More than the food on the plates…I love the visual ambiance of the dining experience. (Can you tell I’m a designer and not a chef?!)


Five tips I use:


1. When asking “Right?” of “Left?” I taught my daughters: “k.n.i.f.e. AND g.l.a.s.s.” each have five letters…just like “r.i.g.h.t.” F.o.r.k. has four letters, just like “l.e.f.t.”



2. The edge of the charger/service plate should be one inch from edge of the table. (I keep a six-inch ruler in the drawer of my dining room table.)



3. Never, ever paper napkins. Cloth napkins can be tucked under the charger or in a napkin ring sitting on the charger. I like them centered vs to the side.



4. Zillions, I mean zillions, of candles, regardless of time of day, make every dining experience “special.” Rule of thumb: I allow five votives or tapers per guest, thus if we have 10 seated, that’s 50 flickering flames. Gorgeous!


5. Don’t forget the “above.” In my dining room, I have 32 clear Magic Strip hang points (perfectly gridded out) that anchor ribbons, eggs, lacy hearts, feathers, balloons, snowflakes. At the very least, festoon your chandelier with ribbons, fresh baby’s breath, branches of fresh greenery, suspended votives…something! It’s so unexpected!



The addition of a place card makes the guest feel so “expected.”





Fresh food requires fresh flowers…never artificial anything on a dining table.



Be creative and switch it up i.e., rotate the artwork, have multiple linens (not just white or ivory), switch out the plates, use “the good stuff” often. My guilty pleasure is Waterford crystal and our tables sparkle even for “casual” luncheons.


Have an Opening Grace and conclude the grace with a toast. It’s like lighting the torch at the Olympics. Let the games begin! MJN