How to Set a Table: Table Settings For All Occasions

Table Setting

These days, we’re so used to eating off the lounge room coffee table or our kitchen benchtop that we’ve lost the art of setting the dining table. However, there is an art to it – and a complex one at that.


Since we’re out of shape, it’s hard to know how to set a table. Yet it’s a good skill to have. Your table setting – whether it is for Christmas, a wedding, or just a formal family dinner – is often the first reference point your guests get for the feast ahead. . So if you really want to impress, read our guide to setting the table for:

Table Place Setting Etiquette: The Basics


There are a few standard rules that apply to any table layout, whether you’re hosting this week’s Sunday roast or charged with designing the place settings for the next wedding in the family.

Here are the few stock-standard rules you should know before you launch straight into the Christmas dinner table setting extravaganza.

A basic table setting needs, at a minimum:

  • A table
  • A dinner plate
  • A fork
  • A knife
  • A glass

Basic Table Setting

These standard rules apply across any table setting arrangement. To begin, the plate always sits in the centre of the arrangement, about an inch from the table’s edge.

Everything else revolves around the plate, with an equal distance between each item. Almost without exception, you’ll find the forks on the left and the knives on the right. The knife blade should turn in towards the plate.

If you have more than one course – and so more than one set of cutlery – the “outwards-in” rule applies. That is, keep the cutlery you’ll use for the first course the furthest from the plate.

A handy rule to keep in mind is this: Solids on the left, liquids on the right. This means you keep your bread and butter plate on the left, but any drinking glasses on the right.


Informal Table Settings

An informal dinner is generally considered one that covers two or three courses. That could include a salad or soup, a main course, and a dessert. It’s not a hard slog by any means, but it certainly calls for a bit more fanfare than your regular TV dinner ritual.When you want to add a bit of flair to your table setting, you may want to consider placemats or a tablecloth. Make sure any placemats are spaced evenly apart, an inch or two from the edge of the table. And of course, try to ensure the tablecloth hangs evenly either side of the table.

  • A dinner plate
  • A napkin
  • A salad plate
  • A fork
  • A salad fork
  • A bread and butter plate
  • A butter knife

  • A dinner knife
  • A teaspoon
  • A soup spoon
  • A water glass
  • A wine glass
  • A mug

Informal Table Setting

You may notice the table setting looks a little more filled out. (which is where an extendable dining table like these may come in handy). Along with the basic table setting etiquette above, there are a few more things to note for an informal dinner.

When you’re serving up an informal dinner, you want to ensure there’s enough cutlery to last the whole meal. You can lay everything out in one go, or you can bring out the mug and saucer or dessert utensils later in the night. If you choose to keep mugs or cups on the table, make sure their handles are tilted to the right.

If you choose to supply a plate for the bread and butter, position it just above the forks, to the left of your dinner plate. Place the butter knife parallel to the table with the handle pointing to the right.

If you’re serving a salad or a soup entrée, you may include a salad fork or a round soup spoon. Whichever the case, these utensils should remain furthest from your plate, alongside the other cutlery.

You shouldn’t have more than one wine glass, although an additional glass or tumbler for water is fine. If you do serve more than one glass or mug, make sure the wine glass sits to the right of the water glass and to the left of the coffee cup.

Dessert spoons can sit either to the right of your dinner knife, or you can position it (along with the dessert fork), just above the plate.

Finally, don’t serve up any utensils you won’t be needing! A salad fork will only serve to fill space if you’re not actually serving a side of greens.

Formal Table Settings

A formal table setting is reserved for those all-out occasions that call for your best china or crystal. It’s usually only an occasion for more than three courses. A typical formal dinner may include a soup followed by a fish course, then the main meal or meat course, a salad, and finally, dessert.

If you really want to get it right, you need to make sure your table setting is entirely symmetrical. Everything should be evenly spaced.

  • A tablecloth
  • A charger or service plate
  • A napkin
  • A fork
  • A salad fork
  • A bread and butter plate
  • A butter knife
  • A dinner knife

  • A dessert spoon
  • A dessert fork
  • A soup spoon
  • An oyster fork
  • A water glass
  • A red wine glass
  • A white wine glass
  • A champagne flute

Formal Table Setting

A formal dinner is different to an informal dinner because every used dish and piece of cutlery is taken away at the end of each course. Each new course is brought out on fresh dishes.

There may be a real collection of cutlery, with anything from salad forks to oyster forks on the table. Don’t forget the golden rule to place the fork that will be used first on the outer right edge, and so on.

However, there is an exception to this! Make sure your oyster fork sits on the far right, beside your knife or soup spoon.

The formal dinner often features a charger or service place. The charger is never actually used to eat food on; it serves as a hotplate for the soup and fish courses. It’s removed before the main course comes out.

The napkins can sit either folded on the charger or left of the fork. Alternatively, for an extra flourish, you can place them in a delicate fold in the wineglass.

You’ll note that there are more glasses on the table than you may, perhaps, need. There can be as many as four or five glasses on the table. The water glass stays on the table throughout the meal. However, the red and white wine glasses and champagne flutes are generally reserved for just one course each.

With the gluttony of cutlery surrounding either side of your plate, you can keep the dessert cutlery separate. Place them instead above your plate, with the dessert fork placed horizontally directly above the charger. The dessert fork will have the handle to the left. The dessert spoon goes above it with the handle to the right.

You’ll note an absence of the cups and saucers. These only come out when all the other courses have been finished and the table is cleared for coffee and tea at the end of the meal (and for a well-deserved catering break!).

Wedding Table Settings

A wedding is a glamorous show, which the dining tables should reflect. The dining settings are typically designed to go along with the overall wedding theme.

This is a real excuse to show off your formal table setting know-how. But there are a few extra morsels you’ll want to add to the arrangement to make it stand out.

Your wedding table setting can begin with:

  • A napkin
  • A fork
  • A salad fork
  • A bread and butter plate
  • A butter knife
  • A dinner knife
  • A soup spoon
  • An oyster fork
  • A dessert spoon
  • A dessert fork

  • A water glass
  • A red wine glass
  • A white wine glass
  • A champagne flute
  • A place card
  • A name card
  • Tall candles or tea candles
  • Low floral arrangements
  • A table runner

Wedding Table Setting

You’ll want crisp, white tablecloths as a base layer for the table. But you can overlay it with a more decorative table runner; something with golden seams or lace edges works well. Often the wedding table setting begins without a charger. The napkin and menu card takes its place, and each plate is brought out with each course.

Then there are the centrepieces, which will mirror the wedding theme with colours and displays. You can get creative choosing centrepiece decorations. Candles are popular choices, as are professional floral arrangements.

Make sure the centrepiece items remain low or indiscrete so they don’t interfere with cross-table conversation. And keep all candle flames clear of petals and leaves!

Finally, there are the place cards and menu cards. These need to be clearly visible to all guests so they can easily find their way to their place around the table. They are typically placed just above the charger, with the full name facing the chair.

Finally, there is the menu card. This is typically placed on top of the charger, either over the napkin or directly on the plate itself.

On one last note, it’s worth remarking that wedding table settings typically use subtle hues with neutral tones and just a hint of colour in the décor. But don’t forget, there are no hard and fast wedding table setting rules. This is a chance for the bride and groom to put a personal stamp on their wedding whichever way they wish.

This post from Modern Wedding is great for wedding table setting inspiration, as is this post from In Spaces Between.

Christmas Table Settings

We love a Christmas table for the decorative opportunities it provides. You can start with the standard formal or informal table arrangement. But from there, you have license to go all-out festive.

Your classic Christmas dinner table setting might include:

  • A napkin
  • A table runner
  • A placemat
  • A charger or service plate
  • A napkin
  • A Christmas cracker
  • A fork
  • A salad fork
  • A bread and butter plate

  • A butter knife
  • A dinner knife
  • A dessert spoon
  • A dessert fork
  • A water glass
  • A wine glass
  • CandlesChristmas Table Setting

Firstly, there is the tablecloth, the table runner, and/or the table placements. You can choose your combination of these. But for a bit of fun, you can go for a touch of festive colour.

Unlike a wedding table, colour is the name of the game with Christmas table settings. You want your table to scream festivity – in an elegant way, of course. Green, red, gold and silver ornamentations are ideal.

Often, the Christmas dinner is a time to include a few more earthly decorations on the table. We love this inspiration from and these tips from News Local.

But there’s one other touch you’ll want to add to your Christmas table that makes it unique among dinner table settings: the Christmas cracker.

There’s no rule to where the Christmas cracker must go (it will disappear from the table before the meal is even served anyway). But a popular place is over the top of the napkin on the charger. Alternatively, you can place it on the main plate.

The Right Table for Your Dinner Party

It goes without saying that your dinner table settings are only as good as the legs they stand on – or in this case, the dining table.

Here at Brosa, we pride ourselves on stocking high quality, designer dining tables. Your dining room is your own hosting playground, so you should have the best quality furniture as a basis for a memorable evening. Browse our range of dining furniture and dining chairs today.

Furniture Design Trends

Furniture Design Trends Through the Ages

Furniture Design Trends Through the Ages

Each era is defined by its style. The swinging 60s had their tie-dye, the 70s their paisley. The 1920s indulged in art deco, but at the turn of the 21st century, it was all about minimalism.

Furniture reflects interior design styles just as much as interior décor and architecture. From upholstered bed frames to minimalist armchairs, you can often tell your furniture’s style inspiration from its features.

Click on your favourite decade to find out furniture design trends were a go in that era.

Art Nouveau


Art nouveau came about at the turn of the century, peaking around 1910, before World War I struck. The design trend borrowed its inspiration from nature. Furniture was distinguished by its curvy, elongated lines and ornamental designs.

With nature as its muse, you’ll find stylised natural forms such as flowers, feathers, webs and root buds featuring in any art nouveau furniture design.

Art nouveau furniture often has whiplash or high, vertical lines. Tables, chairs and cabinets in this style tend to be made of exotic woods with a polished or varnished finish.

While art nouveau furniture was influenced by the craftsmanship of earlier decorative styles, it was commonly produced in factories using standardised techniques – a hint of things to come.

Influential art nouveau designers

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Emile Galle

Louise Comfort Tiffany

Antoni Gaudi

art nouveau colour grid art nouveau design example art nouveau design example 2



Bauhaus was a German art and design school renowned for its furniture design. Walter Gropius founded the school in 1919 to create a place where art could be taught in its totality.

Modernism, Constructivism and the English Arts and Crafts Movement all influenced the Bauhaus.

Also known as International Style, Bauhaus united form and function. You won’t find excessive decoration or ornamentation. Instead, furniture was made to serve the community simply and perfectly. Many Bauhaus items were designed for mass production.

The Bauhaus School advocated using materials such as tubular steel for tables, chairs, sofas and more. Steel could be easily made and bent. It also created the streamlined look of Bauhaus furniture. Wood, metal and glass were other popular materials.

The school was eventually closed in 1933 due to pressure from the Nazi regime.

Influential Bauhaus designers

Walter Gropius

Hannes Meyer

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Marcel Breuer

Paul Klee

Wassily Kandinsky

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

bauhaus colour grid

bauhaus example 2

bauhaus example 1

Art Deco


The distinctive art deco style popped up in France after World War II in a burst of post-war optimism. Most prominent around the 1920s and 1930s, the interior design style was influenced by cubism and industrialisation.

Art deco is bold, brash and impossible to miss. Features include geometric shapes, symmetrical patterns, mirrored elements, sleek lines, and rounded edges.

Art deco was split between two schools of thought. The first favoured craftsmanship, enlisting skilled furniture makers to design unique pieces. The second popularised the movement by embracing new technologies for mass production.

Art deco designers often used industrial materials, such as stainless steel, chrome, plastic or Bakelite, in their furniture. They sculpted exotic lacquered woods (such as ebony) and kept colour to a minimum.

Combining multiple materials was commonplace in art deco furniture. You could often find stainless steel or chrome frames combined with leather upholstery, for example.

Today you’ll mostly spot the remnants of art deco’s influence in bed frames, headboards, and chairs. For example, the Finn collection of sofas is one such furniture series that is inspired largely by the art deco style.

Influential art deco designers

Eileen Gray

Henry van de Velde

Raymond Templier

Clarice Cliff

Rene Lalique

art deco colour grid art deco design example

art deco design example 2

Mid Century Modern


Australia took a while to cotton on to the modernist design trend, with local modernist designers reaching international success in the 1970s. When we did catch up, we became truly obsessed.

The mid century modern design movement began in the 1940s, a straightforward style that seemed appropriate in wartime.

Mid century modern – often just called modernist – furniture was about being minimal. Furniture served a purpose, and function became the primary focus of all designs.

For this reason, lines were kept clean. Few design elements were featured (and if they were, they were kept subtle). Furniture – especially designer chairs – came to resemble sculptures.

Borrowing from the Art Deco movement, geometric shapes remained important influences. However, in contrast, asymmetry grew popular.

Modernist furniture embraced modern materials – chrome, formica and vinyl. But modernist designers also adopted industrial machinery to churn out mass-produced items.

Mid-century modern furniture still holds sway in design circles, its retro look popular with the contemporary minimalist trends we embrace today.

Influential modernist designers

Frank Lloyd Wright

Ernest Race

Douglas Snelling

Isamu Noguchi

mid century modern colour grid mid century modern furniture


mid century modern furniture 3

mid century modern furniture 4

Scandinavian Design


Scandinavian furniture design was a crucial part of the Modernist movement. Though the movement really began in the 1930s, it became a major influence in the 1950s. As with many Modernist designs, it married function with form to create affordable products accessible to all.

The affordability of designer pieces was at the crux of Scandinavian design. These designers believed that quality furniture should be available to all – not just the wealthy. Affordable Scandinavian furniture was made possible through improvements in low-cost materials (such as form-pressed wood, plastics, aluminium and pressed steel) and methods for mass production.

Natural elements played a strong influence in Scandinavian design. You’ll see the use of natural materials as well as natural shapes in Scandinavian furniture, whether it’s a bed frame or a dining table. Nordic designs were typically simple, minimalist, functional and durable.

Influential Scandinavian designers

Alvar Aalto

Arne Jacobsen

Borge Mogensen

Hans J Wegner

Verner Panton

Poul Henningsen

Simo Heikkila

Eero Aarnio

scandinavian colour grid  scandinavian colour grid

Late 20th century rebellion


Rebellion became the name of the game throughout the late 20th century, not just in society and politics, but in the design world.

The interior design world welcomed the progressive movement by throwing out the neat, minimalist days of yore. Instead, furniture designs experienced a surge in vibrant, dramatic styles.

The 1960s to 80s celebrated wildly colourful furniture and psychedelic prints. Colour clashes were big, with green/brown/yellow combinations popular choices.

Upholstery on designer sofas and couches often included polka dot or striped patterns. It was even common to see strange pairings, such as paisley and tie-dye. Woods were often stained or painted or replaced altogether with painted metals.

The 1980s saw this style of excess hit its climax. Contrasting prints and patterns blended with monochromatic features and bold blocks of colour to create a party of colour in every room.

Influential late 20th century designers

Giancarlo Piretti

Grant and Mary Featherston

Schulim Krimper

George Korody

Fred Lowen

Gordon Andrews

Memphis Group

late 20th century design colour grid

 late 20th century design example 2



After the excesses of the 1980s, the 90s pared it back drastically. Furniture was stripped down and laid bare. Colours were more subdued, adopting subtle neutrals and pastels. Woods became lighter.

The geometric forms stayed. But furniture lost excessive decoration and took on simple stripe or floral patterns. Furniture was made to be durable, rather than ornamental.

This minimalist trend was ideal for spacious, airy rooms. Its light hues seemed designed to introduce calm into each room. Interior design trends were light and white, reflecting a resurgence in Scandinavian designs.

Influential minimalist designers

Tom Dixon

Michael Marriott

Marc Newson

Sebastian Bergne

minimalism colour grid

Flat-Packing and Replica Furniture


As we entered the 21st century, our priorities shifted to a more environmentally-conscious approach. Sustainable products became the norm, with people looking to recycled products or upcycling. Furniture has taken on more earthy tones, channelling the eco-conscious attitudes in their raw, fresh look.

Flat-packing, mass production and replica furniture are all trends that have come into full swing. People are also looking for innovative ways to make the most of smaller spaces.

We’re still seeing traces of those former interior design trends – the focus on smooth lines and curved edges, function above decoration, and material blends. The Scandinavian and Danish influences have also returned, as you can see in our Scandinavian and Danish bedroom furniture range.

Influential designers

Jasper Morrison

Assa Ashauch

Mathias Bengtsson

late 20th century - colour grid

The Cushion Code: Selecting & Arranging Sofa Cushions

You have chosen your dream sofa but upon moving it into your living room, you’ve found that for some reason your sofa doesn’t seem to go with the rest of your décor.

Maybe the sofa stands out too much. Maybe it doesn’t stand out enough. The number one way to fix this, and tie your whole living room decor together, is with cushions!



 Beige sofa bed with patterned cushions and a throw

(Milo Collection) 

How do you decide on which cushions to get? You should have a think about colours, textures and patterns. Read on for our top tips for every type of sofa and how to best arrange cushions on your cosy couch.

What Colour Cushions Go with Your Sofa?

The key to choosing the right cushions for your sofa is picking colours that not only suit your sofa but tie together the whole living space.

From artwork to armchairs, your sofa and your cushions, every element of your living room should complement each other and make for an inviting and stylish space.

It might be easier to match the colour of your cushions to your sofa colour exactly, but this can be a bit boring. If you want a truly stylish living room, it’s the little details that will transform your space from dull to chic.

If you do plan on using matching cushions, why not try using cushions made from material that is an interesting texture or shade.

Alternatively, you can experiment with colour combinations using the colour wheel or get inspired by on-trend colour palettes available at Pantone


Cushions for a Red Sofa

A red sofa adds a lovely bright pop of colour to any living room. If your sofa is dark red, try dark blue cushions for a regal look. A modish scarlet couch will look better with patterned grey cushions.

Cushions for a Beige Sofa

Beige sofa with cushions that reflect colours in the living room

(John Collection)

A beige sofa is the easiest sofa to transition to a new palette. Choosing cushions for a beige sofa really depends on the colours you have chosen for the rest of your living room.

If you have a mixture of colours, look for an underrepresented colour to feature in your cushions. Keep the colour scheme light and airy, and avoid black cushions unless you’re going monochromatic throughout.

Cushions for a Green Sofa

A green sofa will freshen up your living space. Because of this, natural colours like taupe look nice next to a green sofa. You can also use floral-inspired colours. Use pink floral cushions for a fresh look, and analogous colours like yellow and blue.

Cushions for a Blue Sofa

Blue sofa with blue patterned cushions

(Gordon Collection)

A blue sofa can have a cool and calming effect on your living room. When choosing cushions for your blue sofa look for colours that are next to blue on the colour wheel, including different shades of blue and green.

Cushions for a Black Sofa

Your black sofa will go with almost any colour, but there are a few colours you may want to avoid. Browns rarely pair well with black, while navy blue is too similar in shade. Patterned and textured cushions can create a nice contrast with a black couch, especially if it is a black leather sofa.

Cushions for a Grey Sofa

Grey sofa and armchair with blue cushions

(Andreas Collection)

Liven up your grey sofa by using colours that are light and coordinate with the other colours in your living room. Grey pairs well with colours that have a similar tone, include similar shades of pinks or blues.

Cushions for a Brown Sofa

When choosing cushions to go with your brown leather sofa, look for rich, jewel-toned colours. Teals, blues, deep reds and golds look chic on a brown sofa. Depending on the style of your leather couch, neutrals and pinks can also look stylish. Once again, avoid black!

Patterns & Textures

Patterns and textures are important for a living room, with cushions a great way to add this depth. Break up solid colours with patterned cushions, but don’t choose too many different patterns as they might overwhelm the eye.

Try to contrast different textures against your sofa. A leather sofa looks nice with faux fur and velvet cushions. Silks evoke luxury, while corduroy and weaves give a contemporary look.

You can change your patterns and textures according to the season. Choose floral patterns for summer and cosy, woollen textures for winter. A throw blanket also adds warmth and comfort to your living room.

How to Arrange Cushions on Your Sofa

 When arranging cushions many people assume it’s best to arrange them symmetrically. But it’s not necessary; you can be a little more creative!

Mix and match cushions of different sizes and shapes for a visually interesting arrangement. Square, rectangle and the odd circle cushion in coordinated colours and patterns will give your sofa plenty of personality.

Beige sofa with cushions of different sizes

(Spacecraft Collection)

It’s important not to pack so many cushions on the sofa that you can’t sit down and get comfortable without removing them. You want your cushions to be practical as well as beautiful.

A popular cushion arrangement is the 2-1-2 arrangement. That is: two larger cushions in both corners, slightly smaller ones next to them, and one cushion in the middle.

Two or three cushions are probably enough for a two seater sofa, while a larger three-seater sofa can hold five or six.

However, there are no hard and fast rules for arranging cushions. Experiment with your cushions arrangement, and see what works best for your space and your style.

Get decorating your sofa today for the complete living room look with our range of cushions available online at Brosa.