“There’s something special about gathering a few favourite people for a meal. A beautifully set table is the perfect canvas for a delicious meal.”

― Chantal Larocque

Betsie van der Westhuizen, general manager at Maxwell & Williams offers a step-by-step guide for laying a beautiful, welcoming table.

Colour scheme

Start by deciding on your colour scheme. An all-white table setting says elegance and sophistication. A monochrome tablescape can be trendy or create a very colourful, playful tabletop.

Tablecloth or placemats?

Consider the atmosphere that you would like to create when choosing between a tablecloth or placemat.

Placemats are gaining popularity but remember that placemats are much more casual and preferred for breakfast or lunch or an informal dinner. When using a placemat, all cutlery should be displayed on its surface.

A white tablecloth is the most formal option and usually used for dinner, whereas a colourful tablecloth is perfect for a special holiday supper or casual evening meal.

Start with a plain cloth and add colourful plates and serveware. If you decide on a really bold tablecloth, complete the look with your favourite white basic items.

Cutlery shortcut

Only set the table for courses that you are going to serve – no need to add more cutlery just to look fancy.

Always place your fork on the left of your plate and knives on the right. Your dessert spoon is placed at the top of the plate with the stem of the spoon facing the right. A soup spoon is placed to the right of the knife.

Ensure that all your cutlery items are lined up and spaced equally. The goal of the table setting is to look like a mirror.


Placing a napkin in a glass or cup is a big no-no.

Add interest to your table by playing around with various napkin folds. Tie your napkin with a ribbon or place a napkin ring in the centre of your napkin, then place it in the centre of the plate.

When using a soup bowl, place your napkin to the left of the place setting – never inside the soup bowl. Napkins should not be placed inside a soup bowl (as it will slouch into the bowl). Alternatively, fold your napkin and place it under the place setting.

A handwritten touch

The main goal of a beautiful table setting is to make your guests feel special, so don’t forget to add a personal touch. A handwritten menu and beautifully crafted nametags at each guest’s place make guests feel welcome. It also shows that you gave the seating plan thought so that guests are seated next to those who will make them feel at home.

The centre of attention

The centrepiece for your table is where you can really add a unique touch and make the table stand out – whether you use freshly cut flowers, a formal floral arrangement, potted herbs or plants. And don’t forget those candles.

Add glassware

Do not be afraid to use glassware in a non-traditional way. Using your favourite tumblers as wine glasses or serving beautiful cocktails in wine or gin glasses will create an eclectic feel and a talking point.

Keep it classy by decanting your red wine into a chic decanter. Always have a jug of water on the table for your guests.


Maxwell & Williams understand how people use tableware. Since entering the market in 1995, the iconic Australian brand has offered something for every taste and occasion. The high-end ceramics, glass, stainless steel and acrylics are made of the finest materials, from the world’s leading manufacturers.  Traditionally know for white sets, Maxwell & Williams has expanded to offer over 2000 quality and affordable mix and match items.

For more information visit www.maxwellandwilliams.co.za.