iStyle: Table service

Whether it’s for fine dining or just having a few friends over, Trish Lorenz  has all you need to lay on a sophisticated spread

Staying in is officially the new going out. You’ve probably already guessed but a survey released this week says that more than half of us are eating out less, while a Which? report found we’ve cut back our annual spending on eating out by £13bn.

If you’re staying in and  having friends round for dinner rather than eating out, take a look at The Set Table (Cicada,£17.95) by Hannah Shuckburgh, which is published this week. The book offers tips on hosting small gatherings, be that lunch, dinner or a picnic in the park. With advice on everything from crockery to cutlery, lighting and flowers, the mood of the book is bohemian and casual, which Shuckburgh says reflects the way we like to eat and live today.

“Nobody really hosts formal dinner parties any more,” says Shuckburgh. ‘The kind of get-togethers we crave are uncomplicated and intimate.”

Staying in with style is all about paying attention to the small details, says Shuckburgh, who believes “thought, care, imagination and generosity” are more important than expensive kit.

‘The book isn’t about spending lots of money, it’s about making what you have more beautiful with simple resources. I’m a big believer in using what you have. Everything I own is worthless to others. Lots of it is mismatched and from junk shops but that’s the sort of table I love.”

Stylish entertaining is all about creating a welcoming atmosphere. Candles on the table, a small posy of flowers and a basket of bread will do more to welcome guests than expensive crockery, says Shuckburgh.

Her top tip: “If you do nothing else, lots of candles and a little vase of something from the garden will transform a table. You can make even the cheapest carnations look lovely if you cut them very low and pop them in a milk jug, adding in a few sprigs of mint or flowering chives.”