Whether you’re lucky enough to have a separate room for dining or, like me, you don’t have any room at all, you can still make mealtimes pleasant and relatively stress-free.
In my case, I live on my own in a small cottage that has limited space so I eat at the breakfast bar. When visitors come, I set up a folding table in the lounge room and it doesn’t detract in any way from our enjoyment of the occasion.
Here are some ideas for making mealtimes easy and enjoyable:
Make sure that your table suits not only the size of your family, but also the space it is to occupy. If there is limited room, consider a round or oval shaped table to avoid bumping into sharp corners. A round table is also more versatile when it comes to fitting extra chairs around it. Alternatively you might consider an extendable or folding table.
Dining chairs should be washable and easy to sweep or vacuum under. Check that the feet of your chairs are not damaging your flooring. Felt pads or rubber caps will solve this.
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Unless you want to go formal, you can simplify your table setting with washable placemats. Keep the placemats stacked neatly in the middle of the table or in a nearby drawer when not in use.
For your everyday meals, you could keep enough cutlery in a pretty covered basket or lidded canister in the centre of the table or nearby. Cutlery that hooks onto a stand is quick and easy but is open to dust and insects.
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If your table is large and you have a large family, consider investing in a Lazy Susan (or two). These are rotating trays that sit in the middle of the table to make access to condiments, sauces, serviettes, etc., easier for all.
If you are having trouble replacing broken dinnerware from a matched set, there are several websites that can help you. An alternative is to pick a colour from the pattern and look for some plain dinnerware in that colour to compliment it. For example it can look quite impressive to have a plain red or white plate with a red-rose patterned side plate, or a deliberate mish-mash of bright retro-patterned bowls.
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For my own use, I prefer all white dinnerware which is easily replaceable and I bring colour to the table with placemats, serviettes and table decorations.
Carefully consider how many serving bowls, platters, terrines, sauce jugs, etc. you actually need. A couple of versatile pieces are easier to find when you need them and to store when you don’t. If you’re having extra guests, borrow what you need.
If table space is an issue at mealtimes, consider plating meals beforehand and setting up the condiments, serviettes, etc. on a separate surface (a sideboard or small portable table.)
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There are plenty of styles of serviette holders around, but which one you use, or whether you use one at all, may depend on space to store it when you’re not using it. It's easy to be creative when it comes to table decorations. Here are some simple ideas for adding a special touch:
- Tie Serviettes with ribbon, coloured string or wool (or tinsel at Christmas time).
- Practice some simple folds for your serviettes.
- Place tea-light candles in a row or cluster in the centre of the table.
- Core an apple or two and push tapered candles into them as holders.
- Half fill a small glass bowl with water and add a few drops of food colouring to match the table setting, and carefully float some flower heads or greenery or candles on top.
- Put a pretty rose head onto a plate and set a small pillar candle in the middle (keeping the flame above the petals.)