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How to Create the Perfect Tablescape

November 22, 2023
Hands decorating a rustic Christmas table setting

Creating an inviting and stylish tablescape is something you can do year-round, but there’s no better time to practice setting a table than the holiday season. Friends and family gather together, so it’s the perfect chance to impress your guests. So, how do you create something inviting but not stuffy? Elegant, but still festive? And most importantly – chic, but still functional? After all, everyone is there to eat!

We’ll walk you through how to create the perfect tablescape in just a few easy steps.

1. Choose a color palette

When creating a festive tablescape, you need one element that pulls everything together to ensure you end up with a cohesive look. The easiest place to start is with the color palette. Pick a shade that speaks to you – festive doesn’t mean you’re locked into stereotypical colors.

In the winter, you can opt for white and gold instead of red and green. Choose inviting earthy tones to help bring in the coziness that comes with fall. There are plenty of pastels to choose from in the spring, and nothing feels more like summer than bright, vibrant colors. Be careful not to go overboard and focus on balancing your seasonal colors with some neutral pieces.

Add some dimension by including patterns and prints that tie into your palette while evoking fond holiday memories. Think black and white buffalo check linens or classic Christmas plaids. Once you have your color scheme, you can start finding pieces and layering your look.

Red and white buffalo check table runner on a holiday table

2. Create the foundation

Your table will serve as the base, but you need to decide what role it will have in your tablescape. Are you going to cover it with a tablecloth? Go a bit more formal and overlay a runner on a tablecloth? Or if your table’s surface is in good shape and you’re not worried about potential damage, perhaps omit the tablecloth and use a runner only?

If it makes sense, you may want to let the beauty of your table’s wood surface shine through. Whatever option you choose, a tablecloth or runner is an easy way to set the tone of your tablescape. Go more neutral to allow your settings and centerpiece to pop, or make it a focal piece with a fun pattern. Just be sure your linens aren’t wrinkled, and keep the colors balanced so the scene doesn’t get chaotic.

Holiday table setting with linen napkins and rose gold cutlery

3. Choose the necessities: glassware, plates, utensils, and napkins

You can’t have a stunning meal without the basics, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Find a different take on cutlery by opting for a rose gold or brass or mix in some unique glassware. For your setting, a great option is to layer – use a colorful charger, a classic dinner plate, add a smaller salad plate, and top with a napkin. You can choose which elements will give you a pop and which will be your neutral.

Winter table setting with birch chargers and snowy pinecones

For a different take on a winter theme, try birch bark sheets as a charger. You’ll have a natural, rustic look without being cheesy or stereotypical. Mix and match your pieces for a more eclectic and unique look instead of having everything the same. Check estate sales or thrift stores for older plates to mix in with some newer ones. Just stick to your color palette to maintain a cohesive look.

Fall inspired tablescape with greenery and pumpkins

4. Add in an eye-catching centerpiece

If nothing else, a festive tablescape needs a centerpiece, and there are endless options available for you to choose from. You can't go wrong with a classic floral arrangement or greenery like a garland. Make sure it isn’t too large and interferes with the conversation; consider it within the context of the table size and shape – not too much and not too high.

Try a centerpiece that flows down the middle if you have a rectangular table. It can be a long, singular piece or multiple pieces lined down the center. Any combination of floral, greenery, glassware, and candles gives a beautiful result.

Use hurricane candle holders and repurpose leftover pine clippings by tacking them to the outside and securing them with hot glue and colorful ribbon. Fill several small bud vases with various flowers and greenery. Skip the holder and use only pillar candles in varying heights to add a cozy ambiance.

When incorporating candles, try to avoid scented ones – nothing should overpower or compete with the smell of the delicious meal you’ve spent so much time preparing. If your environment isn’t fit for candles (lots of little hands around), you can create a similar feeling with glow jars that accentuate the other decorations on the table.

Floral arrangement on a table with white pumpkins and candles

5. Finish with the little extras

You may be all done once you’ve set your foundation, added the necessities, and topped your table with a beautiful centerpiece! Depending on the size of your table, there may not be room for more, and it’s important not to overcrowd the space – you need room for the food.

If your table allows, add fun extras that make your tablescape a conversation piece. Top your place settings with name tags or an elegant napkin display. Rosemary is a great accent that can be used in various ways while adding a fresh, complimentary scent. Use gift tags for names and tie them to a sprig of rosemary with baker’s twine for a rustic look, or twist the sprig in the shape of a wreath and tie it together with a festive bow. In the spring, opt for lavender or baby’s breath for a lighter take.

Find some cheap and cheerful napkin rings and hot glue small scrapbook embellishments to them. Complement your centerpiece with small trinkets spread about. You can choose anything from small pumpkins, ornaments, mini Christmas trees, acorns, pinecones, or confetti, but only add these if your table size permits. Avoid having too many accessories on a small surface; otherwise, the table becomes too busy and distracting (and don’t forget you’ll have to clean up everything you put out!).

Modern holiday table setting with green tartan napkins and pinecones

Perhaps the most important part of creating a festive tablescape is not to stress about it too much. The whole point is to gather with the ones you love and create lifelong memories – your table is just a lovely backdrop.

If you’re looking for more design advice, homebuying insights, or moving tips and tricks, the Brookfield Residential blog covers it all. Be sure to follow along for more!