Stylist Tips for Setting a Beautiful Table
Three years ago I wrote a blog post where I had several design friends contribute their advice on setting a beautiful tablescape just before the holidays. I had so much fun working on the post and seeing such beautiful inspiration from friends that I asked several more friends to contribute last year and here we are on year three of what I hope can continue as an annual tradition!
Obviously this year thanks to Covid looks A LOT different than past years and will sadly affect many of us from gathering with family and friends over the holidays. But, that's maybe even more of a reason to pull out the good china, polish the silver and set a beautiful table just BECAUSE. And the great thing about all the tips and inspiration that you can get from this post is that it can be used for any tablescape you create - not just for the holidays!
I asked a group of extremely talented women to team up with me this year and as usual, I was blown away by their talents, creativity and willingness to participate. I am excited to introduce you to each of them and share their lovely inspiration and advice.
Michele Strauts @craftingculture lives right outside of Chicago in a family home she built in 2016. She works full time as a Financial Advisor and in her spare time you can find her thrifting or obsessing over home decor.
Michele's china and glassware collection are awe-inspiring and she is a master at thrifting the most amazing treasures. I love watching her Instagram stories and following along with her thrifting adventures! Her home is gorgeous and layered with vintage beauty.
Michele's tabletop tips:
My favorite table setting advice would be that there are no rules when it comes to creating a beautiful table. Feel free to think outside the table setting box! My favorite tables often include something unexpected. When my husband graduated Business school, I used his textbooks and school name tag as part of my centerpiece. When my son turned 5, I gathered a bunch of his dinosaur toys to use as table decor. When my daughter asked for a tea party, I hung parasols from the ceiling to create a dainty space! Anything goes when it comes to table setting.
I think it is equally important to remember that a gorgeous table doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You probably have everything you need to set a pretty table right at home. I often use wrapping paper and crepe paper for table runners (very inexpensive and makes cleanup easier too). House plants make great centerpieces if you don’t want to splurge on fresh flowers. And you can shop your home to find décor items to use on your table!
I have so much fun when it comes to setting a table! I refer to all my china and glassware as my modern-day Barbies. I may be all grown up, but I still enjoy playing with my “toys” when it comes to setting a table. For me, it is so rewarding to see a beautiful table that I created and put together. So, if you only regard table setting as a necessary chore, then shame on you. Have fun with it! Find something that inspires you! Get creative!
Alison Sheffield @sheffieldinteriors of Sheffield Interiors is an Interior Decorator just outside of Boston who creates layered spaces with a mix of old and new, and a healthy dose of pattern and color.
Alison's design aesthetic and style resonates so strongly with me and has become a dear friend and a source of inspiration for me on a daily basis. She is a master at layering textures and prints and lives in the most charming bow-roof cape.
Alison's tabletop tips:
I often start with flowers. Depending on what I have in my garden or what I find at the flower market, I’ll start my color palette there. These hydrangeas, that were just turning red in my garden, were the inspiration for this table.
More often than not I’ll use a crisp white table cloth for my first layer. I love having a neutral backdrop to build on. This one has a lovely embroidered detail that plays beautifully off the warm browns in the plates and the brass accents.
I think a mix is so important. Mixing metals, floral vessels, and glassware adds visual interest to your table. I’ve used brass, horn, colored glass, and ceramic in this table setting for a mix of tones and textures.
Don’t be afraid to use non-traditional items on your table. I add small porcelain figurines, brass objects, or fresh fruit to almost every table I set. My favorite feature of this table is the addition of the charming door stop. He’s sweet and unexpected, and matches the color palette perfectly.
Always include candles! Tapers, yes, but also tea light for some additional sparkle at table level. And, also, because everybody looks better by candlelight!
Dylan Samide @dylanbsamide has always been a sucker for old houses! Three years ago she moved to Northern Virginia with her husband and two sons and they purchased an 1800’s farm house. They have been renovating and updating ever since. When not checking things off the never-ending to do list, Dylan works part time as a decorator in western Loudon County. Most recently she started working at Old Lucketts Store and hopes to open a room there in the near future selling vintage and antique finds.
Watching Dylan's stories on Instagram is sheer torture for me - she has the most mind-blowing finds and she is a ton of fun as well as extremely talented! If you love rattan and bamboo, you will lose your mind following along with her.
Dylan's tabletop tips:
First and foremost, setting a pretty table should be fun! I try not to stress too much with overly formal or fussy arrangements and often use things from my yard and garden. I’m a big fan of using what is in season, whether it be flowers, a blossoming branch of a tree, or a berry stem of some sort (like holly or ilex for Xmas). For this tablescape, I used a big mum I already had and cut some magnolia leaves and tucked them in around the sides. I recently found a large bunch of bittersweet growing at our house and used that for some extra height and texture. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not shy about “civic pruning” either. I keep clippers in my glove compartment for roadside wildflowers. You can find so many beautiful things for your table in unexpected places!
For special holidays I try to incorporate something sentimental in my table settings. The big silver turkeys on this Fall table were my favorite Grandmothers. Having them sitting there brings back so many wonderful memories of Thanksgivings with her and my family as a child. Things that you love and use year in and year out also help to create new traditions and memories. If you have little ones, let them help by finding something to add to the table. My boys used to find birds nests and we would tuck them in around the table at Easter.
I think it's fun to use vintage, antique and new pieces when setting a table. Mix it up! The days of having to use all matching sets of china and glassware are over. The majolica plates I used are antique (another treasure from my other Grandmother) but the blue and gold dinner plates are from my wedding. The bamboo silverware is new and I love the added texture it brings in. I always use chargers of some sort and these wicker ones super versatile. For the tablecloth, I used a piece of fabric. You can use whatever you have on hand. I like old plaid blankets and Indian bed spreads too.
Ashlyn Goldberg @ashlyngoldberg is an interior stylist living in Durham, NC with her husband and two boys. She is passionate about creating soulful homes with unique vintage furniture and accessories.
Ashlyn lives not too far from me and I've had the pleasure of meeting her in person a couple of times. She's a vintage sourcing magician with the best finds and regularly hosts sales at really reasonable prices if you're lucky enough to snatch up some of her goods. Her photo skills especially with lamps and candlelight are epic and so beautiful.
Ashlyn's tabletop tips:
Choose a tight color scheme based on the table location/environment. Since our table is outside, I chose colors from nature. Shades of Brown, green, orange, etc.
Create layers. Tablecloth with a runner, Chargers under dinner plates, faux fall leaves under gourds.
Pretty cloth napkins. Besides taking cues from nature (since we were outdoors), this was my next cue for colors and feel.
Have a fresh or living centerpiece. In my case, I have a live plant but fresh flowers are always a good idea too.
Add height with flickering candles. Candles add warmth and movement.
Since my table was outside and it was chilly, I made sure each chair had a blanket that guests could throw over their laps for extra warmth.
Most importantly, gather with people you love and you will always have beauty surrounding you.
I left Ashlyn's final tip for the end of the blog post purposely because I think it sums things up perfectly. No matter what this holiday season looks like, hug your loved ones closer and enjoy the many blessings we have and all the many things we do have to be thankful for.
In the meantime, go set your tables! The holidays are coming quickly!