I love a kitchen table and I love this kitchen table particularly.
It's el Día de los Muertos, and as such I am taking a breather for the day. So in anticipation of the rest of the holidays that are barreling toward us, I present a little sumpin' sumpin' I found in Metropolitan Home.
Photographer: Kerri McCaffety
Seven Deadly Sins: Dining
Creative Director Linda O’Keeffe tackles the dos and don’ts of design (and etiquette) in the hallowed dining room.
Written by Linda O'Keefe
According to chef/restaurateur Charlie Trotter, there are four elements to a meal and when they are in sync dining can be elevated to a spiritual experience. Maybe that’s overstating it? Maybe not? In any case, Trotter’s perfect balance is achieved by a confluence of “cuisine, wine, service and overall ambience”. To me, this translates to delicious, healthy food and wine served in a comfortable, visually stimulating space where I feel pampered (but not fussed over) and I’m flanked by friends and/or people I’d like to know.
As usual, I’m reluctant to talk about rules but, as most hosts know, there are basic design no-nos that go a long way to ensuring the success of any gathering where bread is broken. I’ve listed seven of the deadliest here but there are many more so please feel free to add your own pet peeves. In the words of the inimitable Dorothy Draper, who referred to eating as an indoor sport, “you play three times a day and it’s well worthwhile to make the game as pleasant as possible.”
Sin #1. Non-supportive chairs: Well-proportioned seats that cater to all body types are a must. Even if the food’s delicious, spending an hour or two squirming on a backbreaking chair is an instant appetite suppressant. Case in point, Philippe Starck’s extremely popular and skinny La Marie is a jewel of a side chair but it should only be used for dining when penance is being served!
Sin #2. Poor lighting: The glow from a chandelier or pendant above a dining table should flatter guests (not too bright) and showcase food (not too dark). In short, a dimmer switch is essential as is the avoidance of tea lights. Their murky up light even makes super models look scary and it routinely turns vibrantly colored foods grey (pass the gruel, please!).
Sin #3. Over-the-top centerpieces: Avoid funereal or Carmen Miranda-like flower arrangements at all times but particularly at meal times when they block sight lines across a table. Centerpieces are not essential and they tend to interfere with an easy flow of conversation so they’re best removed before food is served.
Sin #4. Confrontational art work: Unless you plan to turn every dinner conversation into a debate, think twice before you hang provocative artwork in your dining room. The same goes for painting dining room walls intense colors. As one hostess put it “I painted the dining room red, and the conversation became very heated”.
Sin #5 Scented air: Perfumed candles and fragrant flowers (lilies, freesia and hyacinths) are beautiful in through spaces but they don’t work in dining rooms where they confuse the palette, upstage food and potentially trigger allergies.
Sin #6 One-note guest lists: An event where all the invitees share the same profession spells a convention, not a dinner party. The most stimulating gatherings comprise guests of all ages from all walks of life. And, radical as it may sound, couples and partners should always sit separately from each other.
Sin #7 The wrong table: There’s an endless debate about the shape of the perfect dining table. Circular or angular? Round or square? Rectangular or oval? One celeb NYC party planner swears by round tables, and she seats enough people so that knees touch under the table.
[editor's note: Ignore the celeb NYC party planner's advice. For starters, anyone so billed has already lost their credibility. For seconders, round dining tables are a crime against nature and any dinner party that involves me rubbing knees with strangers is a dinner party I won't attend. Tables should be rectangular and guests should have the option to play footsie, not the requirement.]