Setting a Beautiful Table, Step-by-Step:

1. Decide on a general vibe and color scheme.

The base of which is your choice of table cloth or runner, just the table or placemats.

My table expands from 4 up to 12 and because of the extension leaves, it looks best with tablecloths.

The photo above is a moderately casual look and the next couple below give a formal and quite casual option.

A key way to set the tone is with your choice of napkins.

Options are plentiful – like the more formal linen Monogram napkins by Wakefield South (above) or the more casual Autumn Multicolor Botanical “Clair” Print Napkins from Cost Plus World Market (right). Then consider how to use present them.

Linen monogrammed napkins are so beautiful that I skip napkin holders or fancy folds – their timeless beauty is best shown simply.

I usually add a touch of fun to casual napkins like the of the moment wooden bead napkin rings (below) from Amazon or a natural touch like a dried leaf (right) or sprig of rosemary.

2. Next, set the table using your choice of plates, flatware and glasses.

I show a casual option and a more formal one with plates that vary from Bernadaud fine china to Target White Basic.

Flatware shown ranges from a sterling silver to a modern matte gold pattern from Amazon or you can choose your everyday stainless.

The gold set I have is out of stock at the moment, but this pattern is close. Glasses shown are either simple crystal goblets or the latest addition to my collection – amber goblets which are a steal for less than $40 for 6!

3. Consider any extra touches.

For fun touch on your chandelier, use these beaded garlands to add a rustic vibe. I needed 4 of them for my fairly large chandelier.

Small stump place card and favor like the Fran’s Chocolate turkey

Do you like to layer and use chargers? I show rattan chargers or skip them in these examples.

Are you setting the flatware in a more formal way for different courses like I show with salad fork and soup spoon? Or just the knife and fork? What about place cards and favors like the Fran’s Chocolate turkey (right)?

For simple place card ideas check out 11 Last Minute Ideas.

Easy Centerpiece Guide:

4. Place focal object on the table and add candlesticks.

My table isn’t very wide so in the examples above and below, I like to use just candlestick – like the Tall Emmett Antique Brass candlesticks (Crate and Barrel) or serving dishes (below).

Floral arrangements as a focus are popular just note that if you opt for this, either create a low arrangement or plan to remove it once your guests are seated.

High arrangements interfere with conversation and eye contact.

Unless your focus is very simple like the example above, start with a center table riser (left) which can be a wooden plateau like shown on the left, a stack of 1-3 books depending on thickness, a box, a cake plate or any other study item that’s around 3-5″ off the table. Below the casserole dish (left) is smaller than the riser so I used leaves from my yard and a rust napkin to make a prettier base

5. Add a base layer.

In my case it was a large faux acorn branch on either side of the table that picked up acorns on the rim of my china. This could be a layer of colored leaves you collect from your yard, a pine bough, a table runner or anything that sets either a color or design theme for the centerpiece.

In the first simple idea photo the base layer of leaves is the star of the show – I only add a few small items and the arrangement is complete.

Things don’t need to be complex to be beautiful!

6. Layer on Decor as You Like

In these examples I’ve ranged from 5 stems of leaves and mini white pumpkins up to lavish fruit, nuts and dried decor like seed pods, corn and artichokes.

Pretty natural pheasant feathers add a nice touch and also look pretty displayed in a tumbler or small vase.

Acorns add a fun seasonal touch to the table as do fresh cranberries and chestnuts.

The below photo is around $40 of fresh fruit plus acorns, leaves and cranberries.

The next photos feature a more elaborate version of the same centerpiece.

Gold seed pods and additional layers of fruit bump up the formality. I used small risers under some of the fruit like upside down glass votives and bowls to create a really lavish, multi dimensional look.

One interesting thing to note: as lavish and luxurious as the fruit centerpieces look, they were far less expensive than floral arrangments that I’ve bought (and made) in the past. So ironically, they are much more economical especially when you consider that we get to eat the fruit afterwards!

Stain warning: pomegranates are beautiful but oh so messy! Be super careful if you opt to display them opened – they are very juicy and the juice is hard to remove from linens.

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Feature photo by Marla Smith , ©Happy Mom Life Lab. Article images licensed through  Marla Smith (all photos except of the three black with three white small pumpkins on red table cloth and of the centered white pumpkin) and Laura Taylor ( three black with three white small pumpkins on red table cloth and of the centered white pumpkin ), all in the context of this article are ©Happy Mom Life Lab.

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