Wendy Siu of luxury home retailer Heather & March lets in on the secrets to planning a chic dinner party

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

There are plenty of style lessons to learn from the French — from mastering a perfectly undone chignon to cracking the code to a je ne se quoi wardrobe. But, perhaps the most impressive trick they’ve got up their sleeves is throwing dinner parties that feel chic, welcoming and effortless.

If there’s one person to let us in on the secrets of a French hostess, it would be Wendy Siu, founder and president of luxury lifestyle emporium Heather & March. Her flagship store at Prince’s Building has been a mainstay for tasteful and chic tableware, furniture and lighting — many of which are sourced from France — for more than a decade. Also the Vice President of the Alliance Française de Hong Kong, Siu is devoted to promoting the European nation’s aesthetic touches and its culture of fine living.

“The dining table is the most flexible area within one’s home,” says Siu. “A house filled with intensive moulding and classical furniture can display an utterly different and modern concept in the dining salon.” Eager to acquire her sophisticated flair, we’ve tapped Siu to style the quintessential table top at a French dinner party and share some of her top entertaining tips. Sit back for a master class of joie de vivre


 Setting the Scene

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

To instantly transform your space, using tablecloth is an easy step that gives you lots of leeway for creativity. “It’s almost like working with a new canvas — so you can build your table setting from scratch,” says Siu. This Le Jacquard Français tablecloth combines a classic floral print with graphic lines, creating an elegant and contemporary woven statement.

For hostesses who are pressed for time, placemats are ideal for more spontaneous gatherings. However, Siu advises against using mats for dinners with many complicated courses, as the different cutleries will be hard to contend with on a smaller surface. 

Tablecloth and napkin by Le Jacquard Français; salt & pepper mill, sauce jug (used as vase), round centre plate, bread & butter plate, all by Raynaud; napkin ring by Côté Table; red wine glass by Matous; white wine glass by Montbronn; dinner spoon and knife by Ercuis


 Explore Creative Colour Pairings

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

Having a defined colour scheme for your table can do wonders to set to the mood and theme of the party. This is your opportunity to get innovative with combinations: traditional colour groupings are very predictable, and boring is the furthest thing from chic.

According to Siu, the favourable Parisian colours are black, white and grey, and these neutrals look great with orange, rouge or pink. Pairings with turquoise, greyish blue and pale olive green are also becoming en vogue. “Keep your scheme focused and don’t crowd the space with too many shades,” says Siu. “This will generate confusion and a cluttered ambience.”

Tea and coffee pot, sauce jug, bread & butter plate, tea cup & saucer, salt & pepper mill, oval plate, moka cup & saucer, all by Raynaud; classic candles by Bougies la Française; arlequin, dinner spoon and knife by Ercuis


Keep Things Coherent 

Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

For bigger gatherings, providing everyone with a seat means that, inevitably, there will be mismatched furniture in plain sight. “The good news is, it’s acceptable to be a lot more spontaneous these days,” says Siu. 

However, it’s always nice to match up your seating arrangements. A set of cushions is a quick way to add focal point and visually unify mismatching furniture. It can also be used to alter colour perception. For example, a neutral cushion can be used to tone down a vibrant chair. Siu also suggests having coordinating chair covers made, or conforming the chairs to one tone by adding extra fabric and ribbons.

White side chair by Eames Style DSW; babel chair by xO; Tablecloth and napkin by Le Jacquard Français


Pick the Centre of Attention

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

 

“A centrepiece always makes a table setting more impressive,” remarks the tastemaker. An aesthetically-pleasing centrepiece provides excellent conversation fodder for guests when they first enter the table, and let’s face it — it’s a great excuse for social media.

Allow your guests to enjoy the centrepiece for a while before having it removed when dinner officially starts. If the table is roomy enough, you can keep it through the meal. However, the designs should always be below eye-level, so that it doesn’t obstruct the view and make tableside conversations less enjoyable. In this case, Siu opted for beaded animals crafted in Africa as the focal point of the table. The multi-coloured beadwork features colours that tie in with the palette of the rest of the table.

Champagne bucket and macaron stand by Ercuis;  white wine glass by Montbronn; tea cup & saucer by Raynaud


Add a Personal Touch

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

A handwritten name card is nice and all, but a dinner party is a great chance to let your playful streaks show as a hostess. Instead of indicating upfront who should be seated where, Siu suggested doing something out of the box — such as writing down the most redeeming quality of each person and asking them to pick the seat that resonated the most. Here, Siu has written down the virtues of kindness, loveliness, mysteriousness, passion and warmth in French.

Buffet plate by Raynaud


 Plan Your Plates

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

 

Every hostess should be equipped with dinners plate that are 28cm in width. Siu recommends stocking up on extras, so that they can be optimised for different courses, and cleaning on the spot can be reduced to a minimum. Also important are the smaller dessert plates, which can also be used to serve salads.

To amp up the visual value of your food, presentation plates set a great foundation. These 32cm plates can be stacked underneath dinner plates, opening up endless possibilities for mixing colours, textures and patterns. They also allow a smoother transition between courses, so that there’s always one plate present at the table.

Round centre plate by Raynaud; medium fork and knife by Ercuis


Keep Your Silverware Pristine

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

Remember to give your delicate silverware some love on the regular. With just a bit of fine silver polish, your beloved utensils can be refreshed anew. Using microfiber cloth is ideal, as the non-abrasive material can buff the surface without creating any scratches. Siu recommends the chamoisine polishing cloth and silver polish from ErcuisHave some extra table mats and napkins at the ready to immediatle salvage accidental food and wine spillage.

Dinner spoon and knife by Ercuis; Tablecloth and napkin by Le Jacquard Français


Finishing Touches

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Photographed by Edgar Tapan; Styling by Wendy Siu

Fill your dining room area with neutral paintings as a backdrop. This gives flexibility tweaking your table setting without worrying too much about clashing with the surroundings. A subdued canvas will work also whether you are in the mood for a casual, romantic or fun dining scene. As an alternative, room dividers that pack a punch can also be used to create dimension in the background.

Champagne bucket (used as vase), macaron stand, arlequin, dinner spoon and knife, all by Ercuis;  bread & butter plate, sauce jug, oval plate,  round centre plate, all by RaynaudTablecloth and napkin by Le Jacquard Français


All products mentioned are available at the Heather & March flagship store, 216-218, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central. For more aspirational decor ideas, follow Heather & March on Instagram and Facebook.

Photographed by Edgar Tapan (Hong Kong Tatler); Styling by Wendy Siu 

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