Dress down for dinner: Relaxed table settings for informal dining

Forget starched linen and clunky silverware – entertaining just got much more relaxed. Here’s how to set the scene.

Pick a pattern

table settings
Habitat

Here, plates and bowls in an abstract design and muted palette are standout without being stuffy. ‘Instagram has fuelled the demand for unusual tableware, featuring interesting glaze techniques, colour and pattern,’ says Kate Butler, head of design at Habitat. ‘The shapes here are inspired by paper-cut collage and give a clean, contemporary look.’ Pair bold ceramics with matt black cutlery and use raw materials, such as a simple oak dining table, to provide visual contrast. Dinnerware, £60 for a 12-piece set, cutlery, £95 for a 16-piece set, all habitat.co.uk

Keep it simple and stylish

table settings
Swoon

‘Creating a setting that combines beauty and practicality is important,’ says Alex Hely-Hutchinson, founder of Neal’s Yard restaurant 26 Grains. ‘I love aged wood surfaces and handmade earthenware crockery, which complement a simple but considered style of food.’ Dining table, £529, pendant lamp, £47, dinnerware, £119 for a 12-piece set, all swooneditions.com

Add a touch of gold

table settings
Swoon

Using metal and stoneware against a warm wood backdrop creates a relaxed feel, while the gold cutlery adds a sense of occasion to dinner parties. The key here is to layer – use stacks of ceramics paired with linen napkins. Dinnerware, £119 for a 12-piece set, swooneditions.com. For similar cutlery, try anthropologie.com or zarahome.com 

Go full circle

table settings
CAMERA PRESS/Bauer Media Group/Eve Wilson

A statement table and chairs will anchor your space. The circular shape creates an informal feel and works well in small spaces. For a laid-back vibe that shows off the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship, opt for honed wood paired with chairs that have a classic design. Mismatched colours loosen up the look. Visit conranshop.co.uk for similar chairs.

And relax

table settings
John Lewis & Partners

‘Stylishly casual restaurant dining is influencing the way that we decorate our homes,’ says Philippa Prinsloo, head of design for home at John Lewis. ‘For a pared-back look, ditch the tablecloth and mix and match your dinnerware. Add a large rug underneath the dining table to help zone an open-plan space.’ Dining table, £799, bench, £220, round rug, £100, all johnlewis.com

Table talk

Nail informal dining with playful prints and a shot of colour 

Coasters, £16.50 for four, oliverbonas.com 

Pendant light, £149, abigailahern.com 

Glasses, £16 for two, oliverbonas.com 

Jug, £10, anthropologie.com

Salad bowl, £25, johnlewis.com

Plate, £39, rockettstgeorge.co.uk 

Platter, £48, anthropologie.com 

Eight-seater dining table and benches, £399, johnlewis.com

Napkins, £49.99 for four, lovedhala.com 

Cutlery, £79 for a 16-piece set, made.com 

Cake plates, £25 for two, made.com 

Chopping board, £30, habitat.co.uk 

Oak chair, £630, dykeanddean.com 

Report: Emma J Page