One of my favorite pastimes is gathering friends and family together at our home. Hosting brings me such joy and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to get to do it again (in small groups, while exercising an appropriate amount of caution) after such a long hiatus.
In that spirit, I rounded up the core entertaining essentials that have proven to make hosting that much more seamless for me. My favorite part about the items below is that they’re intended not only for formal gatherings but also for casual everyday meals.
As you consider what you may want to add to your own collection of entertaining pieces, I encourage you to follow the adage that if you love something, it will most likely look nice with what you already own. And if you’re stuck on what to purchase, remember that beautiful white dishes (regardless of price point!) will always instantly elevate your tablescape.
If you have little to no entertaining items, the place I’d recommend starting is with serving dishes. Below is a list of what I like to have on hand to fit all of my hosting needs. You by no means need to have the exact same items on hand; rather, consider this list a starting point. I suggest figuring out how you personally like to entertain and choosing pieces based on that!
3 flat platters (Ones with handles or a lip are really nice.)
3 nesting bowls for sides
1 salad bowl
1 bigger, shallow dish (This is great for serving things like pasta.)
Small bowls for things like sauces, dips, candies, and more
Tip: You could also put something like a Le Creuset or Our Place dish in the center of the table and serve directly from that. That’s the great part about buying beautiful cookware—it doubles as a serving dish!
Year & Day Pink Serving Bowl – pictured
Delft Blue Floral Serving Bowl, thrifted from Goodwill – pictured
Red Wing Pottery Fluted Pink Serving Dish, antique – pictured
Base Ceramics via Food52 Handmade Butter Dish
Food52 Stoneware Serving Platter
Pottery Barn Chambray Tile Stoneware Serving Platters
Bloomist Gathering Cheese Board
Getting food out of its respective serving dish is something you want people to be able to do with ease. In my opinion, you don’t need to have a ton of serving utensils on hand, but it’s helpful to have something to scoop, something to pinch and lift, and something to cut.
Anthropologie Samson Serving Set
Sobremesa via Food52 Hand-Carved Olivewood Salad Servers
Mepra via Lulu and Georgia Vintage Salad Servers
Connected Goods via Anthropologie Wood Paddle Salad Servers
Farmhouse Pottery via Anthropologie Hammered Pie Server
The #1 thing I like to keep in mind when hosting is making sure guests have access to water! It’s a simple thing that helps guests feel at home in your home. I like to put out a big pitcher of water and water glasses, and I’ll usually also mention to guests where they can fill up the pitcher if needed so they’re never left waiting for a refreshment.
In terms of other glassware, I’ll put one or two wine glasses on the table (depending on what’s being served) and maybe a champagne glass if it’s a celebratory occasion, and I’ll always make a couple of extra wine glasses available for guests too.
While by no means a necessity, one of the entertaining items that makes a dinner party feel really special is linens. I always like to put out a nice tablecloth as well as cloth napkins. (And if you really want to elevate the look without much added effort, you can dress up your napkins with napkin rings!)
This is one area where you can really have fun playing around with design, whether you want linens that are eclectic and cozy or modern and elevated. If you like the warm and eclectic look, antique stores are wonderful (a lot of my linens have been purchased at antique stores), and if you want something that feels modern and fresh, there are so many great options at places like CB2 and IKEA.
Terrain Rose Linen Napkins – pictured
Etsy Green Striped Napkins – pictured
Chan Luu via Anthropologie Linen Napkins
CB2 Porcelain Napkin Ring
Farmhouse Pottery via West Elm Farmer’s Gingham Tablecloth
Archive New York via Anthropologie Forest Runner
You can always use your everyday plates and bowls for any gathering, but if you want to take it up a notch, start collecting patterned plates or china! I rotate through a couple of sets of dinnerware I’ve collected over the years and it makes the process of setting the table similar to that of getting dressed. You can mix and match from different sets too!
This kind of collecting can (and should, in my opinion) be done slowly over time. Buy things you LOVE and you’ll keep them forever.
When it comes to flatware, I keep it simple and go only with the basics (a knife, fork, and spoon) rather than a more formal setting. I have mismatched silverware that I think looks really fun and elegant yet still casual.
As with linens, these are completely optional. But if you do want to add them to your collection, placemats and chargers add a beautiful final touch to any table setting. And they don’t need to break the budget, either! Many of the chargers I have were purchased at Goodwill. Most of my placemats have been purchased on sale at World Market or Anthropologie. But hands down, my favorite place to find unique chargers and placements is at antique stores!
Gold Chargers, thrifted from Goodwill – pictured
Blue Pheasant via Anthropologie Vera Flower Placemats
CB2 Kuna Woven Placemat
Crate & Barrel Natural Rattan Charger
West Elm Wood Charger
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BY Kate Arends - December 9, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.