Set The Table
Dinner Party On A Budget
There’s so much pressure around a ‘dinner party’; there has been for years. Starched napkins and stiff floristry are luckily becoming a relic of the eighties. Personal touches are the talking points that your guests remember and cherish. Nobody talks about the expensive crystal glassware on the way home - it’s the conversation, the food and perhaps a few standout, personal touches that stay in your guests’ memory.
For a table runner, I often use excess wallpaper (pictured) or wrapping paper - it makes an instant impact. Simple seasonal foliage and florals are an easy win too: peonies are expensive until next month (May) when they cost 25% of their usual rate as they are available in such abundance (or indeed, in your local supermarket). I love to ombré their colours down the table. Lighting makes a huge impact: you can never have enough tea lights in jam jars and votives.
One of my greatest learnings of monthly dinner parties is that with classic pieces in your arsenal - white plates, timeless glassware - a host only needs a small final flourish to make an impact. That is my aim with my first collection of table linens (pictured), block printed with my own paintings. Placed next to a plain white plate, the floral designs elevate the everyday.
Some more ideas: A few seasonal flowers dotted down the table in old spice jars or bottles always look beautiful. Keep the stems long on British blooms like snowdrops (January), daffodils (March) and tulips (April). They will create gorgeous movement and height across the table.
I’ve never made a starter since my 20th birthday when I tried to cook three courses and missed all the fun of the evening! I always just make a big bowl of homemade hummus with a rainbow of cut carrots, celery, radishes and peppers to be served with drinks on arrival. For the main course, slow cook a vegetarian dish that’s full of flavour - I love butternut squash tagine in the winter and a Provencal ratatouille in the summer. A slow cooker is one of the most energy-efficient ways to cook, too. Serve that with plentiful sides: pearl barley is a cheap, nutritious and under-appreciated grain that can be used much like couscous or rice. Jazz it up with fresh herbs, zesty dressing and pomegranate seeds for some colour. Skipping pudding just isn’t an option for me - it’s my favourite part of any meal! They can get expensive if you buy them from a patisserie but something like a banoffee pie, pavlova or even beautifully decorated cake can be made from scratch. Yes, it’s more effort but it can all be created the night before and kept in the fridge. Seasonality is key if you want to save money - go for berries in the summer, pears in the autumn and nectarines in the winter.
After all of my dinners I can wholeheartedly conclude: it’s not the tablescape that has ever made for a bad evening. Yes, it can bring joy. Yes, it can get the party started. But if you’re strapped for time - and indeed cash - a couple of tea lights, a chilled bottle of wine and a big platter to share across the table is all you need.
Set The Table
More styling ideas from Rosanna with the Set The Table series in our Journal.
A pop-up on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia with two masterclasses in aid of non-profit Vimukti Sanstha in Jaipur.
The 7 tips that get me through Christmas entertaining - from go-to recipes to DIY decorations.
The evolution of the heritage craft of block printing, from its first example in the Diamond Sūtra, published in China in 868 AD to its development today in India.
Block printed with winter roses in shades of sage and forest green, these new designs have arrived for Christmas. Just add candlelight.