Dining Room Tips…(Me and Martha Series)

To see all of my Me and Martha posts, click here.

It’s Thursday…that means it’s time for a Martha Stewart organization tip (Mondays & Thursday are the organization posts days).  Today I’m talking about the dining room.  I’m going to share some quick tips on table settings and china hutches.  First of all, I have to tell y’all… When we moved into our house last year I would pour over Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn and RH catalogs looking for inspiration.  We can’t actually BUY the stuff in those catalogs, but it’s so fun to gain inspiration from them.  So anyway… I fell in love with this dining room from Ethan Allen…


I just love how it’s rustic but modern and really looks like somewhere a bunch of people could sit down and grub.  Anyway, I tried to recreate some of my favorite parts in our dining room.  I sanded and refinished the top of our table (it was black).  I painted our refurbished hutch red, etc.  Anyway, here is ours now.


Some similar attributes, right?  Well, when I was reading through Martha’s Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook planning my dining room organization post I came across this pic in her book that is well over 10 years old!


First of all, this is one of the reasons I love Martha.  Her style is timeless – that rug and hutch and table are so relevant in TODAY’s designs.  Second of all… That Ethan Allen pic if from last year’s line… The pic of Martha’s dining room is, like I said earlier, well over a decade old…  Me thinks Ethan Allen might be drawing inspiration from Martha too…

WAY too many similarities to be coincidental.

WAY too many similarities to be coincidental.

Anyway, a few good tips on organizing your hutch/china.  Always use a plate easel or museum putty (apparently it’s available in hardware stores) to display your plates upright.  I use easels.  My hutch houses my grandmother’s wedding dishes.  I love them.  They are the only thing I have from my paternal grandmother and she was so special to me.  The rest of the dishes should be grouped by category.  Same size plates in a stack…bowls in a stack…etc.


pg 164 of Homekeeping Handbook

One thing I found interesting is that Martha suggests storing your teacups WITH their saucer instead of in stacks.  This way when you are serving tea you can just grab the exact amount of sets you need.  I decided to try it and I think it looks cute.

Your table linens (napkins, tablecloths, placemats, runners) should be placed in dry, well ventilated drawers that are lined with shelf paper (if necessary) and laundered and folded as little as possible before storing.  If you have room you can roll them to prevent creases.

Few things are more nerve-wracking than taking a creased cloth out of a drawer and having to iron it just before a dinner party. – Martha Stewart pg. 158

As a side note, I literally laughed out loud when I read that.  We are organized, but not THAT organized.  The fact that we have tablecloths and they are clean and stored in the correct room is saying a LOT.

Martha literally dedicated pages and pages to the types of silverware and how to store them and polish them etc., but we only have one set and they are probably from Target and are stored in a plastic container in the kitchen!  So I’ll just skip that part… hee!  I did have one other thing to share about the hutch… I pinned this picture a while back.


It’s from the Martha Stewart paint line.   I decided to try it on our hutch – don’t worry, I used erasable chalk so it wipes right off.  I didn’t use the kit, just free-handed it with a chalk pen we already had.


It can help keep stuff organized…

dining drawers

Our top drawer is for napkins & candles.  Middle drawer is for placemats and cushions.  Bottom drawer is table cloths and seasonal dish towels.  The Dining drawer is for random center pieces.  There is an additional cabinet but let’s be honest, that one is for junk.

Onto place settings!


That pic is from pg 154.  Most days we use plates from the kitchen cabinet, forks from the drawer and everyone gets their own glass and scoops their own food from the stove!  We do eat together almost every single day, but it’s generally at the small table in our kitchen.   But every once in a while (at least a couple times a month) we set a real table and get out the good dishes and make eating an event – like we did for our Fall Luncheon last week.  Here is a pic of our typical table setting (when we sit down for a more “fancy” dinner).


It’s still pretty casual but the things we do employ from Martha’s guide are:

  1. Some sort of table cloth/placemat/runner:  I have several seasonal tablecloths and table runners.  They are inexpensive from places like Hobby Lobby and totally give your table a different feel.  On this particular day it’s just a giant piece of craft paper.
  2. Place holders with names:    We make pine cones at Thanksgiving, ornaments at Christmas, something springy for Easter, etc.  On this day I simply used a marker and wrote our names at our place.
  3. Use a charger: (not for your iPhone – lol…)  A charger is just an oversize plate that you don’t eat off but simply holds a place.  Ours are the square ones above.  You can totally skip chargers if you want but they add something kinda cool.
  4. Linen napkins:  Again, they can be picked up for super cheap at homegoods, Walmart, etc.  And they make the meal sort of special.  Like going to a higher end restaurant where they use actual napkins not paper ones.  Plus they are fun to use as part of your table setting.  Napkins should be folded and placed in the center of the plate.
  5. Flatware (silverware if you actually have it…):  Here’s what to remember.  Fork on the left.  Knife next to plate on the right with blade facing plate.  Spoon to the right of the knife.  Honestly if you are using more than those 3 pieces, good for you. Us?  not so much.
  6. Glass:  water glass (or whatever you are drinking out of it – a lot of the times ours is tea) should be placed  just above the knife on the right side of the plate.
  7. S&P shakers:  You should always have at least one set of S&P shakers on your table.

One thing we usually add for fun is some type of centerpiece.  It’s usually something the kids have made.  For our fall luncheon, we just had a bowl with our tiny pumpkins in it.

That’s it!  Not intimidating at all!


I hope you’ll set your table and have a dinner party soon.  And by dinner party, I mean you and your family, or a friend, whoever!  Remember, just put on your favorite music and serve mac & cheese if you have to.  Eating around a table that has been purposefully set really just feels different, ya know? It feels special, and special is good.



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