How to Set Your Table Like the French
In their new book, How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are, authors Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas demystify some of the most fascinating qualities of the French—not limited to matters of love, style, and etiquette. We are fascinated by everything from the French way to light a room to the Europeans' technique for styling a mantelpiece, but one of our favourite chapters is the one on setting the table. The French have perfected a table styling manner that looks both chic and effortless—a true feat. We're spilling these entertaining secrets below, so read on.
"To set a table for a dinner party, there's no need to invest in a full set of china," the authors write. "The table should reflect what you have, and not be overly coordinated. Au contraire, the china can be a mottled collection of your finds at flea markets."
"Your glasses don't have to match either, but they should be clear (nothing coloured) and should all have stems."
"For the napkins, it is nice to use old embroidered white ones with a monogram. These cost next to nothing on eBay or can be taken from your grandmother's drawers.
There's no need to fold the napkins into complicated origami, simply place them on or alongside the plates."
"At a Parisienne's table you will often find Laguiole folding knives, named after the French village where they are made. You can recognise them by the insect engraved on the handle."
"It's probably better to cover your table unless it's a truly beautiful one. Old linen sheets make excellent tablecloths. They can be white or dyed."
"On every table there is an open bottle of wine and a carafe of water (not a plastic bottle)."
"If you don't have a salt shaker, put salt in two small dishes on either end of the table."