How to set a Summer table

Art de la Table : dresser une table estivale en plein air

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.

setting summer table, French countryside
garden, summer, French countryside, tectona, Hamptons

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.

setting summer table, French countryside, peonies
garden, summer, French countryside, cake

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!

setting summer table, French countryside

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