eye across the table, they need to inspire conversation, not hinder it.

5. FLOWERS, FLOWERS, FLOWERS

I love having flowers on the table, they bring the outside in and give life to the whole room. A simple bouquet in the centre, little posies dotted down the middle, or potted ferns, hyacinths, hellebores or cyclamen. In the winter, potted bulbs look divine and it’s wonderful to watch them grow and flower into the spring – you also don’t need to change them for a while!

6. LIGHT IT UP

Candlesticks are an easy way to add height and sparkle to the table. I like to scatter tealights down the centre of the table use tall silver, single candlesticks topped with beeswax candles that emit a slight honey scent as they burn.

7. ONE POT WONDERS

The most important thing is to leave space for family-style, sharing dishes. Our daily lunch is always a big pot of soup, cheese and bread, wonderfully versatile it can feed a few to a surprise many if needed. On Sunday’s, it’s bowls of roast vegetables and big salads, flat breads and roast chicken. The food is always the favourite centre piece, these dishes make dining relaxed and convivial, with friends chatting, laughing and leaning over one another to share not only the food, but most importantly their stories.