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Set A Beautiful Table: Stylist Tips and Tricks

Fall is hands down my favorite time of the year and it always seems to fly by much too quickly and this year is no exception. I can't believe it is already time for my annual blog post on stylist tips and tricks for setting a beautiful table. I always like to do this prior to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in hopes that it offers friends some inspiration and ideas for hosting in your own homes for the holidays!

I am so grateful for the talented and very busy women who take time each year to work on this project with me. I just love seeing how each person interprets my request for inspirational tablescapes and tips and how they execute their ideas. Every year I try to find a group of participants all with slightly different design aesthetics so that the tablescapes really feel varied. What I found especially interesting about this year is that although everyone in this group typically describes their aesthetic as grounded in the traditional (modern traditional, neotraditional, traditional with a twist), the tablescapes all still feel very different and unique.


Kristie McGowan @kristiemcgowanhome

Kristie lives very nearby to me in Chapel Hill, NC and trust me when I tell you her home is nothing short of spectacular. She is a fellow lover of color and pattern as well as putting fun spins on the traditional. You will love following along with her and seeing the fun decorating ideas she shares with her home. Fair warning: brace yourself for some serious wallpaper envy.

Here are Kristie's tips for setting a beautiful table:

MIX & MATCH: This could be mixing and matching style: traditional and modern, height: high and low, color: bright and soft, age: old and new, pattern: big and small and finishes: silver and brass. The variation and contrast adds interest and makes your table not look or feel too contrived. I love table settings that are aesthetically pleasing but also evoke a feeling of the season, warmth and togetherness.

SHOP YOUR HOUSE: I always like to gather items from around my house first when I am setting a table. Usually I collect way more than I can possibly use and see what speaks to me. Seeing everything in front of me and outside of where they normally live always inspires me to use items in new ways. For example, the blue and white ceramic vases I used in this tablescape are usually on top of the bookcase in my entryway. When I saw them next to my lavender dishes, I loved the color combination. Had I done the same exercise another day - other things may have stood out - which is all part of the fun!

REPEAT COLORS: One of the easiest ways to mix patterns and create a cohesive look is to repeat colors. For this table setting, I used a variety of blue and white patterns each with a different scale. The blue and white patterns in the placemats, mixed with the napkins and the vases create a visual flow that is complementary and cohesive.

ADD TEXTURE: Texture is such an important element for aesthetic interest and it can be added in so many different ways. Think textiles, greenery and flowers and even the shapes and dimensions of candlesticks or other items placed on your table, The lace, velvet, fringed napkins and faux fur paired with the roses and magnolia and the subtle curves of the candlesticks and glasses all add texture and visual interest to keep the table from feeling boring and flat.

BREAK THE RULES: We often associate certain holidays with specific colors. But, dare to be different whether it using an unexpected color pallette or adding in a pop of color that gives you pause. In this table setting, I did both. The blue and lavender color combo is not what one immediately thinks of for Thanksgiving and the bright and deep red and purple velvet pumpkins to break up the blue, white and soft lavender.

BUY WHAT YOU LOVE: When in doubt, buy and do what you love and you will never regret it because it will be authentically and intrinsically you!


Laura Castergine @lgcaster

It was only maybe a year or so ago (but my timing seems to be way off on everything thanks to the black hole that was the pandemic so maybe it was a little longer than a year...) that I found Laura's gorgeous Instagram account but I was immediately intrigued and hooked. She embraces color so boldly and beautifully in her gorgeous and stately 1904 home in Melrose, Massachusetts. She also recently has been working on her One Room Challenge and it is so much fun following along with her.

Here are Laura's tips for setting a beautiful table:

I have always enjoyed setting a pretty table. It’s the one thing I am always prepared for when hosting a holiday or dinner party. Much to my families amusement, I often do it several days ahead, that way I can take my time and make changes.

Beginning with a table covering I try all kinds of conventional things. I’ve even used a twin bed sheet as a table cloth. For this table I’ve used an un-hemmed remnant of decorator fabric, 54” wide and cut to the length of my table. The possibilities are endless!

When choosing china I mix it up, often out of necessity. I don’t have a full set of anything but my wedding china. I may have four salad plates that I thrifted and then four different ones from TJ Maxx. I think it adds interest, and this also goes for flatware and glassware, and even napkins. If you can repeat a pattern every 2-3 place settings this will help with continuity.

In the end it’s all about making your guests feel welcomed. So take your time and have fun with it!


Heldy lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and her home is a beautiful example of how to mesh modern and traditional elements. She embraces blacks and browns and contrasts them with whites and creams and uses pops of colors in her accessories, art and flowers. Heldy is a girl after my own heart - fresh flowers and candles make their way into almost every one of her shots. I just love how her tablescape is a perfect reflection of her home's style.

Here are Heldy's tips for setting a beautiful table:

Setting a beautiful table can set the mood and elevate your dinner party, creating an enjoyable dining experience for you and your guests. It doesn’t have to break the bank either. Here I’m sharing my top tips to achieve a picture perfect tablescape!

Choose warm, earthy & muted shades as your foundation allowing you to switch up a few elements to create a new look. A basic black tablecloth is the perfect backdrop for a moody setting allowing guests to linger.

Candles always and always…they set the mood and bring a warm and welcoming ambiance. Stagger them and use different heights, remember to choose unscented candles so they do not disturb the aromas of your meal. Simple clear glass votives or mercury glass are great staples to have on hand.

Add interest to your dinnerware stack with your linen napkin or a contrasting appetizer or salad plate. Keeping my base neutral allowed me to add a simple pop of black with these gold rimmed salad plates.

Incorporate natural elements such as figs, pears, small pumpkins or seasonal florals, I prefer fresh whenever possible. Layer textures such as linen, glass, metallics…. a pretty beaded charger can add interest and texture to each place setting.

Keep your centerpiece lower so it does not block the view and allows for conversation with your guests. A chinoiserie bowl I already had filled with pumpkins does the trick here.

Once your table its set, just light your candles, pour your drinks and enjoy the atmosphere you created for you and your guests. Happy Holidays!


Thanks SO much to Kristie, Laura and Heldy for the beautiful and inspirational tablescapes. Wishing you and yours a safe, happy and healthy holiday season ahead and happy table setting!

xo, Cameron


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