All set: Impress your Easter guests with experimental table settings

What a Catch Sea Life Collection is Sophie Allport's new range of table linens in pale blue with sea creature motifs. It's perfect for casual entertaining both indoors and outdoors (set of four placemats €33.50, set of four napkins €18 from www.sophieallport.com).

Making the dining table the focus of gatherings this weekend is an opportunity to experiment with fresh new styling looks and to utilise tablewares in a variety of new ways, writes Carol O’Callaghan

EASTER entertaining is a lightweight version of Christmas, or, at least, it ought to be. Even the colour yellow which we associate with the lovely long weekend is airy with all the promise of summer just ahead. We hope.

For seriously stress-free entertaining, a well-laid table takes the pressure off hosts trying to negotiate around pots and pans and the complexities of previously untested recipes.

While chaos might reign in the kitchen, peace, calm and organisation can prevail around the table, and the beauty of it all is, lay it the night before or get all your things together so there’s one less job to do on the day.

Keep the catering simple and present it in your best bowls and serving platters, and lay your table for Saturday brunch or Sunday lunch for impact.

But just because you want something more relaxed rather than the strict rules of pairing white wine with fish and meat with red, and lining up multiple glasses, doesn’t mean resorting to paper napkins and lower standards. Instead, it brings an opportunity to be inventive and inject fun by considering previously unthought of themes.

Ten top tips

It's hard to believe the Drift range of tableware is made from melamine, making them perfect for children, outdoor entertaining and low-key celebrations as we move into summer (plates €6.95 at www.creativetops.com).

Nicole Reid of home interior boutique Interiosity offers 10 top tips for a novel table layout:

  • Avoid bulky chairs around the table so everyone fits. If you are buying a new table and chairs, just buy the precise number of chairs you need day to day, and utilise other chairs and stools from around the house when entertaining.
  • Consider using a separate table for the children if there’s not enough room at the main table.
  • Keep the table fresh and clean with crisp linens. Colours should be soft, not too obvious. Pink is huge this year and there’s a lot of pale blue and green, and just simple, plain white.
  • For something special, glass chargers look lovely on linens with a white plate over them, especially if you’re organising a buffet where people help themselves as it means they can then have a nice place setting on which to add their plate.
  • If children are included, melamine wares can be very pretty and won’t take from the table. Consider giving them a place setting as a gift rather than chocolate.
  • Go foraging for nice twigs and stems with blossoms and place along the middle of the table, or dot with tiny posies for an on-trend look.
  • Keep water jugs and wine at either end of a long table and group salt and pepper and the butter dish on a tray in the middle.
  • A bar cart next to the table, or using a side table or console is a good idea to free up the table surface.
  • For indulgence, have little Easter eggs in bowls as decorations.
  • Keep everything small and delicate.
  • Bear in mind it’s not like Christmas when everything is big.

Wow factor

Pink tones are trending in table linens and wares this season, creating a lightsome feel on a spring tabletop for casual entertaining (Abstract range bowl €22.50, Abstract platter €28, Sunbaked linen napkins €19.50 from M&S).

Fancy an exact plan, something to replicate and create a wow? Ikea has a little-known section on its website with step by step instructions on how to achieve an eye-catching tabletop finish using books as a novel styling tool.

It’s one worthy of any book club gathering or something to provoke conversation among non-bookworms round the table (www.ikea.com/gb/en/ideas/how-to-set-the-table-by-the-book-1364357906642).

Meadows & Byrne offers another option on its website, including an approach to a formal dining look.

Bear in mind formal tends to be less than child-friendly, but this approach takes the stuffiness out of formality, paring down on the multitude of cutlery and courses while emphasising the need for perfectly ironed napery and polished-up cutlery for a successful finish (blog.meadowsandbyrne.com/2018/09/meadows-and-byrne-table-setting-guide).

When it comes to no-nonsense practicality it’s hard to beat the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Check out its link with options for a formal look worthy of a state banquet, or a slightly more casual offering but one which still means crawling into the cupboard for rarely used equipment.

Try mixing regular wares with melamine versions for an adult and child-friendly table which is still focused on style. This 70s style selection of cream, brown and black from Debenhams includes ceramic bowls (€12.50 for two), melamine bowls (€12.50 for four), and a 16-piece cutlery set (€40).

If you’re still intimidated by the exacting instructions, scroll down to their colourful photos of some fun alternatives including the Modernise Heirlooms look which encourages using Granny’s china and accessorising it with gingham and striped accents in napery (www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decorating-ideas/a25460707/how-to-set-table).

Take a look at Pinterest too so all options are considered. Over 500 ideas are laid out to suit all tastes and plenty of suggestions on how to use what you have without investing in new items, especially if spring colours are not always to your taste (www.pinterest.ie/Matouk/setting-the-table).

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