Setting a table is ultimately an invitation to gather. It’s a labor of love and an opportunity to show your guests that you care. When we set a table with intention, the smallest occasion becomes a memorable one. Setting a table does not have to be expensive or complicated. Some of the most beautiful tablescapes ever made have been ones using flowers from the backyard and ordinary dishes. Don’t know where to start? No problem! Here are 7 steps to follow that will help you create a beautiful tablescape of your own.
Step 1: Set your vision
When creating a tablescape, you want to have a vision in mind of how you want your table to make your guests feel. This includes a theme and color palette. I love to start by gathering inspiration from Pinterest or other design books, but it can be as easy as just choosing a flower as your theme. Obviously certain occasions can also dictate your theme and color palette too, like thanksgiving or the fourth of July but feel free to be creative in this area! It doesn’t have to be complicated. However, if you are totally stuck in this area, consider visiting my blog post on color theory and their relationships. It will give you a basic understanding of color harmonies and what combinations work well together.
2. Gather your materials
Designing a tablescape can feel overwhelming, but it’s easy once you nail down the basic elements.
Basics: Dishes, Glasses, Napkins, Runners/Tablecloths, Silverware.
Decor: Glassware, Candles, Candlesticks, Serveware, Napkin rings, Flowers (natural or faux).
Keep in mind, these do not have to be fancy. I don’t necessarily believe you need to have multiple dishes and flatware for hosting. Instead, I choose one set of everyday dishes that can be used interchangeably in any tablescape. However, there is also nothing wrong with investing in some staple pieces that you love!
3. Choose an anchor piece
Now let’s set our table. A great place to start is deciding what will serve as the anchor for your tablescape. This can be a tablecloth, runner, placemats, chargers. If you are taking a minimalist approach you can even just start your table itself. I decided to use my wood table as the anchor piece to showcase it’s natural texture and beauty. I’ve seen some people even use things like kraft paper, blankets, or scarves as their anchor piece too! Feel free to think outside the box and be creative!
4. Create your centerpiece
Your centerpiece is basically the focal point of your table. There are no rules when it comes to a centerpiece. It can be as simple as a single flower in a vase, or an extravagant spread of candles and botanicals. A simple design using a few plants and candles can be just as beautiful as an elaborate display. Since I wanted to create a very minimalist, neutral tablescape, I decided to use a dried bouquet of baby’s-breath and a simple stoneware pitcher that I had on hand. I also added some interest by using a terracotta bowl with faux artichokes. Styling a table with fruits and vegetables adds weight and a sculptural element that can offset the delicacy of florals.
Some other ideas include:
- a simple vase of flowers (make sure they coordinate with your color/theme)
- an interesting object or vintage piece
- a bowl with decorative objects
- a lantern (or trio of lanterns)
- a trio of items, candleholders, bottles, etc.
The possibilities are endless but remember to make sure to use items that correlate with your theme and colors.
A quick note about flowers. Flowers are a non-negotiable element when it comes to any tablescape. One thing to keep in mind is that they do not need to be elaborate to make a statement. You can keep it simple (and budget friendly) by purchasing a few bunches of one kind of flower and arrange them in a decorative tureen, or even divide them up into small vases to span the length of the table. Or if you are really tight on a budget, head outside and grab some lush kind of greenery for FREE.
5. Consider layers, texture, and vertical interest
Layers: When it comes to layering, think about elements you can use to provide depth, texture, and contrast to your table. You can layer with things like big and small plates, chargers, greenery, wood placemats on top of table clothes. You can even mix and match your dishes from various sets you may have on hand. For my tablescape, I created layers by using larger and smaller plates and bowls. I also arranged my napkins between the dishes, creating a “waterfall” look that added visual interest to the table.
Texture: Adding texture to your table plays a large part as it adds a sculptural shape and geometry to a landscape. easy way to add texture to your tablescape is by using things like branches, florals, woven placemats or chargers, wood etc. You can mix different finishes through your flatware or candles. For my tablescape I wanted it to feel very earthy and natural so I added texture through rattan wrapped drinking glasses, wooden flatware, bamboo serving utensils wrapped in rattan. I also added a terracotta bowl with faux artichokes. I love how this contrasted with the smooth stoneware serving platter, pitcher, and dishes, and the striped linen napkins.
Vertical interest: This is just another way of saying “height”. Vertical interest is what truly sets a tablesscape apart from your everyday table setting. One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding elements like tapered candles and candlesticks with various heights. Another easy way you can do this is through glassware. You can set your table using wine glasses or champagne flutes which will create more dimension. I chose to use shorter glasses, a wooden pedestal, and serving dishes that all contrasted in height.
6. Add your place settings
Now that you’ve considered all of your elements and their purpose, you can create your place setting. You’ll want to do this very thoughtfully as to avoid any unnecessary clutter on your table. Start by including things you will actually need for the food you are serving, like a salad plate and fork, or spoon and bowl if that is what you are serving. Begin with your plates, charger or placemats if you are using them. Next add your flatware and napkins. I like to match the folding style of my napkins to the occasion. You can do a more casual style like a rustic knot or a simple fold for a laid back and relaxed feel, or perhaps you might want to do something a little more interesting like use a fancy napkin ring. Another good thing to keep in mind is setting your dishes, glasses. and flatware according to the rules of etiquette. If you don’t know where to start, check out this helpful guide.
7. Add your final touches
The last step is to consider adding a few elements that make your table feel intimate and personal. It can be things like personal place cards or guest favors, additional serving pieces like special salt cellars or salt and pepper shakers and knife rests, or things like herbs to make your table feel fresh and earthy. Think about anything that will add to the experience and the enjoyment of your tablescape.
I hope this gave you some confidence in planning a tablescape. Remember, you don’t have to have an elaborate table to make a moment a special one. Ultimately, setting a table is creating a moment that that reflects the place you are in, the people gathered in it and how you feel in that moment!