Having been art director on a local cooking show, I’ve seen many inspiring table settings over the last three months. It is often a case of simply having enough pretty things on the table. Here are some tips to impress your guests for under R500. 

There is no need to buy everything from scratch, start with what you’ve got and see what is needed to add some character. 

Foolproof tick list:

Tablecloth

If you go for a plain tablecloth add some pattern and texture with the napkins and under plates. If you want to splash, buy or make a patterned tablecloth. Beautiful ready-made tablecloths are scarce and come in limited sizes, so for something unique, you’ll have to get your sewing machine out.

Under plates

This is one of the most neglected items on a dinner table. It can also do more harm than good, if in bad taste. Elegant options are wooden under plates or 2 cm thick slices of tree trunk which you can make yourself. Faceted glass, quality gold or rose gold under plates are also on trend.

Beautiful crockery

Round, plain white is timeless and elegant, but if you are a bit more daring and have more to splash, opt for different shapes and shades – oval, egg shaped, wonky ware, rectangular or square in stone, charcoal and turquoise will look contemporary and dramatic. A mix and match of antique and floral plates have a vintage charm.

Cutlery

The style is up to you, but choose a set that feels heavier, smooth and comfortable in the hand. At the moment contemporary gold cutlery is stealing the show.

Wine glasses

Choose something that is slightly different if you want to make a statement. Crystal and faceted glass add glamour even to contemporary table settings. Unless it is a formal dinner, 1 wine glass per setting is enough, so choose a size that works for white and red wine. 

Read more: 6 beautiful restaurants you can steal decor tips from

Water tumblers

That extra glass is a simple and practical way to fill up the table. Choose something that complements the wine glasses.

Fabric napkins

If the table is very colourful, opt for plain colours, or choose patterned napkins if everything else is monochrome.

Low flowers

No need to spend hundreds on flowers - pick some flowers, foliage or palm tree seeds from your garden and either lay it down on the tablecloth or arrange loosely in low vases, so your guests can still see each other. 

Candles or faerie lights

To create ambient light and some magic, be generous with motive candles or decorate the table with a string of micro LED faerie lights.

Decorate a table for 4 for under R500:

Augusta geometric placemat in rose gold (R39.99 x 4 = R159.96) at MRP Home.

Cotton marble napkin in cement colour, R25, MRP Home.

Fluted glass goblet, R45 at Woolworths.

Metallic candle holder, R49.99 at MRP Home.