I’ll admit, seeing and setting pretty tables makes me giddy and excited, especially during the holiday season! A beautiful table helps set the mood and enhances your guests senses by creating a visual appetite before they even take their first bite. Well designed or thought out tabletops foreshadow what’s to come, even with the smallest details. After all, the most memorable meals are not just about the food, they’re dining experiences that ignite all of your senses. So if you’re tasked with decorating a table over the holidays, or are setting for two just because, here are some elements I consider whenever I’m decorating our table.
First and foremost, designing a tabletop is meant to enhance the tabletop, not become the tabletop, so when you’re decorating, too much is really too much. Remember, memorable dining experiences are comfortable dining experiences, and it’s not very comfortable if you don’t have room for your wine glass! So be sure to consider all of the platters and service elements in your tabletop. (Tip: pre-select your platters and design your table with the empty platters as placeholders to make sure you have enough room)
I start every tabletop trying to follow the classic elements of design. Texture is a biggie for me, which can be brought in with textiles, natural elements, ribbons or twines, paper menus, place settings and even the table itself. I really like mixing textures and feel it adds warmth and depth to the table.
Once linens are down, I begin assembling my place settings as they will determine how much space remains for added decor. I’ve found it’s aways best to decorate around place settings rather than squeeze in the last setting! For dishes and cutlery, I select what we have on hand. (Tip: if you’re not setting an uber formal tabletop, it actually works very well mixing and matching dishes, and can be a fun element!). Once dishes are in place, I go for one of my new favorites, our flour sack napkins. I especially like them because of their versatility and their soft cotton texture which makes them unusually absorbent for cloth napkins (not the ones that water beads up on and smears food around!). In other words, they’re not just for pretty, they’re functional and will work great in a more relaxed setting with their natural wrinkles, or can be ironed for a more formal feel. Once my fold is in place or napkin rings are on, I’m ready to move on.
With my place settings done, I aways move to botanical elements next and try to incorporate them into every tabletop. I find things that pair naturally with the meal often work best, like a vases or jars of wildflowers and herbs. Something that doesn’t overpower the aroma of the meal, but compliments it. Did you know that many herbs like basil will stay in a vase for weeks, even forming roots and flowers? Unfortunately wildflowers have a much shorter lifespan in a vase, so keep that in mind when you’re prettifying your table. Next I reach for other elements from nature, and look towards seasonal items or some favorites of mine, like river rocks (or in our case, rocks found on the shores of Lake Michigan), drift wood and/or sea glass, which all work great as placeholders or menu holders year round. Remember, less is more, you’re enhancing!
Last but not least, I check the lighting. Soft lighting has a calming, mood setting effect, over high power bright whites. I go for my dimmers first, but if that doesn’t do it, I always have my trusty unscented candles! (Tip: while we LOVE scented candles, they don’t always belong on the table at mealtime as their aroma can overpower your meal and affect it’s deliciousness!)
The rest is up to you, to enjoy!
For additional inspiration, be sure to visit some amazing tabletops I’ve been collecting on our Pinterest Table Settings pin board here.