If you can’t move house at the moment, maybe you can give your old home a fresh look. As the dining table is an important focal point, make use of the huge range of tableware and table decoration in stores at the moment, to dress your table up or down beautifully. It will be almost like living in a whole series of houses.
You do need to start with a very versatile dinner service. It is no good choosing an intricately patterned blue-and-green dinner service if you want to be able to set a different scene each time you lay the table, as it will only ever go with certain serving dishes, cutlery and table linen. Better to opt for a sleek neutral or two-tone dinner service that you can adapt for different occasions.
You could dress up your table with sophisticated cut-glass stemware, embroidered napkins and delicate silver cutlery. Or dress it down with a simple linen table runner, colourful chunky everyday cutlery and brightly coloured melamine tumblers.
A lovely white dinner service to look out for is John Lewis’s White Flute collection, designed exclusively for the department store by the award-winning Queensberry Hunt. White Flute is plain, but the subtle fluted detailing will add a touch of style to either a casual lunch or a more formal dinner party. Items are dishwasher- and microwave-safe, which makes them particularly practical. Available from www.johnlewis.com
Always check before you buy whether the chinaware is dishwasher- and microwave-safe and also think about whether you want to be able to take your servingware from the freezer to the oven to the table. Some ranges have this diversity.
If you do fancy injecting a little colour here and there, Terence Conran’s Chophouse Blue tableware collection for Royal Doulton is a beautiful white stoneware range, with horizontal blue stripes of various scales. Available from www.royaldoulton.com
Tocreate a really individual look, try mixing and matching from different tableware collections. Stick to one range for core pieces and then pick out statement items such as tureens, jugs and serving bowls from alternate series.
And if you really want to make an impact with your tableware, take a look at L’Objet’s luxury tableware collections.
The 30-year-old Elad Yifrach, designer and founder of L’Objet, is based in America, but was raised in Tel Aviv. His Mythologie range is inspired by Greco- Roman architectural antiquities and is hand-painted in shades of olive green and gilded with subtle gold accents.
Each piece is made entirely by hand in Portugal from Limoges porcelain and 24-carat gold and rose gold. Prices range from £40 to £180.
L’Objet also has tablemats and napkins made from three layers of linen, hand-rolled and stitched with fauxleather or linen piping to complement the rest of its range. L’Objet is now found in Harrods, Selfridges and Thomas Goode.
For practical reasons, tablecloths have been out of fashion for some time. Most people prefer to mix runners with tablemats and coasters. The warm colours of The Pier’s Spice Sari Patchwork table runner will add an extra cosy touch to a winter table; team this with their embossed floral placemats.
Available from www.pier.co.uk Hard-surfaced table mats not only look great, but can be wiped clean.
Ikea has a fantastic range in a variety of textures, patterns and colours and they are all cheap and cheerful, so you can afford to buy a few different 'outfits' for your table. For a sophisticated dinner party, I particularly like Heals’ Zephyr White placemat and coaster range, made from white leather with a stylish silver relief design.
If you do prefer a more traditional look, there are still plenty of lovely tablecloths around. Habitat has a good range of simple neutral-coloured cloths and John Lewis has everything from plain to brightly-coloured and patterned ones - and some pretty floral numbers somewhere in between.
With table linen, coasters, candles, flowers, nameplates, cutlery, china and stemware, it is easy to overdress a table. Try not to go over the top. Lay out only what is really necessary and then add just a couple of decorative touches, such as a floral centrepiece or a candelabra.