How to set a table? Our tips

Traditions are being lost and yet, what a pleasure it is to be invited around a beautiful table! If you are interested in the art of the table, we share some tips on how to set a beautiful table, how to choose the right decoration and how to arrange your dishes, cutlery and accessories in the right way. Follow the guide!

The tablecloth and napkins

Table linen plays an important role, that of a backdrop that will enhance your table. The tablecloth sets the tone for your decoration, so its choice is not an easy one, so we advise you to choose a quality material. You are free to choose colours or patterns, but don't forget that white is still a safe bet, perfect for more formal meals.

It is also possible to dispense with a tablecloth in favour of pretty placemats, but note that these are more appropriate for a lunch.

The cloth napkins should match the tablecloth. Even though the current trend is towards elaborate folding, tradition dictates that they should simply be placed to the left of the plate, folded in on themselves.

Discover our different Illustre Paris napkins, hand-embroidered, in cotton voile bordered with fine lace or in cotton and linen, as well as our placemats, for a chic, refined and poetic table decoration.

White cotton voile napkin

Our cotton voile napkins

The plates

Once the tablecloth is in place, it is now time to choose the right tableware to match its style. Beware, very ornate tablecloths mean plain tablecloths, very ornate tablecloths mean plain tablecloths!

Arrange the plates so that they are centred and about 3 cm from the edge of the table. Also make sure that guests have enough room to move around, by spacing the plates about 40cm apart.

With regard to the number of plates, the traditional rule of dressage is that only the soup plates intended for the starter should be placed on the main dinner plates. If another starter is planned that does not require a soup plate, then it should be served on a small dinner plate and only brought out at the time of service. You can, however, break with tradition and follow the current trend of placing one plate per course on the table and nesting them on top of each other, starting with the last one to be used during the meal. For more harmony and elegance, we advise you to opt for one and the same tableware, but if the dinner is less formal, you can also mix and match your tableware.

Finally, it is also possible to place a small bread plate on the top left of the plate, although today bread is more often placed on the table, but always on the top left. 

How to set a beautiful table

Cutlery and glasses

The cutlery also depends on the number of dishes you are going to serve to your guests. The fork is placed on the left, with its tines on the table, and the knife is always on the right, with its cutting edge towards the plate. The soup spoon, if necessary, is placed to the left of the knife, with its back to the ceiling.

Remember to separate the cutlery from the plates by a few centimetres. They should be placed in ascending order of use, from left to right. The cutlery for the starter should be the furthest away from the plate. Tradition dictates that the number of place settings should not exceed 3 pieces.

Note that there are also specific types of cutlery, such as meat, fish and cheese knives. According to tradition, it is not appropriate to use the same knife throughout the meal. These should be placed according to the same logic as forks. Nowadays it is also possible to place the small fork or spoon for dessert horizontally between the glass and the plate, separated by 3 centimetres.

The glasses are arranged from left to right, in order of decreasing size, and should be aligned on a diagonal axis. Finally, if champagne is to be served during the meal, the flutes should not be placed on the table in advance. They should be brought to the table when they are served.

In any case, particular care should be taken to keep the same presentation for each guest. Symmetry is very important when setting the table.


The final touch to your table will be the addition of decorative elements. Candlesticks, candlesticks, flowers, towel racks and knife rests (which are reserved for more intimate meals, however) or carafes, not forgetting the salt and pepper duo. 

Anything is possible, but be careful not to overload the table, or you risk losing refinement. Instead, opt for discreet accessories that are again in harmony with the rest.

Now you know how to set a beautiful table to impress your guests. Be creative but precise! It's up to you!