Try tablescaping with our tips for decorating a kitchen table

From grazing tables to grander moments, feast your eyes on our selection of ways to up your table game

Search the term ‘tablescape’ on Instagram or Pinterest and it’s clear we’ve come a long way from simply setting the table for dinner.

It’s no longer enough to pop on a freshly laundered tablecloth and add matching plates and cutlery. Instead, there’s a whole new world of curated table décor known as ‘tablescaping’ – the art of dressing your table to create a visually pleasing effect.

red and green tablecloth with green lipped crockery and bunches of red flowers in green vaseCredit: Boz Gagovski

You could perhaps describe it as theming, but it’s no longer reserved for special occasions; it’s become the norm – even if it’s just a table for one.

From floral displays to grazing boards, there’s no end to the variety of choices available. So, pull up a chair and enjoy Exceptional’s top 10 ideas for decorating a kitchen table.

1. Combine patterns with bright sunshine colours

Curate a Middle Eastern-inspired mealtime vibe

table setting with green and white runner, aqua crockery and mezze style foodCredit: John Lewis & Partners
Bring sunshine and colour to your kitchen table

Even if the sunshine outdoors lacks warmth, there’s no reason your kitchen table décor should follow suit.

For a kitchen table bursting with life, lay a Moroccan-inspired printed table runner and match with zingy yellow napkins, aqua blue crockery, and patterned platters. Add some miniature succulents from your kitchen plant selection and you’ll soon be transported to warmer climes.

2. Use boldly patterned serving dishes

Embrace maximalism at mealtimes

brightly coloured plates and bowls and blue wine glass on stacked coloured coastersCredit: Anthropologie
Give your eyes a visual feast

It’s said we eat with our eyes, so why not give them an extra treat with some boldly- patterned serving dishes that capture the maximalist trend in interiors.

For the most impact, choose bright and colourful ranges and combine several different designs with similar colour palettes.

Keep table linen low key but add gold metal cutlery for an extra layer of luxury. Finish with brightly-coloured glasses and coasters for a final pop of pizazz.

3. Choose simple white crockery

Keep mealtimes calm with a soothing colour palette

white crockery set on table with gold handled cutlery and wooden dining table and chairsCredit: Layered Lounge
Pair classic white crockery with natural tones

Nothing says classical elegance more than a simple white dinner service paired with soft, neutral table linen and elegantly-shaped cutlery.

Guaranteed to make any meal look restaurant worthy, keep the mood light by pairing your white dinner service with unassuming glassware and plain or striped linen. You could also add freshly foraged buds and sprigs of green from your garden.

This Sandbanks-themed tablescape box works well with elements of green.

Featured product

Sandbanks Tablescape Box

RRP: £100.00

Sandbanks Tablescape Box

4. Cover with cloches

Find unusual ways to serve simple meals

cloche bells covering pancakes with cream and blueberriesCredit: Layered Lounge
Make breakfasts hotel-like with different serving ideas

Love the simple luxury of a boutique hotel breakfast? It’s not too difficult to replicate at your own kitchen table.

Instead of using plates or platters to serve breakfast, take breakfast time to a new level by combining display cloches on top of chopping boards or cake stands. Stack your pancakes high, add a smattering of fresh berries and keep the rest of your table décor elegantly understated with white crockery and striped linen napkins.

Treat pastries and fruit plates in the same way and you’ll find your breakfast table busier than ever before.

Featured product

Large Glass Cloche, Layered Lounge

RRP: £50.00

Large Glass Cloche, Layered Lounge

Expert tablescaping tips

We asked Lucy Whiddett, founder of The Table Stylist to share her top tips for creating a tablescape.

Top tablescaping tips

Pick a theme and colour for your event – consider your personality and style, the season, and the event itself. I suggest picking three colours – use one as your primary colour and the others as secondary and accent colours.

If you opt for a tablecloth, choose something in your primary colour or a neutral tone. If like me you love your table au naturel, a table runner is a great option. Alternatively, if you’re feeling crafty, you can even use wrapping paper. When it comes to napkins for a casual occasion, I often opt for a rustic-looking knot or a beautiful velvet bow. If you want something more interesting, I suggest using napkin rings or folding your napkins and arranging them under the charger or between the plates. This gives the napkins a waterfall look and adds an interesting visual element to the table.

When you’re setting the table, begin with the charger plate or placemat, building up to include the dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, bread plate and cutlery for both dinner and dessert. Don’t be afraid to mix and match your dishes as this adds to the personality of your tablescape.

Give guests one glass each for water, white and red wine. Another great tip is to buy tiny pegs and use them to attach a small floral bud to the stem of a glass.

Floral touches are an easy way to add drama to your tablescape, where the phrase ‘more is more’ counts. Use bud vases along the centre of a table to create a meadow-like look. Almost any flower works in a bud vase and some of my personal favourites are tulips, roses, snapdragons and anemones. I often add mint to my arrangements in summer for a beautiful scent.

It’s the details that add the most character to your tablescape. Look around your home for items you may already have and add a few small personal touches such as handwritten menu cards on top of each dinner plate or place name cards. You can get creative with this, using anything from shells to embroidered napkins and bows. They can then become gifts for guests to take away with them as a memento of the evening,

5. Contrast red and green

Employ colour wheel opposites for a cheery result

red and green tablecloth with green lipped crockery and bunches of red flowers in green vaseCredit: Boz Gagovski
Use red and green for a happy tablescape

For a pretty take on a country cottage feel, choose soothing green and a warm shade of red to create an happy kitchen table.

Pick green as your primary colour as this will be more soothing on the eye, and then contrast with red in your accessories and table mats.

Opt for soft furnishings with floral prints and matching artwork – keep to shades of red and green and you’ll achieve an almost cocoon-like feel to your dining experience.

We asked interior designer, Birdie Fortescue, creator of the stunning Florentine range shown in the image, to explain how she approaches table decoration.

“The best tablescapes are always those which are charming and eclectic and which make your dinner guests feel relaxed and at home,” says Fortescue.

She recommends choosing one or two core colours and running a third as a visual thread through the table – in the case of the red and green setting, a soft shade of terracotta can be seen on the repeated tablecloth pattern. It’s complimented with a rug in an even softer shade.

Her go to centerpiece? “An abundant vase of seasonal flowers. Opt for a large central arrangement of garden flowers and green foliage or small bud vases in varying sizes and colours for a playful finish,” she says.

“Incorporate organic textures for visual interest such as jute, raffia and rattan which are perfect for adding a rustic, artisanal finish to your tablescape,” adds Fortescue.

And finally, “complete your tablescape with coordinating coloured candlesticks in varying heights – there is nothing more inviting than a candlelit dinner.”

Using various items with different heights also creates a sense of vertical space. It’ll trick your eye into thinking the space is bigger – even if your eating nook is on the smaller side.

Be prepared for your guests to ask for second helpings if you use red. Colour psychologists suggest it improves appetite.

According to the Psychologist World website: “Red increases the pulse and heart rate, and raises your blood pressure. It increases the appetite by increasing your metabolism, which is why red is such a popular colour in restaurants.”

6. Use your table surface as your serving dish

Get creative with a grazing table set-up

meats, cheeses and fruits clustered together on a tableCredit: Shutterstock/HuntersB
Banish boring buffets and create a grazing table

Make light work of washing up and use your table as your serving platter to banish boring buffets forever. Although they lend themselves more to occasion-led mealtimes, grazing tables are another popular trend that has changed how we enjoy our food.

Cover your table with a layer of protective plastic and greaseproof paper, then let your creative juices flow. Group and layer your dishes and foods together until your table is bursting with options.

Whether it’s a breakfast buffet, a charcuterie board or a display of delicious desserts, grazing tables are a feast for the eyes and, at the end of the meal, there’s a bonus – clearing the table has never been so easy.

7. Use a gingham tablecloth

Add a twist with a ruffled hem

gingham table cloth on table with ruffled hem, wicker place mat, white crockery, folded napkin and bamboo handled cutleryCredit: Rebecca Udall
Use traditional linen patterns with extra detail

Beautifully simple in pattern and shade, a blue gingham tablecloth can be a lovely addition to a kitchen table mealtime. But to save it from looking too plain, choose a design with an extra feature such as a ruffled hem.

Carry this extra textural feature through into your crockery and décor choices. Choose plates and bowls with a scalloped edge and placemats with an irregular edge. Rattan chargers will add a burst of alternative colour and texture and can be matched with bamboo-style handled cutlery.

8. Pick black and cream

Make it monochrome for a more modern meal setting

cream and white crockery with black dipped edgeCredit: Dunelm
Use modern design with an artisan feel

If your interior design taste is more contemporary than classic, then choose a black and cream dinner service for a slightly softer take on a monochrome scheme.

Although a multitude of variations and patterns are available, choosing a simple ‘dipped’ effect design will add an artisan touch to your kitchen table.

Keep extra décor and accessories to a minimum. Use black napkins and cutlery for sophistication and allow the food to take centre stage.

Sprigs of eucalyptus or freshly grown herbs and wooden accessories will soften the look, but for a grander occasion add tall black candles and vases containing sculptural and elegant peace lilies.

9. Collect colourful glassware

Make mealtimes fun with brightly-coloured vessels

lemon on top of white crockery set on table with large glass jug with red green, orange and yellow patternCredit: Rebecca Udall
Curate a collection of colourful glassware

For a bright and breezy mealtime, curate a collection of cheerful glassware that will go well with most colour schemes.

Choosing an abstract floral pattern will help evoke sunny picnic times and a sense of al fresco dining. To enhance the floral theme, pick table mats and crockery with petal-shaped edges and keep colours bright and cheerful.

Display idea:

For an alternative table display, stack lemons or limes in a clear glass vase instead of flowers. Or pop one smaller glass vase inside another, fill the outer vase with water and freshly cut slices of citrus fruits and fill the inner vase with tall green stems or brightly coloured gerbera.

10. Echo your tablescape in your shelf display

Keep colour palettes and accessories the same

wicker stools at breakfast bar with peach and blue crocker, peach wall and wicker tray hanging on wallCredit: Marks & Spencer
Match your shelves to your table setting

Even a simple breakfast bar and shelving display can benefit from a more considered approach to dining.

Use handily positioned shelves to store your crockery and regardless of the meal you’re eating, you’ll create an immediate connection with your table setting. To avoid it looking too functional, make sure to pop on some decorative items such as plants and candles.

Choose serveware and accessories made from natural lightweight materials such as wicker and you can also quickly turn trays and bowls into decorative wall art.

Finish with a light and fresh peach and blue colour scheme to help transport you to a warm Caribbean beach bar – as opposed to a chilly kitchen in Chigwell.

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Updated:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

  • linkedin