Tablescapes 101 – 10 Tips for Setting a Perfect Table

Posted by on

With Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas approaching, table setting and tablescapes are hot topics among hosts and hostesses.  But, how do you style the perfect table and what are the etiquette rules for table setting? Check out these 10 tips for setting a perfect table and creating a memorable tablescape that will keep your guests talking.

Join the Interior Design Tribe

Before doing anything else, decide on your guest list. How many people are you inviting?  Are they all adults or will there be children and/or babies as well?  Do you have enough space for everyone to sit together or will you need to separate the adults from the children?

Quick Tip #1: If young children or babies are attending your event and you don’t own booster seats or high chairs, borrow some or remind your guests to bring those items.

Quick Tip #2: It can be nice to separate the adults and the children regardless of space so that you can create two tablescapes; one for the adults and one for the children.

Quick Tip #3: This tip is for those of you without children. Plan to serve the children first.  Children don’t have patience to sit for very long. So to ensure your guests enjoy themselves, invite parents to serve their children before planning to serve the rest of the guests.  

What will you be serving? This question is important for a couple of reasons.  First, you’ll need to know which dishes, flatware and glassware will be required for your event. Second, you’ll need to want to determine how much space will be needed on the table for food.  For example, if you are serving buffet style or plated meals then you have more real estate on your table for décor. Comparatively, if you are serving family style, then you’ll need room on your table for placing serving dishes.
Quick Tip: If you’re planning a family style meal, make sure you have enough hot plates and/or trivets to ensure your table is protected and the food remains hot. Here are a few stylish trivets that won't upset your tablescape.


2. Reclaimed Wood Trivet
3. Treillage Trivet
4. Olivia Trivet
5. Thankful Trivet

Tablescapes can be designed for pretty much any season or occasion.  One of the first things to establish before creating your table design is the theme or colour palette you want to use to create the desired mood.  The holidays are easy, but birthdays, engagement parties, reunions, etc. may take a little more thought.  If you’re not sure what theme or colour palette to choose, a good place to start is with your current dishes and serveware. Is it appropriate for the event you are hosting? Can you work with it? If not, I’d suggest investing in some white dishware and serveware for events because you can always add pops of colour with table linens, placemats, natural elements and themed décor.  If new dishware and serveware aren’t in the budget, try to adapt your original vision for your tablescape so that it works with what you currently have or shop thrift stores to search for the items you need. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.  Here are a few simple dishware settings that are classic and will take you through all the holidays. 

Quick tip: If you are a fan of using chargers in your table settings, I'd suggest opting for round dishware over square or rectangular because round chargers are much easier to source.  

Table Setting Dishware

1. Williams Sonoma Brasserie All-White Dinnerware Place Setting
2. MAXWELL & WILLIAMS West Meets East Dinner Set

3. Melange French Riviera Premium Dinnerware Place Setting

Natural Elements
Nothing livens up a table more than live (pun intended), natural elements. Use flowers, foliage, fruit or vegetables in your tablescape to provide texture, colour and fragrance.  If live isn’t practical (eg. seasonal or allergies) then faux items can certainly be used to create an attractive centerpiece. Some of the most beautiful natural elements are free. Try using driftwood, branches, wildflowers, leaves, acorns or pine cones in your arrangements to create the desired look.

Quick Tip: If using items from outside, make sure to clean them of bugs and dirt before placing them within your tablescape.  

You've heard of the rule of three, right? If not, basically it states that objects that are grouped in threes are more appealing, memorable and effective than even-numbered arrangements. The "three" part comes into play because three is the smallest grouping our brains can distinguish. Therefore, when designing your tablescapes, it's important to group your decor items in groups of three or in odd-numbered groups for the most attractive displays.  


One of the best ways to create well-designed tablescape is to use objects of varying heights within the design.  The mind gets bored when everything is the same or equal.  By including items with varying heights, you create variety and interest.  Varying the height of all the objects in your décor also makes your tablescape appear fuller and finished.   

Quick Tip: Be mindful of your guests.  Don’t create a tablescape that prevents guests from seeing each other from across the table. 

Don’t let this scare you. I’m not suggesting that you sprinkle glitter across your table, rather I’m suggesting that you add some dimension by including various finishes. Just like with varying heights, different finishes add interest to your tablescapes, making them more appealing.  Use glassware, crystal, flatware, chargers, napkin rings or anything else that is reflective to add a little sparkle. Here's just a few of limitless choices to add sparkle to your table.

Table Decor1. Bubbled Silver Tea Light Holder
2. Silver Coral Napkin Ring
3. Spiegelau Red Wine/Water Goblet
4. Roybal Beaded Charger Plate
5. White with Gold Splatter Dessert Plate 
6. Shimmer Glassware 
7. Lenore Lantern
8. Elegant Agate Napkin Ring
9. Meridian Goblet Glass
10. Lotus Candle Holder

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention it again; candles are one of my absolute favourite ways to create a mood. They truly make a tablescape glow. Use white, coloured or glass taper candles depending on the look you are trying to achieve.  Don’t forget to choose candle holders that compliment your design.

Quick Tip:  Don’t use scented candles for tablescapes centered around meals. The scents compete with natural food aromas. 

Guests will love the added touch of anything personalized.  Include name place cards,  conversation napkins, event themed quote cards or witty coasters on dinner plates. Event themed jokes and riddles are other fun ways to create a personal touch.  Tuck them into napkin folds or place them on dinner plates to initiate conversation.  Another great way to add a personal touch is to supply paper take out boxes and include a “take out” of “leftovers” sticker that coordinates with your theme. These are just some examples. Comment below with some of your personal touch designs. I’m always looking for new ideas.

Personalize a table setting1. Dinner Party (Conversation) Napkins 
2. Chalk Note Food Label/Place Card Holder 
3. Artaste Wine Charms 
4. Connoisseur Coaster Set
5. Chalk Note Stemware
6. Stump Wood Place Card Holder 
7. Printable Leftover Labels
8. Bakery Boxes


Setting the table can be a source of stress for some people. Don’t let it get to you.  The most important thing to remember is to keep it comfortable. No matter how beautiful your tablescape is, no one will appreciate it if they can’t get comfortable. When designing your tablescape keep in mind how much space you need for dishware, glassware, flatware and serveware and create your vision keeping these proportions in mind. If you need a lot of table space for serving dishes, then consider using a board or tray as the base of your centerpiece so that it can be removed easily once food is ready to be served. See image below for table setting rules.

Quick Tip: Set the table a day or two ahead of time.  This will allow you to make sure you have enough dishware, glassware, flatware, linens, placemats, etc. for everyone you are hosting. And, if you don’t, you‘ll have time to grab those items instead of scrambling at the last minute.

Table place setting diagramSo there you have it.  You should be all set for the upcoming holidays. If you have any tips you’d like to share with me, please comment below – I’d love to hear them!  To stay informed about more interior decorating tips, ideas and special offers sign up for my Design Tribe. 


Join the Interior Design Tribe


Interior Decorator Val Malnar
Interior Decorator Val Malnar

Val Malnar
Principal Designer | Orangetree Interiors

Unless stated, I do not own any of the images posted on this blog. If you see your work on my site and I have not given you proper credit or you would like it to be removed, please contact me.  Some of my posts include affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.  

affordable interior decorating affordable interior design centerpiece decorating centerpiece design centerpieces colour trends decorating ideas do-it-yourself interior decorating do-it-yourself interior design fast interior decorating fast interior design interior decorating interior decorating budget interior decorating costs interior decorating ideas interior decorating tips interior design interior design budget interior design cost interior design trends online interior decorating online interior design table place setting table setting tablescape design tablescapes

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published