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The perfect family dinner table

Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer specializing in hotels and resorts. She's the author of The Food Lovers' Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appea...

Expert advice from Erin Souder

What makes the perfect space for family mealtime? Erin Souder, founder of the home decor and party inspiration blog House of Earnest, shares her expert tips on creating memorable events.
Table decor from House of Earnest
Photo credit: House of Earnest

SheKnows: What are some of your favorite ways to style a family dinner table?

Erin Souder: I love using pretty trivets. If you’re serving a family-style dinner and dishes are being passed around, people often have trouble balancing the dish and serving. Keep pretty towels, trivets and good serving ware handy. For big families, divide the food into separate dishes for each side of the table. And don’t forget the flowers! A pretty centerpiece shows that you thought about them.

SK: How can we make sure that our tables are also functional?

ES: Investing in good and versatile serving ware is a must. I stick with classic white, which can be used for any time of the year and dressed up with smaller themed or patterned pieces. Every hostess should have a couple of large bowls and platters.

Table decor from House of Earnest
Photo credit: House of Earnest

SK: In your opinion, what really makes a perfect space for family mealtime?

ES: A space where the family is comfortable and can sit for a long period of time and chat.

SK: What are some ways we can incorporate kids?

ES: I like to make an extension to the main table for the children so they feel included and parents can also keep an eye on them. Put some sort of craft on the table. Wrapping napkins in pipe cleaners that can be played with during the meal, or covering the table in paper for drawing, will keep them entertained.

SK: Where do you shop for stylish and affordable table decor?

ES: I love shopping at HomeGoods for decor that is season or holiday specific. I don't feel so bad spending only $1.99 on each salad plate or for a really fun vase when I have my high-quality white serving set to balance it out. The Container Store is also one of my favorite places to buy fun accessories. Also, don't overlook the dollar store!

Table decor from House of Earnest
Photo credit: House of Earnest

Erin's advice: Designing a table setting

  1. Be creative! Cutlery doesn't have to go beside the plates and glasses don't have to be open end up.
  2. Think about the food you're serving. If there is no first course or salad, do you even need a salad plate?
  3. Always use cloth napkins. They kick up the style factor by a billion. If you love using paper napkins, save them for dessert or cocktails.
  4. Keep floral arrangements below 12 inches or above 24.
  5. Various vessels, stands and bowls make for a beautiful table.
  6. Take opportunities to mix in a pattern in the same palette.
  7. People love personalization and individual attention.

SK: How can we make sure that we can use table decor more than once?

ES: Invest in white basics. You can always switch out napkins, salad plates and accessories when everything else is neutral. Using metallic colors counts as a neutral! For Christmas I use silver and gold, which can be brought back in spring for a pretty brunch or paired with black for a superchic event.

SK: What are some family dinner table-setting mistakes you see?

ES: I think not getting everyone involved is a mistake. There are certain situations, like at a dinner party, when you'll want to have the table done before guests arrive. But when it comes to family meals, feel free to get interactive. See who makes the best napkin art or let your little one pick flowers from the yard for the centerpiece. I don’t think there are too many big mistakes that can be made — aside from not giving people enough elbow room! Make sure each setting has at least 18 inches.

SK: Any great trends you're seeing?

ES: I love the communal trend in dining and think that bringing this idea to the family meal is so fun. Pizza building, tapas grazing or anything that keeps you at the table and the conversation flowing.

Visit Erin's blog, House of Earnest, for more beautiful event styling inspiration.

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