Clean and Chic Table Settings for Any Cuisine

Clean and Chic Table Settings for Any Cuisine

Table setting
Flatware by Oneida, Hearth and Hand Salad Plate from Target, Dinner plate from IKEA
Asian place setting
Rice bowl, spoon, chopsticks from 99 Ranch. Hearth and Hand Salad Plate from Target

I grew up in an Asian American household where we only had one utensil for the whole meal: chopsticks.  The typical European table settings with multiple pieces of flatware and china looked so fancy and luxurious to me especially when compared to a humble rice bowl and chopsticks.

But over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the poetry of simple things. A beautiful table setting doesn’t have to be complicated or involve a whole lot of dishes and fabrics.  Using what you have and what is appropriate for the meal you’re preparing, you can make an impressive place setting.  Here are some things I do when putting together table settings regardless of whether I have a lot or a little.


Layering gives a table setting dimension and interest versus having everything spread out. It also saves room on the table. You can layer a salad plate or a soup bowl over a dinner plate. You can lay chopsticks over a bowl/plate versus having it on the side. There are so many options when it comes to layering, don’t be afraid to try them. Unless you’re entertaining the queen of England, arrange and layer your table settings any way you want.

Asian place setting 2

Use Cloth Napkins

I don’t know a single person who uses cloth napkins on a daily basis, but they are great for special occasions especially with the holidays coming up.  They are the easiest way to dress up a table setting with very little cost.  I got these napkins from World Market at $9.99 for a pack of 6.

Mind Your Colors

There is a reason why most restaurants use white ceramic dinnerware.  It looks good with everything and helps to showcase the food.  This is not to say you should go out and buy a ton of white plates and bowls.  Simply keep your color palette in mind when setting the table.  Don’t introduce too many hue variations because this will muddy up the look and make it look old fashioned (which isn’t bad, but probably not your style if you’re on this website).  One technique you can try is to use only monochromes and introduce only one extra hue.  For the conventional setting, I used all white and introduced a slate/navy in the bottom dinner plate. For my Asian setting, I used all white and added some warmth with the wooden chopsticks.

Defy Convention

There are plenty of etiquette sites out there that will tell you the proper way to set a table. But sometimes a meal will call for unique utensils and dinnerware. In these situations, don’t be afraid to have fun and use your creative instincts. For my Asian table setting, I imagined there would be a broth that would require a spoon and bowl.  I took the concept of a typical napkin ring and used leftover holiday ribbon.  I tied the napkin along with chopsticks to create a little bundle that adds interest while keeping the table setting tidy and compact.

There are so many great things you can do even if you don’t have a lot.  Remember to have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously.  My friend once told me you can taste the joy in someone’s cooking.  I believe that is true for design as well.  So design and decorate joyfully.  People will feel it. Happy Holidays!

Share The Wealth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *