Many a scroll through Instagram and Pinterest has afforded us scenes of envy-inducing dinner parties, for which a beautifully set tabletop is invariably the star of the show. Though table decorating has been popular for centuries, its modern-day moniker—tablescaping—is believed to have been coined in 2003 by TV chef Sandra Lee. A portmanteau of table and landscaping, the term quite simply refers to arranging dinnerware, glassware and décor in an attractive manner. What with the boom in social media throwing a spotlight on our living spaces, plus the great pause of 2020 putting a bigger emphasis on home dining, this trend for decorating (and photographing) your own artfully curated tabletop has mushroomed into something of a cultural phenomenon. So, where to begin? Whether you’re planning a special occasion or looking to elevate an everyday meal, we’re here to help with our best tablescaping ideas and inspiration.

A selection of striped dinnerware, patterned glassware and rattan underplates on a stone-style table.
White plates with a scalloped edge are laid on a stone-colored table, with neutral décor.

Tablescaping Ideas from Our Experts

Choose a Color Palette

Just as you might begin designing a room by consulting a paint chart, or plan an outfit based on the shades that suit your complexion, the easiest way to create a beautiful tablescape is by beginning with a cohesive color palette. Here at OKA, “we're obsessed with color and we're not shy when it comes to using it,” says our Co-Founder and Creative Director Sue Jones, who encourages taking a bolder approach to decorating. “The key is to be a bit daring and try unconventional combinations.”

While your pairings may be playful, we recommend keeping the quantity more subdued—for an elegant table setting, just two core colors are enough to create a balanced display. You can then introduce other shades in smaller doses, such as with décor or flowers. For example, you might select a red tablecloth and pair that with blue dinnerware. These will then form the basis of your table setting. The rest of your table can either echo or complement these shades. If you’re struggling to settle on a hue, remember these wise words from Sue: “The best color is your favorite color.”

Layer Your Essentials

The secret to the perfect tablescape is all in the layering. Begin with a tablecloth as your base and build your display from there. For your dinnerware, follow the rule of threes: start with an underplate or a placemat, then add a dinner plate and finish with a smaller plate or bowl for your appetizer. The top plate should be the one with the most character, as this will be taking the spotlight. Finish with flatware on either side and add a napkin on top. Don’t forget water glasses, plus wine glasses if you’re serving alcohol.  

A minimalist room with plaster walls, a stone-colored dining table and wooden dining chairs.
A wooden table is decorated with blue-and-white striped dinnerware, blue glassware and rattan décor.

Get Mixing and Matching

When it comes to ideas for table settings, the magic is always in the mix. It’s all about pairing contrasting colors, textures and patterns together to create a display that feels creative yet cohesive—so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something a little different. “I quite like drama, so I’m often looking for ways to put things together that you wouldn’t normally expect,” explains Sue. “Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t, but the important thing is to have fun with it.”

Indeed, the beauty of a table setting is that it is easily adaptable, so be bold with your decisions and reach for patterns that you may not otherwise choose. The key is to be conscious of scale and style. Look for designs that differ in size and print, but have at least one cohesive element, such as the color palette, says Sue. “Mix up the scale and style of your prints for a real contrast; a small floral and a large stripe in complementary colors will look far more pleasing on the eye than two of the same design.”

As for texture, we recommend looking to underplates and napkins for a tactile twist. A simple rattan underplate or a linen napkin can work wonders when it comes to creating a layered and beautifully set table—these more rustic materials add the perfect contrast to a glossy ceramic or glass. 

 

Style Your Centerpiece

The biggest difference between tablescaping and a simple table setting is that the former also incorporates a centerpiece—a.k.a the star of the show. While you may have already had fun with your dinnerware and glassware choices, the centerpiece is where you can truly let your creativity shine. Even simple tablescaping ideas can incorporate a playful centerpiece—take floral table arrangements, for example. A vase with a few carefully chosen blooms, or bud vases paired with single stems, can make all the difference.

“When creating a centerpiece for your table, it’s important to think about height and shape,” adds Sophie Gammon, one of our expert interior designers in the UK. “A timeless shape to create is a triangle, with the tallest part of your centerpiece in the middle and then shorter pieces on either side.” Remember to be careful of making your tablescape décor too tall, as this will overwhelm the display and, most importantly of all, may obstruct diners’ views. “A more sociable shape is a wave; this can be created using three vases with shorter candles in between, creating an undulating effect,” Sophie says. “Remember to include a mix of pieces, such as different sized vases, or tall candle holders paired with tea light holders. If you don't think you have the right vase, think outside the box and use a water glass. It’s all about being playful.”

Patterned tableware, twisted wine glasses and large hurricane lamp filled with red berries sit on a tabletop.
Red velvet chairs are pulled up to a wooden rectangular dining table, laid with festive décor.

Keep it Seasonal

If you’re on the hunt for tablescaping inspiration, let the time of year influence your choices. You may want to set a beautiful table for a specific occasion, such as July 4th or Thanksgiving (in which case, your theme is decided) or you may simply be gathering to enjoy one another’s company. Whatever the reason, seasons can play a role—large or small—in your decorating decisions. “One of the things that I look forward to in the change of season is the change in what we eat,” says Sue, “and to mark a new season, I'll also switch my glasses, plates and table linen.” This may mean reaching for lighter colors in the spring, turning to foliage when looking for tablescape ideas for fall, or adding a touch of sparkle as we near the holiday season in winter. 

Sarina Hawkins, another of our expert interior designers, agrees. “If you’re creating a tablescape, these seasonal details make all the difference,” she says. “You might use colorful glassware in one season, and clear in another—using different décor is the easiest way to make a change.” Consider incorporating natural elements to help bring your seasonal display to life—fall tablescape ideas don’t come better than pumpkin table décor, for example, but you could also forage for natural additions at other times of the year, too. If you’re creating tablescapes for summer, why not slip a sprig of lavender under a napkin ring? Small details such as these can have a big impact on the overall look and feel of your setup. 

 

Add the Little Extras

For a thoughtful finishing touch, tailor your tabletop to your guests. Adding a name card or a small gift at each place setting will show your party how much effort you’ve put into their evening.

Now that you’re armed with ideas for your tablescape, let us help you bring it to life—discover our collection of dinnerware, glassware and serveware below.