There are two schools of thought on how to set a table:
- The Mr. Carson Method, as seen on Downton Abbey (equipment needed: tableware, ruler, aristocratic land entitlement)
- The Maxwell Ryan Method, as seen on this 30-second video for Canvas Home (equipment needed: tableware)
Let's assume most of us find the second, more casual option the practical choice.
When Maxwell introduced his new line of modular, mixable tableware for Canvas Home, he shared the genesis of each piece and recounted how a second war between England and America was narrowly averted in the process. (To Mr. Carson's relief, no doubt.)
Now, let's look at how to put it all together...
Start with the plate. Duh. It goes right in the middle. If you're serving multiple courses, stack them from largest to smallest: entree, salad, appetizer. Maxwell designed his line to come in two colors, a matte white and a glossy grey. The idea here is that you can mix and match the two or go monochrome. (Maxwell is a mixer.) Whatever your style is, the muted colors let the food be the focus, but they'll bring some warmth to the table before anything gets plated.
Slide in the silverware. People still freak out about proper silverware placement, and etiquette writers must be delighted by that. But it's so simple: fork to the left; knife on the right looking inward (to what it's going to cut) with the spoon to the right of that. The napkin goes under the lonely fork.
Level it up with linens. The whole inspiration for Maxwell's line came from France's classic cafes, "where the only thing that matters is the tasty food." To that end, Maxwell borrowed the French idea of using one simple table runner as a double placemat after being frustrated that American tablecloths are often not cut for American tables. He chose three moods – natural, salmon and wine – which he suggests using for morning, midday and evening respectively, and can be coordinated with matching napkins. But he also suggests straying from his formula and mixing colors – they're complementary.
Keep it glassy. Maxwell's French-cafe aesthetic started with the glassware, which is inspired by a set of French glasses he found in three sizes "meant to solve every drinking occasion you might have." Paring down to just small, medium and big, you can drink anything from water to whiskey. (Though, Maxwell hastens to add, he snuck some design into the middle size, making it "curved more at the top to hold the aroma of a white or red wine for a full flavor experience.")
Fist-bump your dining partner. It's saying grace, 2.0.