One important aspect of preparing your house for guests is to set the table. I like a simple tablescape, not too many decorations, but a centerpiece or table runner that matches the season. We don’t personally host very often, but I like to spiff up my dining room table occasionally. It’s probably the easiest and cheapest ways to keep your home fresh and interesting. I like to change out my table decor by season: summer/beach, autumn/Thanksgiving, winter/Christmas, and spring/Easter. Also, who doesn't like to feel like Joanna Gaines when staging a table?!
If you're like me and find yourself easily bored with the look of a mundane dinner table, then please read forward to see some table styling tips and hopefully some ideas to inspire you!
An important staple for table setting is the linens. You can transform your normal dull table into a beautiful sight with the use of colorful cloth. Table linens include table runners/cloths, placemats, and napkins. I usually start my table setup with either the table runner or centerpiece and match everything accordingly.
Tip: Use the rule of 3, a design principle that arrangements in 3's are more visually appealing. You can use three colors, a dominant color and two other colors for accents.
I like table runners because they serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose. Runners can provide a place to put your serving dishes and creates a visual center line for centerpiece placement. You can use a runner that is bold and bright with color and pattern, or something more plain to serve as a neutral backdrop.
Traditionally, table runners are placed in the middle and run lengthwise down your table with some extra hanging off the side. However, a shorter length can compliment your centerpiece and give a more casual look. Whatever you like, make sure you get the right length! I have found that the maximum length I can buy for our table is 72" which seems to be the standard, but they are sold in various lengths.
Placemats are a great way to add a pop of color under your dinner plates while simultaneously protecting your table from spills. For smaller and more casual table settings, you can opt to use placemats instead of a table cloth. They come in different shapes, color, and textures to enhance your dining set. I usually choose a natural/neutral color or try to pick a color that will go with my table runner.
Tip: Placemats can also be used on your side tables, entry tables, or buffet tables under a lamp or vase as an additional accessory (not just your dining table!).
To create some more visual interest, cloth napkins are a great way to make your table stand out. If you are hosting a dinner at your house and you have cloth napkins at every setting, I'm sure your guests will be impressed! For special occasions, you can fold your napkins decoratively like bunny ears for Easter, for example.
The centerpiece is supposed to be the show stopper and focal point of your table. I recommend getting some sort of vessel like a wooden dough bowl or lantern where the items inside can be easily switched out. For my summer centerpiece, I filled my wooden bowl with shells and stones we picked up from our beach trips. For a spring or summer look, I filled the same bowl with natural elements such as moss and succulents.
Tip: Make your centerpieces short or really tall. Your guests should be able to see and converse with the people across from them so make sure your centerpiece isn't right at eye-level.
Flickering candlelight brings romance and sophistication to your table setting. If you don't want open flame at your table, battery operated candles are a great option. If you place them in a votive, you won't notice that the light is not coming from a real flame. I like to place two candles, one on each side of my centerpiece, to fill out my table (following that rule of 3's I mentioned earlier).
Tip: Don't have any votives? You can make your own! With glass yogurt jars, you can spray paint them any color and place your LED candles inside. I made mine look like mercury glass by using silver spray paint and misting the paint with vinegar and water. The vinegar eats away at the paint, leaving a splotchy aged look.
Like placemats, chargers go underneath your plate and add more dimension to your table setting. For a layered look, you can use table cloths, table mats, and charger plates all at once. Usually used in formal settings, charger plates come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures to match any style of a particular event.
I have faux-wooden charger plates that seem more casual than the metallic gold or silver ones like you might see at a wedding. They match my centerpiece and catch spills and messes that would have otherwise stained the table mat.
Tip: Charger plates can also be used as a colorful base for centerpieces like floral arrangements or pillar candles.
Where to shop
Christmas Tree Shop
Despite the name of the store, Christmas Tree Shop is a great place to find decor for every season. They usually have inexpensive table runners for around 8$ and plenty of placemats to choose from.
I usually spend a lot of time whenever I make a trip to HomeGoods! Everything is very unorganized and items change out frequently, making the store seem like a flea market you have to pick through. With that being said, it's a hit or miss when it comes to finding goods to take home. Luckily, they have a table linen aisle, where placements, napkins, and table runners live.
Target has all the home goods you could ever need or want. Like me, you might find it impossible to leave the store without coming out with a cartful of things that you didn't even know you needed. I love to occasionally check out the Hearth & Hand collection by Chip and Joanna Gaines. The brand includes farmhouse decor such as flour sack tea towels, baskets, and stoneware dishes, to name a few.
Pier 1 Imports
Pier 1 is the best place to go if you want to splurge on home decor and be an impressive host. Although items are pricier here than my other shop recommendations, Pier 1 has the best selection for table setting pieces and will give you some ideas and inspiration. I usually stop by after a holiday/season to check out the clearance section.
Believe it or not, you can sometimes get lucky and find some great table decor or table setting items to add to your collection by visiting yard sales. If you find mismatched linens, don't fret. As long as they follow some kind of color scheme you can make it work!