Entertaining, says homeware designer Michael Aram, "is more and more about breaking the rules or inventing your own, which I know would irritate a lot of people to hear." People like the Dowager Countess, perhaps, may furrow their brows, but the dinner party as a form is at its most informal these days. That's OK, Aram says: "So many people just get so frightened about entertaining, but there could be nothing easier or more pleasurable." Below, he elucidates the finer points for making it so.
Look for plates with thin edges
"There's something very elegant about a plate that's lightweight, with a very thin edge. I don't like clunkiness on the table."
Keep Dishes simple
"All of the dinner plates I design have open centers, and chefs often say that they like the way food looks on white. The accent plate is the one where you can have a little more fun. That's where you're serving salad and first courses, so you can add more personality with that plate."
"One of my personal style choices is that I love serving wine in small tumblers. There's something really fun about that, and it eliminates the whole red wine glass-white wine glass choice."
Dress up your decor simply
"Go for candles and flowers--and personally, I just love cloth napkins. If I were to give a shock of color, it would be in something like a napkin or flowers."
Use large serving pieces
"Dress things up a little bit, just so it feels a little ceremonial. A cake on a cake stand looks so amazing versus one flat on the table. Let it be a store-bought cake if you don't have time. For water, get a beautiful crystal or metal pitcher. Put some lemon slices in it."
Add placeholders for large parties
"If you're doing a seated dinner and have more than eight people, put little placeholders down. It allows you to think about who you want to interact with and it makes people feel really considered."