Obviously, decorating, cooking and aesthetic is personal, which is why one should never be apologetic with regards. People forget that and get hung up on Martha Stewart perfectionism instead of embracing the laid back Nigella Lawson of it all.
For me, setting a table and prepping a meal is a reflection of the mood and the people that will be sitting at said table and nothing more. It is what I believe we might all need and love at that time, both emotionally and physically, whether it be a tangy paella, greasy meatball sandwiches or a huge colorful salad.
The point is that a bunch of us will be together, close knit and full of things to say, stories to share, whether the plates match or not, whether I opt for fresh cut flowers or not and whether we are sitting at the kitchen or dining room table, on the ground on huge pillows or outdoors al fresco under the wisteria.
Most of my fondest moments can be traced back to a table and a meal; driving to a good friend's place, in Germany, late on a Friday afternoon where conversation would start and then soar until way past midnight. Or a mega table of family in France that filled with laughter and wine uplifted and sustained everyone during a horrible period. Or a simple sunny afternoon in Italy preparing homemade gnocchi with a few friends while sharing dreams and disappointments.
The more varied the table the more varied the discussion and even if it sometimes hiccups, trips up or starts to go down south you can still recuperate (usually with some vino and dessert). This is life after all ....arguing, hands waving animatedly, flushed cheeks, raised voices of indignation, banter, laughter and it is all okay. "What about an Espresso?" And everyone relaxes once more. Arms are draped around backs of chairs, phones consulted to check on kids and the older crowd goes for a walk in the garden to get the digestive process moving along.
Don't let not knowing how to or not liking to cook stop you either. Again, no need for apologies or excuses. Sandwiches, take out pizza and chilled beer, or a pot luck theme et voila you are all together and bonding whether it is over pheasant or a burger. And really, at the end of the day, it's about opening your home, fridge and heart to people you want to spend time with and that want to spend time with you.
Paper napkins or freshly pressed linens, themed table or not, spontaneous or planned, never deprive yourself of a wonderful chin wag and nosh around a table with family and friends. It is an undeniably wonderful opportunity to impart and learn, to unburden and enrich both body and mind.