There is something magical about dining alfresco. At this time of year the longer days (and hopefully warmer weather) are the perfect excuse to linger over a meal, listen to the rustling of the night, and wait for the stars to appear. Celebratory meals with friends feel more special. And cosy meals for two are even more romantic. At times like this it is worth the effort to lay the table, use the best china, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny to create a table setting that is simply magical.
Top Tips for Creating an Inexpensive Table Setting
- Move the table away from the back door for starters. A different setting to the usual hurried supper will make the meal feel more special. Here, I moved the table and chairs to the back of a friends garden where we were under the trees and had the best view of the countryside and back towards the house. If you have a small garden, maybe move the table to the middle of the lawn and put up a temporary canopy to create a similar sort of intimacy.
- It’s true it takes more effort to get everything to the end of the garden and back again. I utilised trays and baskets to carry plates, napkins, cutlery and the all-important wine.
- I did have a white tablecloth to hand but you could just as easily use a white sheet for the same effect. In fact sheets are normally bigger and often hang to the floor which is very handy for hiding the ugly legs of garden tables.
- Take the dining chairs outside. They look more formal for a special meal and are designed to be the right height for dining. Often garden chairs are a bit on the low side, and that’s just not comfortable when eating.
- Instead of buying expensive flowers for the table, a quick stroll down the road may turn up lots of foliage for free. Here I used ferns, grasses and wild flowers from the hedgerows which I picked up while walking the dog.
- If you don’t have the right vases, use tall drinking glasses instead.
- In fact have a rummage round the house for anything that can be used on the table. I was lucky to be able to find some pewter items that had been picked up for a song at various French brocantes over the years.
(Can you see it’s raining! Even France has rain!!)
- Mismatched china, cutlery and glasses are charming when amassed together. It’s best however to stick to a loose theme so that the table looks considered and planned. Not thrown together in a mad rush. In particular I’ve used white (tablecloth, china, candles), silver (cutlery, candlesticks, pewter items), rattan for some texture (table mats, chair seats, baskets), glass (decanter, vases, glasses, tealight holders) and a dash of red on some of the glasses.
- Use washed out glass jars as tea-light holders. Here I used the small jars that usually hold supermarket desserts.