How To Do Everything Better: Set a Stylish Table That Won’t Break the Bank

Blair Pfander

tablescape How To Do Everything Better: Set a Stylish Table That Wont Break the BankNew year, new you. With that in mind, follow along as we hit up experts in far-ranging fields from fashion to hospitality to travel for their thoughts on how to do everything better this year.
As design director of the legendary Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurants in New York, co-owner Laureen Barber—sister-in-law to chef Dan Barber—knows a thing or two about creating unforgettable dining experiences.
Fortunately, you don’t have to shell out big bucks to create a four-star tabletop at home. Here, Barber spills her top five tips for creating a luxurious-looking meal (the key: mixing up textures and materials). Now if only we could have chef Barber permanently installed in our kitchen.
1. Mix it Up. “I feel like everybody should have their own style, obviously, and my style is really reflected in the restaurant,” Barber shared with us. “I like to mix things. I like to mix textures. At home, if I’m setting the table I want shiny things and things that are solid and flat, like a piece of slate with crystal, for example. I use stone bowls with silver. I’ll also use wood—lots of wood—and crystal mixed together. I find that interesting.”
2. Honor Table Traditions. “I like all the traditional elements of a table setting: the bread and butter plate, for instance, and the folded napkin and the crystal and the silver,” Barber says. “But I like to mix it up so that none of it is in the same style.”
3. Don’t Forget the Color Palette. “Keep the colors on the table very monochromatic, going from light to dark,” Barber advises. “Then, you can add the real color in the flowers. It’s sort of soothing to the eye, because the real interest comes from the mixing of the textures and styles, and then the drama comes in through the color of the flowers.”
4. The Food is the Star of the Show. “Your food has lots of color, so you don’t want to compete with that so much,” Barber says. “I tend to keep the color out of the plate and use it either on the centerpiece or in the flowers. I like using branches, for instance, or plants, versus just cut flowers.”
5. Fancy Doesn’t Have to Mean Fussy. “Try using a dishcloth instead of a regular napkin,” Barber suggests. “They’re pretty, but they’re also nice and large. Sometimes, it’s fun to use flea market silver. I love to use different types of bread and butter plates because then you can keep your entrée plate white—I like a white china entrée plate—and [then I use] Japanese stone bowls, or I have wooden bread and butter plates. Sometimes people forget about these more formal aspects, but they don’t have to mean your table is formal. It creates layers of interest on the table, and I think that’s fun!”
You can see Barber’s handiwork at Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in  Tarrytown, New York. For more information visit
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