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Wine and dine in style: 10 tablescaping tips

Ram Bucoy suggests designing your table to match your personality

STYLING PRO Ram Bucoy suggests designing your table to match your personality. —Kitty Bunag, Ram Bucoy.

I love tablescapes.

Tablescapes are to food what shoes are to fashion. They set you apart.

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In the past few years and especially during quarantine at the height of the pandemic, tablescaping—an activity involving the setting of themed dining tables in artful, decorative ways for social events—became very fashionable. In this new world where Instagram has permeated into our lives and everything needs to be “IG-worthy,” tablescaping has become so important.

So let’s get some tips on how to make your table look elegant and ready for its close-up from interior stylist Ram Bucoy, who has curated and done interior styling for 8 Rooms Creative Space and Shop/1335 at Karrivin Plaza, as well as for various glossies in the metro. Here are his top 10 tips:

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1. Don’t make your space look contrived or predictable

Ram is an advocate of following your heart. He does not like being dictated on by people or by concepts. Instead, he looks at a space, sees its potential and goes on.

For his first advice, he says one must not be afraid to play around. “I try my best to veer away from using white as my base color,” Ram shares. “Instead I use pink and patterns, Kelly green or aubergine. This makes me happy and I make sure clients like it, too.”

2. Make your space— including your tablescape—match your personality

While you make an effort to turn your dining setting into your personal expression of taste, make sure it still feels like it’s you. “My easy vibe and personal style on the clothes I wear match the stylish yet approachable table settings I create and curate,” Ram shares.

This will also guide you as you choose pieces and expand your dining ware collection. “In building your collection, don’t be afraid to explore different looks,” advises Ram.

3. You don’t need a formal design process

Ram himself does not have a “design process.” He simply curates based on “what feels and looks right.” So whatever feels good should be good. It’s your table, after all. Have confidence and just love it.

4. Have a theme

A theme always helps to make the whole look come together. “My entire look veers toward lived-in and collected,” Ram reflects. “I like things that are a little bit worn-looking and roughed up, mixed in with something new to bring it down a notch and make it more livable.”

You can create your own theme, too. Hostess with the mostest Bella Yuchengco is the master at this and has a Japanese-themed setting when she cooks Japanese food, Italian for Italian food etc. Ernie and Lourdes Fajardo of Maya Kitchen, who throw the best themed dinners, have a welcome cheese and hors d’oeuvres table whose design changes every season: from Chinese New Year to Christmas. But there’s no need to change with the seasons if that feels too tedious for you. You can always just keep it shabby chic all year through!

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5. Incorporate a personal touch

Whether it be your handwriting or using heirloom pieces, a personal touch adds poignancy and texture to your tablescape. “I like handwritten notes and fun place cards to personalize each seating for my guests. It makes everything look and feel more special,” Ram observes.

He adds that even menus—which he calls ‘a great meal teaser’—should be personalized to create a more intimate setting.

6. Don’t be stiff

No matter how many Vs there are before your IP (very, very, very, very, very important person), that is not a reason to be boring. “I don’t like doing things too formal even if it’s a setting meant for a diplomat and VIP,” Ram confesses. You can be stylish without being stiff!

7. Be proper

However, not being stiff does not translate to being sloppy either. You must still observe basic protocol such as the kinds of glasses to be used.

“For glasses, it doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy,” Ram advises. “But these should be the right glasses for each drink should it be wine, bubbly or a fun cocktail.”

8. When purchasing for your tablescape, get a set of 12

I would personally start with a modest set of six but Ram recommends to go big or go home. He says, “For sets, I make sure I get anything that’s not less than 12. You just have to be prepared. Twenty-four is a good number especially when entertaining is in your DNA.” He has a point, though, as it would be so annoying to have to smile awkwardly at that seventh guest and explain why his plate is white and not pottery, like the rest. He also suggests to always have a charger, main plate, a salad and soup bowl and dessert bowl on hand. Ram adds, “They don’t have to match but colors should at least be cohesive.”

9. Accessorize

Ram also stresses the importance of accessorizing your table. “Napkins are great accessories too, especially when they are made with love like the linens from Nicole Menchaca of @MaynilaStyle,” he shares. Other cute ‘accessories’ would include a salt and pepper shaker with character, napkin ring holders and flowers.

10. Build your collection

Making your table pretty need not cost an arm and a leg. Ram is an expert at sourcing and gives this insider tip: “A great place to shop for great quality plates if you’re on a budget is Japan Surplus around the metro. You’ll be surprised, they’re cheaper than most department stores!”

If you are willing to begin to invest, we also have a lot of very good potters whose works you can start collecting: Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn; Pablo Capati III or @paburopots on IG; and Aleth Ocampo or @alethocampo on IG.

I hope this inspires you to make your table setting pretty and IG-ready. But don’t forget that at the end of the day, if your food is bland, your gorgeous tablescape won’t save your party. Remember where taste matters most. What’s on the plate is more important than the plate!

Happy tablescaping!

You may find interior stylist Ram Bucoy on IG at @casa_buddha.

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