Class is in session! In the latest instalment of our BAZAAR Guide series, we invite etiquette author Astrie Sunindar-Ratner to show us how to set up your table for an intimate brunch. The 41-year-old founder of A – The Etiquette Consultancy takes table setting—and table manners—very seriously. But as she points out in the video, at-home dining doesn’t always have to be picture perfect or “matchy-matchy”; all you really need are good linen, luscious blooms and food made with love.

Ahead, we ask Sunindar-Ratner for some tips on how to throw an intimate yet fabulous at-home dining experience.

Related article: A Fashionable Life: At Home With Etiquette Author Astrie Sunindar-Ratner

BAZAAR Guide: Tablescaping With Etiquette Author Astrie Sunindar-Ratner
Photo: Navin Pillay

When did your passion for tablescaping come about and what inspired it?

It all started with my love for table manners. I started setting the table nicely for my children to get them interested in learning proper table etiquette. I believe that when the table is set beautifully, it takes the dining experience to another level—even simple breakfasts can be transformed into memorable family moments that last a lifetime. We don’t necessarily remember what was said or served, but the positive emotions linked to these meals become imprinted in our minds, always accessible to provide a little spark of joy.

Tell us about your creative process.

The first step is to come up with a theme. If there is no particular occasion, I tend to start with what colour I’m feeling that day because I’m a visual person. And because I love flowers (they are a must in my house), I like to match the table setting with the particular flowers that I have at home at the time. Once a week, I visit the florist and pick up what’s in season. If nothing tickles my fancy that day, I go for hydrangeas. I love simple arrangements—to me, the simpler the better! 

Related article: Billionaire Heiress Kim Lim Shows Us Her New Penthouse And Fabulous Wardrobe

What are the steps involved in tablescaping?

To me, tablescaping is table setting done creatively with a theme in mind. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to spend a fortune! It’s all about planning ahead, being organised and getting creative with what you have. It’s also a lot about personal touches.

No matter the occasion, starting with a theme in mind is always a good idea! It can be as simple as a colour theme—say blue—a holiday theme like Thanksgiving or even a conceptual one such as organic or ‘Summer in Provence’. Whatever the theme may be, I believe sticking to a theme is they key to creating a beautiful tablescape. 

Related article: Tiffany Hsu, Fashion Buying Director of Mytheresa, Gives Us A Tour Of Her Shoreditch Flat

Once you have a theme in mind, think about what kind of mood you want to set—is it casual or formal? Then select the linen and plates accordingly. You can’t go wrong with beautiful white linens. As for plates, napkins, table mats and glassware, let the theme and the type of occasion (casual or formal) guide your choices. Then add flowers to as well as candles, if appropriate. I have to admit that I have a love affair with candles and so I have a collection of that is appropriate for almost every meal—from simple family breakfasts to romantic dinners with the hubby, to larger gatherings of friends.

One of the most important parts of a beautiful tablescape is the little personal touch such as ribbons tied on the napkins, name cards, and handwritten or hand painted menus. These small touches let your guests know that you have put in a lot of thought into the meal and therefore the importance you place on them as guests. Don’t forget to play your favourite music in the background to create a beautiful ambiance. Last but not least, present the food nicely. Et voila! You have all the elements of a beautiful tablescape. Now the only thing left is to enjoy the meal with great company.

Which part of the process is your favourite? 

I love coming up with a theme. Whenever I’m hosting—or expecting to—I usually do up a simple mood board because it helps me stay focused. I love the whole process from start to finish because I find it so therapeutic. And then to see my family or guests pleased with the set up brings me so much joy!

Related article: PR Maven Sandra Cameron Shows Us How To Live The Bright Way

What are your top tips for an intimate setting?

Invest in good table linens. I collect vintage hand-embroidered linens; they are hard to come by these days but they really set the tone of the table. Simple, beautiful white table linen is a must! When in doubt, go for classic white dinnerware, then add coloured or patterned napkins, candles and pretty vases with lovely flowers.

Keep it simple but pretty. One word of warning: Don’t go overboard with colours! A good rule of thumb is to keep to no more than three complementary colours among the flowers, napkins, tablecloths and plates. Bold colours clash, so save them for when you are more confident with your tablescaping.

Some final thoughts: Take time to set the table but don’t go over the top. The goal of creating a beautiful tablescape is to make everyone feel special and comfortable so beautiful memories can be made. Let’s not forget that after all that is said and done, good manners are not about showing off what you have, but about making others feel welcome in your home. Bon appetit!

Related article: Yoyo Cao Takes Us On A Tour Of Her “Eclectic And Minimal” Penthouse

Producer: Navin Pillay
Video: Ewan Lim / Ohai Media
Stylist: Lauren Alexa
Hair and Makeup: Grego
Stylist’s assistant: Nadia Lim