'It's the worst thing you can do when hosting' - Skye McAlpine on the tablescaping mistake you might be making

And what you should do instead

Overhead shot of mismatches plates, bowls and glasses
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Hosting inspo is all over Instagram, TikTok and, of course, this very website (hi!) but there’s one tablescaping mistake that you might be making – and stopping it will save you oh so much stress.

While, in theory, hosting a gathering of friends and family should be a fun experience, who among us hasn’t got worked up or overwhelmed over making the place look perfect and creating the most pristine tablescape?

This is what Skye McAlpine warns is the biggest mistake you could be making: spending money on full dining sets in an attempt to try and make things perfect, when in reality the more imperfect tables have much more to offer. While it can be tempting to try and recreate pristine looks, you could be making your space look worse by doing so.

Skye McAlpine’s tablescaping mistake

Yellow dining room with black chairs and pink tablecloth

(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Stressing about it is the worst thing you can do when hosting,’ says cookery writer and hosting pro Skye. ‘I think people worry about inviting friends into their home because they feel like they need to have twelve matching plates, cutlery, glassware and so on, and that everything has to be perfect.’

Instead, Skye encourages people to lean into imperfection. ‘Embrace the magic of mixing and matching, and instead of aspiring to perfection, aspire to creating a warm, welcoming and joyful feeling.'

'I think not aspiring to perfection is important for two reasons,’ she elaborates. ‘I think on one level because it’s about enjoyment. It makes it easier for you to enjoy yourself and if you enjoy yourself as the host, then your guests will, as well.’

Pink wall with mismatched plates as decor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Emma Lee)

The other negative aspect of reaching for perfection is that it can actually make the space and the environment feel less comfortable for your guests. ‘There's something that's quite intimidating about a space that feels perfect,’ says Skye.

‘So if you do have mismatched knives and forks or mismatched plates then on a subconscious level it gives everyone the okay to relax, take their shoes off, be comfy in whatever way that is for you.’

‘It’s a mistake that’s easy to make because we can feel peer pressured,’ Skye continues. The more we see images online like, the more people do get that pressure.’

Overhead shot of mismatches plates, bowls and glasses

(Image credit: Future PLC)

But how do you embrace imperfection in a way that looks beautiful rather than messy? One tip is to invest in a selection of mismatched side plates to accompany your plain dinner plates.

‘Investing in your plates goes a long way, but don't feel like you have to buy a full set of matching plates for your table. You can make like a really nice statement and dress your table up by buying some mismatching fun side plates, because then you can layer these with your plain white plates,’ Skye advises. ‘That way you instantly make people feel like there's a sense of occasion, even if you’re just hosting a casual supper.’

Open kitchen shelving with jars of grains and collection of mugs, bowls and plates

(Image credit: Future PLC)

So, have fun curating a collection of investment side plates little by little and before you know it you'll have a perfectly mismatched set that will upgrade even a table full of IKEA basic white dining plates.

Top side plates for mixing and matching

To explore how Skye mixes and matches for yourself, explore her 6 week pop up in London's Fortnum & Mason from April 22nd.

Before your next dinner party, forget striving for perfection. Instead embrace a warm and welcoming perfectly imperfect tablescape!

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 10 years.

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.