5 Keys to Styling the Perfect Table

There's always an excuse to throw a dinner party, but how many different ways can you style a table?? The answer, my friends? There are a million ways! And I'm here to share just a few tips that you can put to use a thousand times over. If you're in any way artistic like me, and simple things inspire you, I bet you can apply these helpful hints in all kinds of creative ways. 

Let me start off by saying that yes, I am a florist, and while exquisite florals can definitely elevate any table design, I'm actually not here to sell you centerpieces. Nope! That's not why I'm here. I know that my following is made up of tons of positive, fun, and creative women who LOVE a reason to celebrate (Rosé, anyone??) and I am here to deliver FREE ideas and tips that will help you do just that! 

I have styled quite a few tables in my lifetime and these are a few things that I always think about when I want to style an #instaworthy tablescape for a party or gathering.

These 5 keys to table styling will not only save you stress, but time and money as well. That's because I created these tips to be useful no matter what props or elements you have available to you. That's right! These ideas can be applied to work with objects that you probably already own. 

So??? If you're ready to transform the way you think about table styling, let's dive in!

 

5 table styling principles that you will never forget!

 

 
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#1. KEEP IT SIMPLE AND CLASSIC.

You guys. This is my best kept secret and absolute FAVORITE trick for styling a table (or anything for that matter) when I don't feel like taking on unnecessary stress towards my brain or my wallet. I've just created and slaved away on an entire menu for this dinner party. The last thing I want to do right now is send my brain into a spiral of overthinking the decor! Styling should be the FUN and easy part! And trust me, it will be. Just think classic elegance and you can't go wrong!

When I say classic elegance, I mean stay away from themes. Don't get me wrong, themes are great! I love them. This is just something I fall back on when I don't have the time, money, or energy to invest in curating and designing the perfect themed dinner. You can keep it classy and tasteful with a few simple items. 

And the best part? These are probably items you already own.

 

Think vintage bud vases with simple greenery in them.

Think recycled wine bottles with some fresh roses clipped from your garden.

Think potted herbs in little cement pots.

Think your hand-me-down crystal glassware and serving pitchers. 

Think that simple burlap runner that you haven't used since your friend's baby shower when "barn chic" was a thing. 

 

Trust me, you can use ANY of the items above and still exercise these amazing style tips I am about to share with you. Seriously guys, I am about to tell you a huge secret that will change your life! And this will come as the BEST news to all of you lazy creatives out there! (Trust me, I'm one too!) So are you ready?? Here it is...

Sometimes, designing a beautiful tablescape isn't about the items used, it's about how you use them.

Which brings us to #2!

 
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#2. THE BIG 3: HEIGHT, WEIGHT, AND TEXTURE.

When you're curating props for your table, you want to think about keeping a balance of each of these elements.

 

Note: When I say weight I am not referring to visual weight, not physical weight. 

Visual weight refers to how much something attracts the eye's attention. 

Imagine you're looking at a photograph of a fern plant in a heavy cement pot, with a pair of salt & pepper shakers sitting next to it. If you glance at the photograph, which object will attract your eye first? Probably the plant pot. In a balanced design, our eye desires a focal point, or initial place for the eye to go. If we were using the cement potted plant in your tablescape, it would serve as the main focal point. The other items surrounding it help complete the design.

 

A good place to start is to begin with one item you'd like to use, and build from there. Let's say you have a beautiful italian painted bowl you would like to fill with fresh nectarines as a centerpiece. Add a few brass candlesticks and clear glass bud vases with fresh cut blooms on either side. Then complete the look with six or eight small votive cups, miniature potted succulents, or small pinch pots as salt cellars. Now you have a variation of visual weight (the centerpiece) and height (the candlesticks/bud vases vs. the low cups). You also have a variation of textures (the painted bowl, the brass candlesticks, the clear bud vases, and the ceramic pots.)

Add even more texture and interest by sprinkling a few of the fresh nectarines around the base of these items to add color to the surface and bring it all together. 

This collection of items has so much more visual impact than using, let's say, 8 clear bud vases, for your decor. 

 

 
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#3. GATHER OBJECTS THAT TELL A STORY

While the tips from #2 are all GREAT tools to consider when curating objects for your table, another important thing to keep in mind is maintaining a consistent thread or story throughout your objects. You want to choose items that make sense together. For example, if you're using antique candlesticks, you wouldn't pair them with a sleek, modern bowl. Yes, this creates height variation, but it confuses the feeling of the setting you're trying to create. Instead, pair them with some cute vintage flea market vases for a homey, backyard feel or some potted herbs for a french, outdoor garden vibe. 

When it comes to curating objects for a design, I like to decide between naturals (ceramics, wood, rustic metals) Classics (clear glass, clean shapes) or modern (geometric shapes, clean lines, sleek, matte finishes) and then go from there to choose my textures and color palette. A big part of that decision should be on your setting. You want the objects you choose to make sense in their surroundings. 

 

 
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#4. LAYERING IS EVERYTHING!

Platters and textiles and trays, oh my! When it comes to table styling, I absolutely LOVE layering. It's an absolute must when designing an impactful and impressive table setting!

Do me a favor and imagine a table draped with a white table cloth. Imagine some various objects placed on top - perhaps a centerpiece, bud vases, and candle items. Now imagine a runner or piece of textile on top of the tablecloth, creating a foundation for those items. Just like that, those pieces become one. Layers can create synergy by joining and connecting items together. A simple touch like adding chargers beneath each plate or a silver tray beneath your beverage pitcher and glasses can "elevate" your design (literally and figuratively!) Layers add visual weight and depth which make for even more visual impact. They take a table from "Eh" to "WOW!"

Trust me- when it comes to table styling, the more layers, the better! Here's an example with a place setting: 

 

A folded napkin.

A folded napkin on top of a dinner plate.

A folded napkin on top of a dinner plate, on top of a charger.

A printed menu on top of a folded napkin, on top of a dinner plate, on top of a charger. 

A single flower, resting on top of a printed menu, tucked into a folded napkin, on top of a dinner plate, on top of a charger. 

 

Now that is a seat I'd like to sit at! How about you??

To take this concept a step further, I challenge you to think of everyday objects through the eyes of a stylist. Almost any object with a flat surface can be an opportunity for layering! A wooden cutting board becomes a charger. A piece of broken tile becomes a unique platter! A wooden crate = the perfect elevation for your sangria dispenser. 

I know, I know... I bet you can't wait to get started! But wait... There's one more tip to put the icing on the cake and add the perfect finishing touch to your table design. 

 

 
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#5. Add a personal touch 

We all know that scene from Love, Actually where Harry purchases a necklace at the jewelry counter and the sales attendant - played by Mr. Bean - asks if he wants gift wrapping... then proceeds (with excruciating leisure) to add rose petals, a bow and all of the other "extra special" finishing touches. 

For the final step of this process, I would encourage you to find your inner [Mr. Bean-as-jewelry-attendant] and add your own personal touch to your guests' dining experience - whether it's making hand-lettered watercolor place cards, putting together homemade favors for each person's seat, or even sprinkling some dried rose petals on the table top (or confetti if it's a special occasion.) If you've prepared garden fresh cuisine, nestle some extra harvested ingredients around the centerpiece for visual appeal. Or if it's a chilly evening, place a throw over each person's chair.

Give your design that one extra "moment" for the eye to pause and think, "Wow, now that is a thoughtful touch!" 

 

And of course, when all is said and done, don't forget to take a pause yourself and appreciate all your hard work! 

 

Happy Styling!

XO, Sarah