From bountiful breakfasts to decadent dinners, the rise of the tablescaping trend has turned everyday meals into an elaborate art form
If staying in is the new going out, it makes sense that tablescaping – dressing up your dining table in an artfully considered and accessorised way – has become the latest trend to take social media, and our homes, by storm. Pre-Covid, tablescaping was the preserve of weddings and professionally catered events, but the pandemic and ensuing periods of lockdown have brought home the idea that there’s no time like the present to elevate the everyday. In the past 12 months the focus has shifted significantly, with hundreds of thousands of tablescaping enthusiasts posting pictures of their highly stylised table settings online. The ‘tablescape’ hashtag currently stands at 1.4 million posts on Instagram, while ‘tablesetting’ boasts 3.4 million posts. Some of Instagram’s most prominent original tablescapers, including Alice Naylor-Leyland and Moda Operandi founder Lauren Santo Domingo, have used their influence to start tablescape-inspired businesses; the former set up Mrs Alice’s Shop in 2019, while the latter expanded Moda Operandi’s offering to include tableware in 2018. Meanwhile, the likes of British broadcaster Laura Jackson and London-based supper club host Kirthanaa Naidu have amassed legions of followers thanks to their eclectic and accessible styles. As with most social media trends, brands are following suit.
According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, consumers in the UAE are now spending more on homeware than ever before, and interior styling has been embraced by some of the biggest names in fashion across the globe as discerning shoppers are prioritising interiors over the latest It bag. Launched in 2020, the Dior Maison homeware lines pay homage to Monsieur Dior’s love of entertaining, and since its inception has reimagined the designer’s original Parisian boutique dedicated to the art of creating a beautiful home. And both Gucci Décor and Versace have expanded their reach with tableware collections that echo the signature prints of both houses “With not much opportunity to wear amazing fashion, we have seen our customers shift to investing in homeware,” says Chelsea Power, senior buyer at Matchesfashion. “We continue to see strong engagement in accessories but instead of high heels or an evening bag they can pivot to a great piece of homeware.” Featuring brands like Luisa Beccaria, Missoni Home, L’Objet and Anissa Kermiche, the e- tailer’s edit of carefully curated high-end homewares has gone from “strength-to-strength” according to Chelsea and everything from glassware to plates, vases, table linen – “anything to spruce up the table for dinner” – is proving popular. “People’s creativity needed a channel during lockdown and we have all been appreciating the smaller things, laying the table for dinner being one of them,” she suggests. “Instead of reserving a beautiful or fun tablescape for special occasions, they can be part of your everyday to spark joy and feel uplifted.”
That sentiment is shared by Natalia Shustova, aka Shoestova, who founded Goshá, a bespoke floristry service, in 2020. “Before, there were people who saw flowers as something you grab and go, but today they have time to admire what they have in their homes, and everyone has become more involved in this beauty as well,” she says. The lawyer turned fashion insider decided to set up Goshá as a more sustainable way to channel her love of fashion after she became disillusioned with overconsumption. Part of her business includes styling tablescapes for clients. “We start with the menu, what kind of tableware we’ll use,” Natalia says of her approach to creating bespoke table settings. “But there are also trends that we follow. What’s trending a lot is randomness in a tablesetting. It’s really surprising. We’re using a lot of vegetables and fruits like pomegranates or beautiful bunches of grapes. Right now, it goes into the unexpected and extraordinary. And colour is so big. Everyone wants to introduce as many colours as possible.” And while you might think a florist’s mantra is “more is more” when it comes to using flowers, Natalia is a big believer in using less and better, especially if the budget is tight. “Go for many, many, many vases and put individual flowers in your glassware. That’s going to create exactly the same look as massive bunches o f flowers everywhere,” she advises. “We really appreciate and suggest dealing with the beauty of one rather than the beauty of too many.”
Also set up last year, Dubai-based Lavender & May offers a ‘tablescape in box’ service that is purchased rather than rented, and also allows customers to shop individual items including tablecloths, vases and candles “to add to their own pretty pieces and create a unique table” reveals founder Katie Watson Grant. Having previously worked in PR and events, Katie says that in the last few years she’s noticed a change in the way people want to host. “Gone are the huge, extravagant events, and in place of them is the intimate meal around a beautiful table. I wanted to bring a touch of this to people’s homes and was inspired by the idea during Covid and the lockdown and restrictions that came with it, that even the smallest of tables should be beautiful.” Her top tips for making mealtimes less ordinary but intimate and unfussy? Choose your theme and make what you have work around that. “First of all, don’t stress,” she advises. “It’s supposed to be fun! Your table doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Choose a theme or a colour scheme and go from there – whimsical, modern, traditional, or Mediterranean, for example, and look around the house to see what elements you have that you can build into the theme of tablescape that you’ve chosen.” Katie also advocates using a touch of formality to make even the most frivolous of meals a little bit more special, and tablecloths and napkins are a great place to start. “A table runner or a table cloth is an easy way to add colour and texture to the table, and placemats or charger plates are the best base for any tablescape – they look much better than just plates sitting on a table and add some style,” she recommends. “Cloth napkins are a relatively inexpensive and easy way to add instant glamour to your table – either invest in a great quality plain white linen that you’ll use again and again, or match the napkins to your theme.”
Alamira Noor Bani Hashim, co-founder of underground supper club The Dinner Club by No.57 and No. FiftySeven Boutique Café in Abu Dhabi proposes that the home has “become our safe haven more than ever”, so it makes sense that we’re being increasingly drawn to small but not insignificant ways to make ordinary experiences and daily actions more meaningful. “It’s been a rough time and people are looking for joy in the smallest things, even if it’s just having their eggs on their finest china,” she tells MOJEH. While The Dinner Club by No.57’s main clientele is luxury brands, it also offers event planning to private clients and has become synonymous with unexpected tablescapes and settings. “Our top tip is that there are no rules! Have fun with it. Look at the world around you and reuse items for different things. We’ve been known to grab large tree shavings and use them as serving platters or curtains as tablecloths or cement building blocks as risers.”
But what about tablescape enthusiasts who don’t want to commit to purchasing different types of tableware or hiring a stylist to come to their home but still covet that Insta-worthy look? Companies like Tableau and Pick A Party have got in on the act in a different way by offering easy-to-assemble rental packages that contain everything you need to create the perfect tablescape for one meal only. Launched in Dubai in 2020 by Maysa Rawi Idilby and Rula Tayara, Tableau offers its clients a comprehensive tablescape rental service that is described by Maysa as a “one- stop-shop”. While Tableau’s busiest periods are generally during the festive season and Ramadan, the co-founders have also found an increasing number of people are turning to rentals to create picturesque moments outside of the busy holiday periods and say that picking a theme or a specific cuisine can help focus the direction of a tablescape setting. From there, Maysa says that looking around your home can often result in finding unexpected items that work. “Candles are essential. And if you focus more on the centre of the table, then you can get away with less elaborate dinnerware,” she adds. Rula also advises that menus and creative place cards or napkin rings are a great way to inject colour and pattern if you have basic white plates and want to elevate the look without splashing out on new dinnerware. “I have always hosted people at home and I like to go all out with add-ons such as menus, name cards or party favours. I can see how those extra touches really make a difference to a guest’s experience and makes them feel special.” And she also suggests looking to the garden for inspiration instead of using flowers. “Just a few olive tree branches can make an impact.”
Similarly, Pick A Party, the brainchild of Dubai-based events planner Mallika Singh, who also runs Fete Events, offers a DIY rental option that allows customers to curate covetable tablescapes without committing to the traditional planning process or a purchase. Mallik a believes that her customers are approaching tablescaping the same way they approach their wardrobes every season, and embracing emerging trends allows them to be more experimental and expressive at home. “Every detail is considered and perfectly placed for a reason; statement pieces and accessories help to create a look or tell a story,” she explains. When it comes to setting the scene, Mallika also takes a sensory approach and says that sound and smell in particular can help you achieve the right mood. “Playlists help to set the mood; a romantic setting calls for scented candles, velvety roses and soft jazz; a Mexican fiesta should be brought to life with mariachi, bright colours and in tense flavours. Ambience is everything,” she says.