INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects

Many people only ever consider the function of tableware. I love to entertain and to be entertained - we all do. Rather like entering a theatre, the stage promises great things for the coming show, so does a beautifully laid table, unusual tableware and decorative accessories. Whether entertaining friends or family in your home, on your boat, your jet, your chalet, by the pool - in fact wherever; it is the skill to present the chic, the understated, the classic, the modern or the startling in a manner that stamps personality into these environments that Harlequin London excels at.

In the same way that there are many people who eat to live rather than live to eat, tableware has the additional ability to wow, to dazzle, and create drama as well as its simple function of eating off. Helping to create some of the most innovative, theatrical and scene setting tableware combinations with unusual and colourful place settings is what we do.

A place setting is the selection of implements laid in front of and used by an individual when sitting down to eat - it is not simply the plates but also cutlery, glasses, napkins, salts and peppers and by carefully considering colour themes, texture, design and pattern the feeling of the setting can be engineered for the ambience you are trying to create.

We have all been to dinner parties in friends' homes, entertained in restaurants and hotels and in many cases have arrived and been underwhelmed by our hosts and what is laid out in front of us. Conversely we have also been to parties where, upon arrival, the scene is uplifting and there is a palpable excitement - in essence a scene has been set for us in preparation of what is to come.

Location of the dining area, formal or informal, daytime or evening use, inside or al fresco, minimalist or heavily decorative - there is much to discuss before moving onto choosing anything for your table. Harlequin will spend time with a client to understand their lifestyle, their design ethos, the project under consideration and how they entertain before proposing any tableware. In many cases a client already has some idea of what they like and we will work from this starting point and from here 'build' the style and look. If not we will guide and advise based on our years of experience in the industry.

Almost always the first consideration is the china, the dinner service, with particular emphasis placed on colour and design. This is very similar to choosing a fabric for the interior - it is almost the backdrop for the scene. Do not be afraid to mix brands and styles, to be bold, fun and creative. Often mixing plain strong coloured layplates with heavily decorative dinner plates can be very effective - consider the dinner plate being similar to a photograph in a frame.

Homogenous design

Here are our top tips for creating the perfect scene at dinner:

  • Colours evoke emotion. Do consider using coloured tumblers for water; this is a great way to 'change' the look simply by introducing different glasses.

  • Texture is sensory. A well cut 'hobnail' crystal wine glass feels wonderful in the hand, a well-balanced and heavy knife and fork with intricate patterning won't go unnoticed.
  • Table accessories add to the visual feast. So think about linens, flowers, coloured vases, candle sticks and candelabra in silver or crystal, decorative objets as well as your tableware.
  • Remember that the personality of the host is on display for all to see and enjoy - be adventurous and express yourself... Think about the food you are serving and how it will look on the plate - gravy on an aubergine coloured background does not look good or appetising.
  • Flowers can be used to balance and harmonise a table or conversely could be arranged for drama. Keep centrepieces and floral displays either low so that diners can see each other over them, or tall and thin so they can see through - always be conscious that your guests do want to able to see each other! Consider using individual floral displays instead - these can add just as much charm as a large floral display in the centre.
  • Consider using quirky dishes, sauce boats and bowls for sauces.

  • Think about what you are going to serve bread in, is it to be passed around and if so, is it too heavy? If that's the case change it and use more than one smaller bread baskets.
  • Candlelight against the glare of electric light produces a much warmer ambience - perfect for evening dining. When choosing candles, pick either very low tealights or very tall candlesticks - again so diners can see each other across the table.
  • Make sure your chairs are comfortable and that the room temperature is too - always consider the WHOLE room setting, not just the table. Even with a stunning display in front of your guests an uncomfortable chair or a cold room will ruin all your hard work and efforts.
  • Table linen is essential, but merely folding the linens gives a hurried, unfinished look. If you don't have napkin rings, use ribbons, cut to the same lengths, to tie up the napkins and secure with a neat bow.
  • So that everyone can be served promptly and so that serving pieces such as salad bowls and sauce boats are not too big or unwieldy, we always suggest that you have one serving piece per six persons when buying your dinner service.
  • Champagne flutes do not have to match the wine glasses as these are generally used before dinner, so you can be as adventurous as you like!
  • Decanters and water pitchers are also often important items on the table and there are many variations of these to choose from, meaning they can also be used to add to the decoration of a table.
  • Don't forget place-setting displays and name cards - these offer another great opportunity to create drama when people first arrive at the table.
  • Consider the seasons - with winter coming up, you can use warmer, darker colours in your china and glasses to give a cosy feel. Many of our clients purchase different sets for each season.
  • To create interest, consider using a different set of dessert plates to ring the changes, along with matching coffee cups. This will give the end of the meal a different look and feel, and ensure the evening ends on a high. Coffee at the end of dinner is a great opportunity to bring out fun and colourful cups and saucers and could be served at the table or in another room.

How it works at Harlequin London

When working with a client on defining accessories for a dining room table, the very first thing we do is ensure we get a detailed brief. We work with many different nationalities and cultures and many eat very different types of food depending on where in the world they come from, so there are lots of things to consider.

For example, many Middle Eastern clients would not have any animal sculptures as decoration, but others, such as those with hunting lodges and many Europeans may have silver pheasants/partridges etc. The Middle East are however keen on boat models in silver so these can be offered to them.

One of the most important things to ascertain is whether a client is allergic to flowers - if so we do not advise the interior designer to purchase vases!

We also like to assess how theatrical the client wishes to be - the scale of candelabra used, the floral arrangements, and the objects chosen can all be picked to suit how dramatic a look is required.

We work closely with Heirlooms and in some cases it is possible to embroider or match the pattern and colour from the china, glasses or cutlery designs to the linen. This creates a very dramatic look and is of course enormously personal and bespoke.

To find out more about Harlequin London, visit the website. You can also follow the team on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.