Let's entertain: special suppers

This image: Neptune's Chichester country kitchen and dining range, table from £720

There's nothing better than opening up our doors and celebrating summer with friends and family. Angelina Villa-Clarke considers how to host in style

With the rising popularity of open-plan spaces the formal dining room is becoming a thing of the past. But, even if you don’t have a separate room, an elegant dining space is possible with the right ambience. If you have a kitchen-diner, create zones by using a different, yet complementary, colour palette for each area. Keep the space clutter-free – clear kitchen surfaces before your party, removing any surplus furniture, and add fresh flowers. For separate dining rooms, put wallpaper on all four walls, such as Harlequin’s bold Palmetto or Little Greene’s whimsical Archive Trails. This works well in a room that is not used every day, giving a dramatic, cocooning feel. 

David Mottershead, managing director of Little Greene, comments: “For me dining is a casual affair, with friends and family helping with food preparation. When it comes to the ambience, I like my guests to feel special – and I think the Sakura wallpaper in Yellow Lustre is welcoming and does the job to perfection.”

For a modern, funky look source industrial-style chairs and tables from My Furniture or colourful Eames chairs and metal café furniture. For a sophisticated look that will last, Furl’s 4x4 Table is extendable and available in either a walnut or oak top. Look to Wharfside for beautifully crafted modern pieces from brands such as Team 7 and Danish Retro.

Harveys is great for sourcing affordable dining furniture. Giving advice on the latest trends is Lisa Broad, head of buying: “With interior trends harking back to floral prints and block tones, dining rooms should be bold. Fabric is a great way of experimenting with patterns and zesty shades, on a seat pad or an upholstery dining scheme.


This image: Harvey's Hartham extending dining table, from £499

“Our Sofas By You and Chairs By You service means customers can pick a chair that’s the perfect match for their home, lifestyle and personality. The Victoria Quince fabric, used on a seat pad, gives the space a visual boost. Complement the look with on-trend white-on-wood furniture, to give a summer feeling.”

“If one piece of furniture sums up family life, it’s the dining table,” advises brand Neptune in Bury St Edmunds. “The place for suppers, meetings and parties; dining furniture deserves consideration. We’ve given traditional styles a modern twist so they will not go out of fashion.

“Round tables, like our Chichester, are great for larger rooms and perfect for entertaining. While our Harrogate dining table has a unique pedestal feature, and a number of finishes. It seats up to 12, making it perfect for events and big groups.”

To add character and practicality, invest in a feature sideboard or dresser. For a French-style country look, go for painted pieces in aqua or distressed whitewash, such as those at Shabby Store.

This image: the Avignon dining range, from Marks and Spencer, from £5

Set the scene

How you style your dining table is the first step in creating the right atmosphere. Claire Vallis, design director at Harlequin, gives her tips: “For afternoon teas and summer brunches with style, dress your table with light, delicate fabric runners, napkins and adorn windows with coordinating drapes. If evening entertaining is more your thing, use deep colours with bronze accessories to emphasise the drama of the occasion.”

The mood of your gathering can also be dictated by the accessories you choose. For impromptu affairs with good friends a mismatch of cutlery and ceramics is very fitting, especially if they are all in the same style or colour group. Vintage plates and bone-handled knives and forks work well for this laid-back look. For a similar feel, seek out the Virginia Casa Romantica hand-painted earthenware inspired by floral motifs, available at Kensington Design. Bamboo-trimmed bowls, black ceramics and acacia wood chopping boards from Bloomingville give a modern restaurant-vibe.

For more formal evening parties, go for glamorous, metallic-adorned plates, such as the gold-trimmed Caesars Palace collection from Dwell or, alternatively, keep it simple and chic by opting for an all-white table – Marks and Spencer has a range of pretty, embossed plates and bowls.

Hanna Wendelbo-Hansson, creative director at Sandberg, reveals how to set the scene: “Make entertaining a luxurious affair with antique glass and cutlery, a family heirloom dinner service, and luxurious wallpaper on all four walls. Guests should feel spoilt and the sumptuous surroundings should match the effort you have put in.”

Maximising a room’s ambient lighting is essential to creating an inviting space. “Dining room lighting is key to entertaining, and it’s great to splash out on a feature light,” says Simon Wallis-Smith, director of Fritz Fryer, lighting specialists. “To create an intimate experience that will impress your guests, hang a chandelier over your dining table so that the bottom is around 70cm from the surface. This looks stunning and means you can get away with a larger fitting as you don’t need to walk underneath.”

From Där Lighting’s shimmering, Fiesta ball to Vita Copenhagen’s brushed copper pendant, the choice of fixtures these days is wide and varied. Opt for a unique lighting piece to make a statement and as a conversation starter.

Søren Ravn Christensen, chief creative developer at Vita Copenhagen, reveals how to let the light set the mood: “The design of the lamp and the light it offers can create a different mood, from a cosy and relaxed ambience to a lively and bright one. Place lampshades in relation to the light they offer. Try to create a welcoming atmosphere, without the light shining into your eyes. Try to use warm and glare-free lights for spaces closer to the eyes, just like the Vita Silvia lamp. Because the bulb isn’t visible from any angle, this lampshade is perfect for any height or place, either as a pendant, floor lamp or table lamp.”

This image: Bloomingville's Acacia wood board, £28 from Quince Living