How to Create a Lovely Tablescape

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A well set tablescape elevates your guests dining experience and it’s easier than you might think to create an exquisite table setting. Here are 7 tips on creating a lovely tablescape that you can do anywhere.

During my wedding planning and design career my team and I set quite a few lovely and exquisite table settings. Sure, we had access to fine china, unique flatware and a linen selection like none other. I loved my role as a wedding planner and looked forward to the design phase the most.

But did you know that creating a lovely table setting can be exquisite even if you lack access to abundant resources? The principles are the same when it comes to creating a lovely tablescape to welcome your guests.

table set with blue tablecloth outside on pebble driveway with boxwoods surrounding. Wooden chairs and a floral centerpiece
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

What is a Tablescape?

When you hear the term tablescape or table setting you might think of a fancy table set for a wedding or other elaborate event; however, the term refers to ALL of the elements of a table setting from the plates, glasses, and flatware to the centerpieces and other decorations.

Tablescapes set the tone for your guests and it can be simple and straightforward with just a few basic elements, or be incredibly ornate. I tend to prefer something simple but a little elevated depending on the occasion. I love clean, less-is-more design overall.

Some hosts can get so caught up in cooking they forget about the table, while others focus too much on table decor that food is an afterthought.  I personally believe it’s a balance but will always feel that food is the most important part. If the food isn’t tasty it doesn’t matter how gorgeous your table setting is.

Blue and white table cloth with dinner plates, glasses and white floral centerpiece outside.
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

Why Create a Tablescape?

It seems that gone are the days of elegant dining, but I must admit, a lovely set table is not only one of my favorite things to create but its one of my favorite things to enjoy with family and friends. It’s a time to set aside the hustle, cell phones, social media and focus on your guests with more intimate conversation. Every time I host a dinner party everyone seems to walk away a little less stressed and more connected.

So…I say the art of a well-dressed table is essential now more than ever!

You can put together a surprisingly lovely table with even the smallest budget if you give it a little forethought. By using objects you already have around your home, from the thrift store and even greenery from your yard your table setting can be amazing.

Where to Create a Tablescape?

You can do this anywhere and you don’t need to have a fancy dining room to create a gorgeous table setting. Create a tablescape on a your coffee table, kitchen table, patio, picnic blanket at the park…you get the idea. I’m not talking stuffy table settings that make your guests uncomfortable and afraid to pick up their drinking glass. Move a table outside if the weather is nice and put it in your yard or on your driveway.

When we lived in Northern Virginia one home we owned was a townhouse with ZERO yard and a deck the size of a toddler bed, but I hosted a tented fish fry with eight guests on my driveway with table linens, lobsters and candlelight. You can create a tablescape anywhere and everywhere.

table set with blue tablecloth outside on pebble driveway with boxwoods surrounding. Wooden chairs and a floral centerpiece
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

Elements of a Tablescape

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to create tablescapes and that they are nothing to fear. Let’s get to it and let me show you how to create something truly special with these elements.

  • A tablecloth, runner, placemats or leaving the table bare (which is fine too)
  • Plates, bowls, and other necessary dinnerware
  • Stemware
  • Utensils
  • Napkins
  • A centerpiece (could be something other than flowers)

That’s it really and when you break it down it becomes less intimidating. You likely have all of these elements in your kitchen cabinets and even if you don’t have enough plates or glassware that match it doesn’t matter.

To take your tablescape to the next level you may include a few additional pieces, such as:

  • Chargers
  • Place cards
  • Menus
  • Candles and other decor

Depending on the event I might add all of the items listed above or 1-2 elements listed.

table set with blue tablecloth outside on covered patio with Wooden chairs and a floral centerpiece

How to Create a Lovely Tablescape

There are certain design elements you need to take into account when designing a tablescape—otherwise, your spread may end up looking disjointed or unpolished. You may may want to create an overall design or mood board to help you visualize everything as you pull it together.

1. Select a Color Palette or Theme

I first begin by determining what my color scheme or even my theme will be and then design around it. Sometimes you might not have a theme such as: July 4th, Christmas, New Years and that’s ok. Pick a theme or a color or both, etc. Determine your direction so you can gather your other tablescape elements.

For this tablescape I knew I wanted the main color to be blue and I used a variety of blue hues as well as whites and greens to compliment this neutral, spring design.

blue and white table setting with white plates, blue menu card and white and green florals
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

2. Select Your Linens

Every tablescape needs some type of linen; either a tablecloth, napkins or table runner. You can use a combination but you don’t have to, but you will want at least one of these linen options.

Perhaps you are designing your overall table based on a tablecloth or runner that you have or want to use. You can also rent table linens from Nuage Design or La Tavola but they are pricey. If you have the budget and like to use different linens when you entertain without storing them this is a great option. However, not budget friendly.

blue and white table setting with monogrammed napkin hanging down from plate

3. Create a Centerpiece

Maybe your overall design will be based around your centerpiece and this will set the tone for the rest of the table setting. Many times I will create the rest of my table design around my centerpiece and then select linens and plates. It’s easy to create your own centerpiece using flowers from your yard or grocery store flowers. You don’t need to be a florist to create something lovely.

You might also want to include another element for your centerpiece other than flowers; think outside the box and get creative with some of these classy ideas:

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Paper Flowers
  • Candlesticks or pillar candles
  • Potted herbs
  • Lanterns
  • Vintage books
  • Globes
  • Garland runner
  • Potted ferns
white and green floral centerpiece on table.
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

4. Select Tableware

Your plates, flatware and drink ware/stemware should compliment your other table design elements.

I love to use white plates; white is easy to design around and they don’t need to be fancy. Even the Dollar Store carries white plates. For my Friendsgiving table I purchased black plates from the dollar store and they were perfect.

Think about mixing styles and finishes too with plates/bowls, flatware and stemware.

Stemware does not need to be fancy, expensive nor does it have to match. I blended stemware that I found at the thrift store for this tablescape and it was just fine!

white and green floral centerpiece on table with glassware
Image: Wolfcrest Photography
blue hand calligraphy menu card sitting on top of white plates with gold trim

5. Include Interesting Textures

I can’t say it enough but texture is so important in design in general. In home decor and in your table design. Add some texture and not just in the centerpiece.

Look for wooden charger plates or a linen table runner, which will provide contrast from smooth plates and stemware. Alternatively, include branches or foliage as part of your centerpiece, which bring a natural element to the design. You want elements that feel real and touchable.

Loving the touch of the lavender sprig on the plate with the menu card here. Just that sprig alone adds a little more unexpected texture that your guests can actually touch and feel. It makes your table setting feel real and unstuffy.

blue hand calligraphy menu card sitting on top of white plates with gold trim
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

6. Pay Attention to Scale

Your tablescape design should be proportionate to the size of your table. Pay attention to centerpieces and other decorations, which can easily feel too big or too small.

If your center display is too large, it can impede functionality, preventing people from being able to talk to each other, and if it’s too small, it may not feel substantial enough for the table, taking away from the overall aesthetic. One thing I always reiterated to my wedding clients; ensure centerpiece proportion is correct because it is very annoying for guests to not be able to see across the table and converse. This alienates your guests and that is not the goal of a dinner party.

Adding little decor elements can provide just the right touch; be careful not to overdo. You want to offer guests visual interest but too much decor can make everything feel muddled and ultimately get lost.

white rose on table in a silver pitcher
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

7. Incorporate Special Touches

Perhaps menu cards or place cards could be added to finish the overall design and make it more personal. Menus can be hand calligraphy or you can create something on your own. Even printing a menu on card stock on your home computer is fine too.

It might be a nice touch to add something that a guest can take with them. Seriously, it doesn’t have to be costly. Maybe a small potted plant or a sprig of Lavender, a candle that has their place card attached to it.

blue hand calligraphy menu card sitting on top of white plates with gold trim
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

Final Thoughts on How to Create a Lovely Tablescape

Creating a lovely tablescape does not need to be difficult or expensive; it should be fun. If you are thinking about your guests and how to make them feel special and cared for then it should be easy to create a table setting that reflects both you and them.

Be careful to ensure your table setting design feels relaxed and not stuffy. The focus is not to impress your guests but to care for them; you want them to feel at home in a special way. Every time I host a ladies dinner I set the table differently every single time and each friend always walks away feeling refreshed. You can do this to for your family and friends with just a little extra effort!

Once you begin decorating a table you will be eager to do it again!

wood cross back chairs at table outside on pebble driveway
Image: Wolfcrest Photography

These photos are in partnership with: Amelia Lawrence Weddings, Wolfcrest Photography, Beaumont House Design, Ink Push Paper

How to Create a Lovely Tablescape

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