Staying In: How to Set a Valentine’s Table for Two, Courtesy of Ajiri Aki


Instead of dining out on Valentine’s Day—in a restaurant packed with strangers and dripping with paper hearts—wouldn’t it be more intimate, in every sense of the word, to stay in? That’s always been our preference: candles, a table set for two, and perhaps pajamas over crowds and cold.

When we emailed recently with Ajiri Aki, the France-based doyenne of stylish, effortless table settings (she runs the vintage tableware shop and linen purveyor Madame de la Maison), we were happy to hear that she feels the same, all the way over in Paris. Here’s how she sets the table for a simple Valentine’s dinner for two—plus her tips for making it just a bit romantic, never fussy.

Photography by Ajiri Aki.

1. Resist the urge to go pink.

Just because it&#8
Above: Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you should drape the table with all the pink things you can find. “As much as I love pink everything, I wanted to go with a simple, soft, romantic look using the orage tablecloth and sable napkins,” Ajiri says. “The orage linen is grey-ish blue, kind of like a storm. Orage means storm in French. It’s a soft color palette without going full-on pink.”

2. Choose petite flowers over big bouquets.

In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.
Above: In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.

3. Sprinkle some roses.

Above: “I always add one little stereotypical element that connects to the holiday,” Ajiri says. For a romantic touch, she scattered a handful of dry rose buds down the center of the table.

4. Use the good china.

Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. &#8
Above: Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. “These mussels in white wine sauce take a whopping 20 minutes to make, but they are always served in beautiful antique finds,” Ajiri says.

5. Embrace imperfection.

Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  &#8
Above: Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  “I rarely iron my linens because I find the texture beautiful,” Ajiri says.

6. Sit kitty-corner.

Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It&#8
Above: Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It’s more casual than facing each other—and you won’t have a table between you.

P.S. See more of Ajiri’s entertaining tips in Joyeux Noël: How to Throw a Holiday Party the French Way. And here’s our original feature on her work: Vintage French Style You Can Rent: Madame de la Maison in Paris.



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