If home is where the heart is, then the table is where the heartbeat emanates from. It is the place we gather at the end of the day to share stories; it is where we laugh; it is where we cry; it is where we join with family and friends for the shared experience of nourishing our bodies.
The act of eating is one that can (and should) be honored. It is a privilege to prepare food in a kitchen and to use tantalizing ingredients to prepare a meal that satiates and awakens. How we plate this food, however, and the tools we use to serve, present, and eventually eat it can add tremendous layers to the culinary experience, heightening the senses and further stimulating mind, body and soul.
As noted in a blog by Cooper Hewitt, “Sensory design considers not just the shape of things but how things shape us—our behavior, our emotions, our truth. . . .Tools are active extensions of our sense of touch. Tasting food is more than a chemical response—it involves the muscular, skeletal action of crushing and transforming matter.”
With this in mind, it is important to remember that each choice we make for our table will directly impact the dining experience. As a holistic designer with an eye on wellbeing that drives happiness, I suggest that my clients keep warmth, hygge, and a certain richness in mind when choosing flatware, plates, napkins, and decor for tablescapes.
Organic, somewhat asymmetrical pieces are the backbone of an inviting table. I suggest choosing cream or eggshell plates, avoiding stark white, which can feel mass-produced. I love plates with a good hand feel, but prefer that they aren’t too heavy so the food doesn’t weigh them down. Bowls should be the same color and maintain the same texture and weight. I find it best to search for deep bowls with tactile interest on the bottom portion where hands would rest. This heightens the experience of being served a warm bowl of stew or soup with rustic bread.
For napkins, I opt for soft cotton or linen options with a story. A unique twist is to use vintage handkerchiefs, adding some whimsy to the arrangement. Otherwise, off-white, taupe, or even terra-cotta linen options are a favorite for that cozy, irresistible feel.
Serving bowls and platters are a way to integrate wood into the tablescape in a less predictable way. Cutting boards are fine for the kitchen, but should not make their way onto the table unless they are being used to showcase artisanal breads and cheeses that require knife work.
One of the best ways to enhance the dining experience is with utensils, providing the chance to enliven receptors awakened by touch. Hammered flatware in brushed silver or even textured gilded pieces are visually stunning and satisfying to hold. I suggest looking for spoons that are deep and forks with some weight, so there is an almost primal awareness of the object as a tool.
I suggest keeping some decorative items on-hand that elevate this already inviting look and feel for when guests come to enjoy your savory cooking. Sheep pelts placed on chair backs (even just one at each of the table’s heads) add an almost cabin-like comfort level. Great pieces of driftwood or even moss-coated logs salvaged from nearby woods (and cleaned, of course) add an authentic organic feel to the table’s center. I also suggest votives that match your flatware, but keep them low to allow guests to have an unobstructed view of one another.
I habitually close each and every meal with a warm drink. Whether it’s tea, decaf coffee, or even a hot toddy, that layer of warmth tends to envelop the body, wrapping the experience in love. Ceramic mugs with a delicious, almost stone-like handfeel are lovely, and a wide handle adds a meditative feel, inviting the thumb to graze.
Nowhere is the marriage of senses more obvious than at the table at mealtime. The right setting can make a meal into a real experience. When woven together, those experiences become shared memories, and those shared memories become a part of your history with cherished family and friends.
This is the essence of what we do at Laurence Carr Design. We create sensory environments, gifting our clients with spaces so rich in detail that they experience our designs, rather than simply finding them aesthetically appealing. Be it an art de la table setlings or an entire house, we design spaces that awaken the senses, which has an immeasurable effect on our behavior, our emotions and even our truth.
Laurence Carr is founder & CEO of Laurence Carr Design, an award winning interior design firm in New York City providing full service and e-design services to clients. She creates exquisite holistic interiors that promote mindful living and harmony, while attaining a level of sophistication through layering modern art, furniture, antiques and accents. Born in France, Laurence has 20 years experience in design, the performing arts, and fashion. She has been nationally published and is a frequent speaker and panelist in major industry related events.