Advice from Chef Annie Wayte
Set a laid back mood. A casual mix of serving pieces on the table—simple dishes set alongside elegant, highly detailed ones—can signal the party is not a formal dinner. Elaborately wrought flea-market silver can appear sculptural, not staid, when paired with clean white plates and plain glasses.

Create a Seasonal Color Palette
If most of your dishes are neutral, you have only to add one or two in color—for example, mix pale celery green glasses and a centerpiece of sunshine-colored fruits with white dinnerware to indicate summer. The vivid food does the rest.

Think Beyond the Bouquet
A centerpiece of gorgeous produce can create a feeling of abundance without the expense of masses of flowers.

Keep the Food Coming
To keep serving dishes looking fresh, divide each recipe between two platters or bowls ahead of time, then swap in the second dish when the first one runs low.

Consider the Flow
Make sure there's enough space around the table so guests can get at the food easily—ideally from all sides. That way, people who start mingling by the flatware won't create a logjam.

Count Seats
Although your guests may not be seated together around the dining table, you still need to provide a place for each person. Arrange occasional tables near sofas, and move small chairs into amiable groupings so that no one gets stuck sitting alone.

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