The Art of Dining

Dining together is an under-rated activity today. Sitting around a beautifully set dining table, sharing a meal together should be a regular activity but sadly it seems to have almost vanished from our lives. This is not to say that every day can be a fine dining day, but here are some suggestions as to how to recapture the art of dining in your home.

First up a note: if you have a room designated as a dining room, you have even more reason to cultivate distinct dining rituals. This is not to say that turning your little-used formal dining room in to a home office or media room is a bad idea – as long as you have another space where you can create a dining setting of the size and capacity that works for you.

Place settings

For some people the first hurdle to overcome is the idea of saving their fine china or linen for ‘best’. No, I’m not suggesting you should use the Royal Doulton for your breakfast cornflakes, but leaving it gathering dust is a waste. With careful handling it should serve you well. Some settings can cope with dishwashers, some can’t. Even so, the occasional breakage is a small price to pay for the enjoyment and enhancement it brings to your meals. If you are investing in a new set, it might be wise to buy a couple of extra settings as ranges do get discontinued.


Glassware is even more vulnerable to breakages than china, so if you have irreplaceable crystal or vintage glassware that you are really attached to, you could use it to set the table or decorate the sideboard. Once you are serving drinks, switch to a plainer range such as Riedel. You’ll be able to ensure that you can source the best type of glass for the style of wine you are serving, and you can replace breakages easily as they reproduce the same styles and even sell in packs of two.

Dining table

The best dining table is the one that both suits your space and accommodates the number of people that you typically have to dine (4, 6 or 8). The problem then becomes if you have an occasion that calls for more guests. You can either invest in an extension table to begin with, or use a folding or trestle tables with cloths. Once you get over 10 guests, seating at two round tables can be more convivial that one long table. I’m personally not a fan of large rectangular dining tables made up of solid timber slabs. They may look very handsome but they are usually very expensive, difficult to install, and if you don’t need it any longer the resale market is non-existent. Avoid glass topped tables – no-one wants to look down at their legs while dining.


If you have the room, a sideboard or buffet where you can lay out food or serve drinks from will help you spend more time with your guests. These specialist items of furniture can be expensive to buy new but there is a trend to ‘upscale’ older timber pieces with paint, mirrors and new hardware. Another way to show off your best china and glassware is glass fronted cabinets, with internal lighting.


The height of the table and the dining chairs should be well-matched. Of course people vary widely in height and width – but you just have to go with what you feel is a good relationship between chair and table. Websites recommend allowing 61 cm width per person but to me this is quite minimal. If your dining chairs have arms you are likely to need at least 80 cm per person. If the table legs are close to or flush with the edge of the table, then you need to be able to seat people comfortably between them. No one wants to straddle a leg! Upholstered seats in a breathable, natural fabric are to be preferred over hard timber, metals or plastic, and will encourage people to sit for longer.


Your guests will feel more comfortable over dinner if the lighting is flattering and creates focus around the table. A pendant light or chandelier directly over the table, in proportion and hung at the correct height, will bring your dining setting to life. Opt for dimmers on your lights wherever possible. Around the room, wall scones, adjustable down lights, lamps or picture lights can provide ambient lighting without those harsh shadows that don’t flatter your guests. Don’t have a clock to remind your guests how long they have stayed but instead display a painting, holiday photographs or something treasured as a focal point and conversation starter.


Another very overlooked consideration in dining is noise. Wherever you entertain, make sure that people can converse in a normal voice. Your dining room should have some soft finishes to absorb sound and background music (if any) should be soft. Banish the devices! Even when dining as a family, turn off the television and mobile phones and cultivate the art of conversation.

If you get in to the habit of using your dining setting it will pay off in terms of your family relationships and friendships. Even your mid-week Uber order will taste better if you present it on proper plates and respect the effort that went it to its preparation.

As ever, if you would like advice on how to create a life-enhancing dining room, do get in touch!

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