During the summer months and on the weekends, everybody gathers in our family country house. We are all very close and we love spending a lot of time together (we quarrel too). It is like an Italian version of a French family. We like to eat well and so we usually set a big table outside under the tall cedar tree.
I am usually the one in charge of setting the table (I love « staging things ») and I often tend to overdo it a little bit. But my philosophy is that life is too short to enjoy nice things only for special occasions. And I want to highlight the beautiful things life and nature give us along the year.
There are a few things to take into consideration when you want to set a summer table. First, the flowers and shrubs from the garden. I love to cut fresh flowers and branches for a rustic feel and arrange them in vases I find in antique shops or nurseries. We are lucky to have different colours and varieties of flowers in the garden although not all last very long once cut. I usually mix at least two roses with a peony or just put into a vase a few blackberry branches (my favourite).
Then, I decide what tableware I’m going to use. I have gathered over the years different « collections » of plates with different patterns. I usually choose flowery ones or those with very bright colours. It’s summer after all! I also love using tableclothes or table mats even though I love when guests can see the table especially when it is made of wood, as I find its rusticity simply charming. But a beautiful linen or hemp tablecloth in a pastel color can look really nice too.
As for the cutlery, you can either buy it in antique shops (for a dépareillé effect) or find vintage-looking cutlery that is actually brand new in department stores. At least you can put the latter in the dishwasher. I also choose among my linen and hemp (once again) napkins to put on the table. For the best effect, choose a bold color in contrast with the tablecloth (if you decided to have one). There are a few nice shops where you can find them although unfortunately most of them are not made in France anymore.
You can also add a few candles of different sizes in the evening and add in them a few drops of lemongrass essential oils to drive away mosquitos.
Glassware is another soft spot of mine. I almost have no room left in my Parisian place to buy more glasses. It is a true obsession! Glasses really add a touch of elegance or rusticity depending on the type of table you want to set. Playing with the heights of glasses can also create a great effect especially if you are going to serve wine and water. And if you have coloured ones it may add a touch of fun too!
For a final touch, and I do this only for special occasions of course, I can add a printed menu and place cards. It is a nice way to show the persons you have invited that you care about them and that every details matters when they are your guests!