The Artistry of Tablecapes – An Interview with The Table Edit
We speak to Anna Singleton, founder of The Table Edit, an event styling service and online shop selling responsibly sourced homeware.
Living in isolation or lockdown seems to have made people turn to one of the simplest pleasures: food. Cooking it, eating it, baking with it, and experimenting with it is all wonderfully stimulating – something we are seeking in our new, restricted lives. Creating meaningful dining experiences doesn’t need to revolve around an occasion because, at its essence, providing a meal for someone (even yourself) is an act of love.
Mealtimes often frame the picture of family life, offering structure and pleasure throughout our days. However, the majority of thought and preparation tends to focus on the food when so much of our experience comes from the environment and presentation. Of course, there is a need sometimes for quickly eating a piece of toast over the sink but sitting down in an environment of warmth and beauty to eat a meal has a magic all its own.
To help inspire your exploration of tablescapes, we’ve spoken with Anna of The Table Edit about everything from simple tips and tricks for creating a lovely atmosphere to her philosophy on entertaining.
What is the story behind The Table Edit?
The Table Edit is an event styling service and an online shop selling homeware with a focus on the second hand.
I’ve always wanted my own business but never landed on the right idea! I love styling, have a background in design and have worked as a Trend Consultant within the Fashion and Interiors industries for the past 10 years so wanted something that incorporated everything I love to do. Bringing people together in a beautiful environment makes me ridiculously happy! I’ve always had an interest in event design but had slightly written it off as something I would do later in life. But a couple of years ago, a friend of mine came over to discuss her wedding plans and as soon as she stepped through the door of my flat, she was screaming “this is insane! it’s like a shop in here! All this stuff is exactly what I’ve been looking for to have at my wedding!“ and it made me realise that there was a gap in the market for a more directional aesthetic within the events industry and that there was an exciting opportunity to be had in combining my skills in trend and design with my love of bringing people together.
I created the shop because I’ve always wanted to have a physical brand and it’s important to me to have an outlet where people can buy into the philosophy and aesthetic, regardless of whether I’m designing an event for them or not. I’ve been collecting second-hand homeware for as long as I can remember and guess I’ve always had an eye for selecting things that feel contemporary. I love the opportunity this type of shopping provides - being able to acquire something truly unique whilst shopping more sustainably. I think as we become more conscious about the way we consume, second-hand shopping will become more prevalent but, for most people, they don’t have the resources (or time!) to find this type of product easily.
How would you describe your dining philosophy?
Beautiful, contemporary and joyful! Sitting down to a meal is one of life’s most enjoyable pleasures so, ultimately, I believe the table you’re sitting at should make you smile.
What impact can atmosphere have on a meal?
Everything! From how you light your space down to music you play; creating a multi-sensory experience is key. Consider where you are creating your table too - ensure the surrounding area is decluttered. At the moment my dining table is doubling as my workstation so in the evening I make sure to clear away my computer so I can relax properly. Lighting is everything - use side lamps rather than overhead lighting when having an evening meal and always light candles! My favourite at the moment are our twisted beeswax taper candles (available soon from thetableedit.com). I even use candles on the table when doing a breakfast or lunch as it adds a lovely warmth to the room.
What tips would you give for creating a beautiful table?
For me, the best tables combine a mix of textures, a beautiful colour palette and something interesting to look at. I love introducing something unexpected - something a bit playful…
I always start with thinking about the food I’m cooking and the palette of the flowers I have available to use. The food will set the tone for whether there’s an opportunity for something more extravagant or whether it’s better to keep things relaxed for a more casual affair. If it’s a dinner of sharing food or a simple supper then I like to use a mixture of mismatching plates with casual glassware, wooden boards and little bowls for dips or sauces.
Flowers are a must! But don’t overcomplicate. Sometimes simple is best - I often buy a bunch, cut the stems quite short and place single blooms in little bottles and bud vases down the table. It’s a cheap, effective way to use flowers, and having them low down means they don’t get in the way of conversation. I like to buy what’s in season - at the moment it’s tulips! I can’t get enough of them. They have a lovely dancing quality that adds such personality to the table.
Keep a stash of tablecloths and napkins in different colours and patterns. Tablecloths are great at hiding less than attractive tables (I’m referencing my own which is very practical and very ugly!) and are great for completely transforming the look if regularly entertaining the same group of people. I have a huge collection of vintage sheets that I love to use as tablecloths - their quality is great and they’re cheap to source so you can be less precious when it comes to drunken spillages and food stains..! Having said this, I would also recommend investing in a set of beautiful linen. It adds a wonderful, sophisticated texture to the table and also looks great left slightly creased for a more relaxed feel.
Where are some of the places you love to shop for table accessories?
I love shopping for homeware when I’m on holiday as I like the memories that come home with them. I’m also a regular at flea markets and car boot sales as I love the strange assortment of things you can find there and the reward of digging out a treasure. The high street shops are doing some fairly good bits that are very affordable at the moment which, if you’re clever, mixed in with other pieces can be a great way to refresh your tables. Personally, however, I’d much rather invest in something unique that will last, and that you will get enjoyment out of using again and again. This doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but just things that have been made well, and that make you smile.
Are there a few quick ways to give table setting a wow factor with items already at home?
Get creative! As mentioned before, textiles can completely change the look of a table, but these can come from anywhere! I often use linen scarfs as table runners - it’s an effective way of adding softness to the table if you don’t have a tablecloth.
Look around the room! There are probably some pieces you’ve assigned to a shelf for decorative purposes only but I believe that joy comes from using beautiful objects - it can completely transform your dining experience when you use something you love.
Having platters of food at different heights adds great drama to a table - especially good if needing a ‘buffet’ style solution. I’m having some mini plinths made but, in the meantime, I’m using glasses and bowls turned upside down with a board on top - again a really simple solution that can transform your table instantly.
Do you have a memory of when a table arrangement brought happiness and captured a beautiful mood or atmosphere?
My absolute favourite dining memories are of holidays spent with friends in Italy. In the evening everyone would cook a dish to bring to the table and it would be served on whatever higgledy-piggledy serveware first came out of the cupboard. I just loved the unplanned, chaotic nature of it all - the mixture of textures from old terracotta plates, wonky blown glassware alongside some lively neon 90s water cups - nothing matching but just absolutely perfect.
Any words to encourage people to make the effort of making their dining table placements more interesting during isolation?
It can just make all the difference! We are in such a hard, crazy time at the moment that making that slight effort - to clear a space, to light a candle, to use some fabric napkins or your ‘best’ cutlery or glassware - can really lift your mood. I actually find the process of laying a table incredibly therapeutic and this process can completely elevate your dining experience and turn a simple meal into something a bit more special, which is exactly what we all need at the moment.