The prospect of laying out a table, especially for a big group of guests, can be overwhelming. How many plates, and do they all have to match? (Spoiler alert: No.) What about centerpieces? Well, luckily for you, House Beautiful's style director Robert Rufino is a master when it comes to styling (just watch what he can do with some simple grocery store flowers) and table settings are a particular strong suit of his.
Rufino cut his teeth designing window displays for Tiffany & Co., so you know any setup he does is going to be a showstopper—but, as he proves while setting a table with Lenox china in the video above, is it doesn't have to be that complicated. Below, Rufino's tips for a table that will have your guests itching to sit down, cocktail hour be damned.
Mix New And Old
House Beautiful editorial director Jo Saltz, whose home served as filming location for this shoot, inherited a set of Lenox's Rutledge porcelain from her parents. (Coincidentally, I also happen to own a set of Rutledge—mine came from my grandmother!—so can attest the set is ideal for mixing.) Rufino elected to layer this white, floral pattern with a mix of Saltz's new Lenox pieces: Stoneware dinner plates, floral Sprig & Vine accent plates, navy Chelse Muse dinner plates, Global Tapestry dessert plates.
"Designing a table is like making a painting," Rufino says. "Mixing old and new is a great way to get texture." Colebrook Onyx flatware provide a dose of contrast to anchor the mix-and-matched place settings.
Play With Pattern
But don't feel mixing has to mean coordinated solid colors—far from it, says Rufino. "Pattern on pattern is a great way of expressing oneself." For this tabletop, he stacked solid and patterned plates differently at each setting, starting with the largest (a dinner plate) and finishing with the smallest (a dessert plate) on top.
Add Some Color
For a tablescape that will really stand out, color is key. Rufino added some solid colors in the form of Lenox's Profile stoneware (yes, mixing porcelain and more casual stoneware is A-OK!), colorful glass Sprig & Vine bowls, and clear Tuscany Classics wine glasses. If your everyday plates are white, colored glasses or a few colorful accent plates are a great way to add a pop of color without breaking the bank. "I love the idea using your basic white plate on the bottom and then adding a small plate in blue or green on top," says Rufino.
The most important lesson? "Have fun with your table!" Rufino insists. Love a crazy colorful mix? Go for it. Into a more muted, tonal feel? That's fine too! At the end of the day, the table is a way to express yourself, Rufino says. Think of it as a little gift to your guests. "When your company comes to the table, they have a little something to enjoy before the food comes out," Rufino explains. And who doesn't want that?