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How to Create a Tablescape for Outdoor Dining

Learn how to create a beautifully laid out table for a casual or formal outdoor dining experience with our in-depth guide. 

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Our beautiful 12 piece Stockholm Slate Stoneware Dinner Set With Cereal Bowls - perfect for both casual and formal outdoor dinner parties.

Designing and creating a table setting that is as beautiful as it is functional can be considered an art in itself. Not only do you have to contemplate the theme and the colour scheme of your table, but your dining experience needs to be comfortable too. Knowing how you are going to serve your food and how to create a relaxing ambience can transform your humble outdoor party into a majestic affair that labels you as a dinner party expert.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to hosting an outdoor dinner party, from the style of table you’re using to the food you’re serving and how you’re serving it to your guests. Not only do we have our very own tableware buying guide, but the following guide explains how you can create an al fresco table setting and how to set a table correctly.

Tablescaping is otherwise known as table setting, and it simply involves the setting of a dining table so that there is a cohesive theme, beautiful decorations and the right dinnerware and cutlery that matches the social event taking place. Think about the tables commonly found at weddings and how they are designed to suit a theme.

These formal events will typically have professional tablescaping, but tablescaping suits any occasion, whether it’s a formal event or a casual dining experience in your own back garden.  

Is Tablescaping Real?

Tablescaping is very real and was coined by television chef Sandra Lee in 2003. It is simply the act of creating a beautiful table and fuses the two words “table” and “landscaping” together. 

What Do You Need for a Tablescape?

There are dinner party and tablescaping essentials that you will want to ensure that you have so that your outdoor dining experience goes off without a hitch. Of course, the colour, style and how you place these essentials completely depends on you and the atmosphere you wish to create, but here are a few dinner party necessities.

  1. Dinnerware
  2. Cutlery
  3. Serving dishes
  4. Glassware
  5. Tablecloths / table runners
  6. Placemats and coasters
  7. Napkins
  8. Centrepieces / table decorations

What is a Tablescape?

Select Your Dinnerware and Cutlery

The dinnerware you choose to use can have a huge impact on your theme and help elevate your dinner party. Ideally, you will want to choose a dinnerware set that offers the correct crockery for the meals that you are serving, but also acts as the foundation of your tablescape theme. For instance, if you are serving soup, you will want to have soup bowls.

Consider the theme and atmosphere you are hoping to achieve. We have a selection of tableware ranges, depending on the atmosphere you are after.

Our stoneware dinner sets are beautifully rustic and perfect for a relaxed outdoor dinner party, whereas our porcelain dinnerware better suits a more elegant affair. However, if you’re wanting to host a casual brunch for friends or family, our Coastal Dinner Set can offer a relaxing and cosy atmosphere.

Make sure that your cutlery matches your crockery but also your theme. If you love all things gold, our Shoreditch Cutlery Set offer contemporary elegance to your table and pairs nicely with our Malmo Charcoal Teardrop Dinner Set.

You might like these:

Featuring our  Del Mar Grey Porcelain Dinner SetBeaded Placemat in pewter and  Lorenzo Coloured Glassware

Malmo Charcoal Dinner Set 16 Piece - 4 SettingsTypical Price £199Only £129Shop Now
Oslo Rim Stoneware Dinner Set with Pasta Bowls 12 Piece - 4 SettingsTypical Price £149Only £99Shop Now
ProCook Chiswick Cutlery Set 4 Piece - 1 SettingTypical Price £20Only £14Shop Now
ProCook Chelsea Cutlery Set 16 Piece - 4 SettingsTypical Price £79Only £54Shop Now

Find Complementary Tablecloths, Placemats, Coasters and Napkins

Add colour and texture to your table setting with tablecloths, table runners, placemats and coasters. Not only do table runners and placemats protect your table from spills, messes and hot crockery, but it can also add charm and ambience to your table. Questions to ask when you are deciding on your table setting are “Round or rectangle placemats?”, “Tablecloth or table runner?”, etc.

Mixing and matching tableware can make a unique table setting, but make sure the colours you choose complement one another. There is an art to making contrasting colours work together, so if you are unsure on how to pull this off, creating a more traditional and coordinated tablescape could be safer.

Use a Colour Wheel

The best way to ensure that your colours work together is to consult the colour wheel. Here’s how to read the colour wheel so that you can put two, three or even four colours together successfully.

  • The colour wheel includes monochromatic variations, which is simply the colour wheel showing darker and lighter tones of the core colours already on the wheel
  • Complementary colours are found on the opposite side of the colour wheel. For instance, if you choose yellow, then purple would be the complementary colour.
  • For those who want to include three colours, then split complementary helps you do this successfully. Choose your primary colour and look to the colour directly opposite. Don’t stop there, though. Split complementary is the two colours sat beside and sandwiching the complementary colour. 

Our own ProCook Colour Wheel

We’ve designed a colour wheel that exclusively includes our current tableware ranges and how they complement one another and can be used to create a seamless tablescape. Use the above colour theory with our ProCook colour wheel to build a beautiful tablescape with our own dinner sets and crockery. 

ProCook Colour Wheel Displaying our ProCook Tableware Ranges for Tablescaping

Place Your Napkins

Decide on how you want to present your napkins. Do you want to fold your napkins into an intricate shape, or do you want to simply present your napkin in a napkin holder? For a more casual dining experience, you can simply place the napkin to the left of the dinner plate and underneath the forks, whereas you can decoratively fold your napkins and place them on the dinner plates for a more formal affair.  

TIP: Slide your napkins into a napkin holders and place one on each dinner plate for effortless but charming table decoration. We have contemporary napkins and rings that add texture and colour to your tablescape. 

Table Runners, Placemats and Coasters

Depending on how formal you want your al fresco dining experience to be, you may need to set a few glasses for each dinner guest. If you are wondering how to set a table with wine glasses, there is typically two wine glasses for each guest – one for white wine and one for red wine. Include a water glass beside the two wine glasses.

Of course, you can swap out glasses depending on your guests’ drink of choice. If one of your guests prefers to sip on a gin and tonic, then you may want to remove their wine glasses if they do not want wine with the meal and replace it with a highball glass instead.

TIP: Keep your guests hydrated by placing jugs and carafes on the table, helping you keep the drinks flowing and the conversation going – no awkward breaks while people get up to refresh their water glasses. We also have a handy guide on how you can upscale our carafes with fruit infusion recipes.

Why not browse our glassware?

Don’t Forget About the Glassware

Wine GlassesCocktail GlassesTumblers & Highballs

How to Set a Table

Now that you have all the tableware and flatware, it’s time to set the table properly. There are two ways you can set a table for a dinner party – a casual table setting and a formal table setting. Although it’s called a ‘casual’ table setting, this is not to be confused with an everyday table setting.

Setting a Table for a Casual Meal

  1. Lay out the placemats. 
  2. Place a dinner plate on the centre of each placemat.
  3. If you are serving a salad, place a salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
  4. Place the fork to the left of the dinner plate, and if you are serving a salad, set a salad fork to the left of the dinner fork.
  5. Set the knife to the right of the dinner plate, then a spoon to the right of the knife. 
  6. Set a water glass top right of the dinner plate, above the knife. If you are serving wine, set a wine glass (red or white wine glasses, depending on what you are serving) to the right of the water glass.
  7. Place the napkin on the plate or beneath the fork. If you are serving soup and have a soup bowl, always place the napkin to the left and underneath the forks.

Setting a Table for a Formal Meal

  1. If you want to include a charger plate, then place one first so that it sits beneath your main dinner plate. If you do not want to use a charger plate, a placemat is fine.
  2. Add a salad plate on top of the dinner place.
  3. If you are serving bread, then the bread plate should be placed above and to the left of the dinner and salad plates. Place the butter knife horizontally on the bread plate.
  4. Lay the forks to the left of the dinner and salad plates. The dinner fork is closest to the dinner plate, with the salad fork sitting to the left of it.
  5. Place your knives to the right of the dinner plate.
  6. When it comes to laying the spoons, place these to the right and next to the knives. 
  7. The water glass is set above and to the right of the dinner plate, with a white glass to the right (the water glass should be closest to the guest) and a red wine glass placed behind the white wine glass.
  8. Fold the napkin and place it in a napkin holder. Place it on top of the salad plate.
  9. Add a place card above the plates.
  10. If you want to serve coffee, place a coffee cup and saucer below the glasses once the dessert course is served (not before).

Crockery & Dinnerware

Save Space for Serveware, Sharing Boards and Dipping Sets

A lot of al fresco dining revolves around meals that can be easily shared such as salads, quiches and pasta dishes. While you may want to include a lot of table decoration, keep it minimal so that you can fit all the required serveware and dipping sets as well as salad servers, oil and vinegar drizzlers and salt and pepper mills. Remember, you want your guests to feel at ease when moving and plating their food without the risk of knocking over excessive table decorations.

TIP: Why not include a charcuterie board, which is simply a sharing board that includes cured meats, cheese and fruit or vegetables? This can act as a delicious starter. Read our guide on how to build a sharing board.

Serve your meal with these essentials:

ProCook Porcelain and Bamboo Dip Serving Set 3 PieceTypical Price £20Only £15Shop Now
ProCook Oil & Vinegar Pourer Globe ShapeTypical Price £14Only £9Shop Now

Have Lighting Ready for Sunset

Of course, lighting does not have to be saved for when the sun sets. However, hitting the switch on fairy lights and lighting candles when you start to lose natural light can be a ‘wow’ factor and impress your guests.

Have the best of both worlds and include fairy lights around or on your table and beautiful candle holders that can be lit once the sun sets. The beauty of al fresco dining is that even when the sun starts to disappear, you can create a tablescape that includes enough atmospheric light that keeps the dinner party going and adds to your al fresco dining tableware.

TIP: Our ProCook LED Table Fairy Light is elegant and can add a subtle glow to your outdoor dining experience without taking up too much room. An ideal centrepiece that is not only beautiful to the eye, but offers a source of light and ambience for when the sun sets.

You might need these:

Table Accessories

Our goregous Napa Porcelain Dinner Set, featuring a mottled reactive glaze and elegant golden band around the edges of the plates and bowls.

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