Tag Archives: table setting

How Many Plates do I Really Need?

plates for entertaining

4 is not a number no matter how many chairs are in your dining room!

My kitchen table seats only 3 and my dining room table has only 6 chairs.  So, how many plates do I really need?  I need a lot more than 6!  I can honestly say that I get asked that question by almost every client I have.  The answer is that everyone needs at least 10 even if you only seat 6 at your table and here’s why:

First, you will sometimes choose to use some regular plates (not serving pieces) just for serving the food that you’ve made.  Perhaps the meal is more casual and you don’t feel the need to pull out your platters and, whatever you’ve created will fit just fine on a dinner plate.  That’s why if your table is like mine and you’re serving 6 you will need more plates.

Second, you might be having a casual dinner and somehow a plate or two gets cleared into the kitchen but your guests aren’t quite finished with the meal – you need more plates!

Third, for some holidays you might add a folding table or two with folding chairs to seat 12 and you need more plates.

Or, maybe you’re serving a buffet and a guest wants a clean plate – all of a sudden you need more plates.

Then there’s always the dreaded and unexpected ‘plus one’ that wasn’t on the original guest list but someone brings to the party. You can scramble for another chair that you pull up to your table but, if you don’t have extra plates, how are they going to eat their dinner?

And, what if you’re being very careful with cleanup but a plate slips through your fingers and goes crashing to the floor?  Or, the garbage disposal decides to eat a spoon? Or any number of other mishaps and disasters that could descend on your evening?

You can see where this is headed.  The number of chairs at your table is only the start of how many plates, bowls, glasses, spoons, forks, etc. that you need to have on hand.  My rule of thumb is an additional 4 of everything.  This holds true no matter what shape or size your plates, bowls or flatware are.  Extras are always the answer.

I used to throw an annual New Year’s Eve party for all of my friends.  The last several years the number of guests grew to 100.  After I pushed back all of the furniture in my living room I squeezed in 10 tables for dinner.  But, you can imagine how many dishes etc. I had for those parties – service for 115!!!  I just never knew if someone was bringing an ‘extra’ and I always needed to be prepared.

Count your plates and be ready for anything!

Dress up your table with just the right placemats!

Fran shows us things we didn't know about placemats.

For every meal you host, there’s a place setting that’s perfect to celebrate the event and mood.

When I think about all the best dinners I’ve attended or planned, I found that the tiniest details made a huge difference. That’s why we invest so much time and energy no matter if it’s a formal event or a casual gathering. After we pay so much attention to the menu and preparing the food, it only makes sense to pay as close attention to how your home and table setting looks.

So, when we look at that table setting, what do we see? Dinnerware, silverware, napkins, glasses, centerpiece, and… how about placemats? That’s one detail that I think is often overlooked and that can add just a touch of sophistication and creativity to your gathering. I can’t tell you how many settings I’ve seen where I saw placemats that were a complete mismatch; either the wrong mood or the wrong style.

There’s no secret to getting it right if you include that detail in your planning. Keep in mind that placemats create a specific space on the table for a place setting. It defines the area where your guests will dine.

One reason we overlook placemats is that we often default to tablecloths. Tablecloths can be useful if you are using folding tables or the surface of the table isn’t as pretty as it could be. But because they cover your entire table they visually take over as the theme for the meal and often give a more formal look to the table, but not necessarily – depending on the tablecloth. Some people like to put placemats on top of a tablecloth. It’s not a look I prefer but I’ve seen it done successfully.

My preference is to use placemats instead of a tablecloth, especially if you have a lovely table surface to show off. Placemats allow the beauty of your table to show through. They are also flexible for just about any style statement you want to make for any occasion.

Sometimes everything doesn’t fit directly ON the placemat (e.g., wine glasses, additional plates, bowls, et cetera) because the mat is either small or an odd shape. It’s perfectly acceptable to place items above or to the side of the edges of the mat.

I recommend focusing on different materials and designs so that you have a wide range of placemats on-hand. With different materials you can change the look of the table – even with the same china and silverware. Reeds and bamboo placemats make a completely different setting than high-quality linens and other fabrics. Try Chiliwich online stores for some truly original ideas or Williams-Sonoma for a larger selection that can complement almost any home.

Look for interesting shapes and colors that offset the table and your room décor. Think about modern designs, but also consider the lovely flavor that antique items bring to your table. Estate sales and flea markets are my favorite way to pick up genuinely unusual linen pieces.

Some of my placemats are from manufacturers that are out of business which makes them just a bit more special than ones you can pick up anywhere. Then again, I have my ‘go-to’ favorites for informal settings and daily use. Watch my video to see some examples.

Just remember to make it fun!