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In need of some inspiration on how to set the table and present the food upon it this Lunar New Year? You’re in luck — The Style Sheet has enlisted the help of food and props stylist, and founder of The Props Dept, Gloria Chung to help with just that. Read on to discover Gloria’s top five expert tips.

Image courtesy of The Props Dept. Photography by Gloria Chung

1. Go bold with colours and textures

‘Chinese New Year is always about bold colours, such as red and gold. To keep it unexpected, use “off colours”. For example, try burgundy or crimson instead of sharp red; mauve instead of electric violet; rustic gold instead of gold-gold. Also, never be afraid of monochromatic colours! The key lies in textures. If you decide to go monochromatic on your table — for example, with red — mix and match the tableware with different textures. Layer the tablecloth and table runner with silk, linen and cotton. Top with red glassware, ceramics, and fresh and dry flowers. Even though they’re all in red, their forms, textures and reflections bring layers in the total look, so it’s not boring at all!’

Image courtesy of The Props Dept. Photography by Hoey Leung

2. Old as new

‘Chinese parents often tell their kids to use new things at Chinese New Year, but I think this has changed a lot these days. I love using vintage on my table. Not only is it unique, but it also represents the heritage — and it’s especially important to cherish our traditions during the biggest event of our culture. I love vintage hand-painted trays to serve tea; such as hand-painted plates from Yuet Tung Ceramic factory, made in the 70s.’

Image courtesy of The Props Dept. Photography by Gloria Chung

3. More is more

‘A minimalist approach is not for Lunar New Year. Leave no room in the pot or plate — pack the dish as full as possible because it means overflowing money. A good example is poon choi, where ten dishes are packed in one pot. Be mindful when you arrange such a full dish, and try to create some lines and flow within the food. It takes a lot of effort to make it look effortless. I’d also suggest leaving a few small dishes around during the day, from dried fruits and nuts to Lunar New Year puddings, all served up on small plates. Pass them around and keep the gathering flow going. It also fills up the table and makes it more interesting.’

Image courtesy of The Props Dept. Photography by Gloria Chung

4.  Embrace natural elements

‘Opt for natural materials. Use seasonal dry flowers and fruits as your decoration on the table — it elevates the whole winter and festive look, and it’s much more eco-friendly. For example, I love to use mandarin peels as chopsticks holders!’

Image courtesy of The Props Dept. Photography by Gloria Chung

5. Meaning is everything

‘When it comes to traditional Chinese New Year food, the symbolic meaning is important. Choose ingredients that are red or golden-yellow — for example, prawn or pumpkin — because they’re fortunate colours. You can also work on the presentation. For example, I created a vegetable bean curd wrap recipe that looks like a little coin pouch, something said to bring more fortune in the coming year.’