Guide to Setting a Proper Table – The Butler Speaks

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Photo: Liliboas/istockphoto

One of the first formal table setting rules is the 24 inch rule. This refers to the ideal amount of space between the center of one plate and the center of the next plate, which gives the guest plenty of elbow room. The following two photos illustrate this. You may need to reduce the distance if your table isn’t tall enough to leave 24 inches between.

The ideal distance between the back of a chair and the edge of the table is also 24 inches. This allows guests to sit comfortably. A good butler will use their butler’s stick to take these two measurements.

Today, few people use butler sticks to set their daily tables, and to be honest, even the contemporary butler doesn’t necessarily use the tool every day. But when there’s a special occasion, like a birthday or an important family anniversary, the butler’s stick can come in handy.

Butler’s Tip: Precision + Symmetry = Beauty. When things are placed with precision and symmetry, the eye perceives beauty. This guideline applies to many aspects of home design, from a large, balanced entryway to matching bedside tables.

This is how a professional butler would set the dining table with a butler stick.

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