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As the flowers poke out of the ground, and the leaves bud on the trees, another force of nature comes back alive: my desire to entertain. In the winter months, Dan and I don’t have folks over as much, preferring to cocoon when we’re home. But one of my rites of spring is dressing my table and sending out invites, welcoming friends back to our cottage.

It was a quiet day at the cottage, so I pulled out all my must-have tools for setting a great table, many of which are brand-new pieces. Then, I went into my table-setting zone and pulled together a lovely spring arrangement, perfect for a Sunday brunch or casual dinner with great friends.

So what are my must-haves? First, a good base. One of my favorite tricks is to use a 60-inch square tablecloth, turned on the diagonal, placed at the center of the table. I think full-sized tablecloths are a waste. They are expensive, hard to launder and difficult to iron. The small squares give you the same lovely textile base, with none of the headaches. This tablecloth is all cotton, hand-blocked print, and is perfect for spring and summer.

If you only have room for one set of dishes, make them white, because they allow you to create a million looks on your table. If you have space for a second set? Majolica. I lost my heart to a unique Victorian era pattern years ago. When I’m setting a table at my cottage, I can’t seem to not use majolica, somehow, somewhere, on the table.

I like to mix the stemware on my tables. Often, I will find a colored glass that brings out a hue in the dishes or napkins, like cobalt blue, amber or amethyst. If the table is neutral, I might stay with clear glasses, but they won’t be a matched set.

When it comes to the flatware, I’m a fan of bringing in something a bit different and fun. I love bamboo-handled pieces for spring and summer.

If you look closely, you can probably tell the napkins on this table are really kitchen towels. Often when I set a casual table, I will use towels because I love their generous size, how easy they are to launder and how they look on the table. And, best yet, when they become too dingy for the table, I relegate them to the kitchen, where they get to work.

What’s left? The little details that make a table special. Fresh flowers. Candles. Place cards to mark each guest’s spot, and let them know you are excited to have them with you.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com

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