A tablescape is a purposefully designed and decorated table. Tablescapes are akin to a lushly landscaped yard. They give life and character to an ordinary flat table, and beckon guests to gather round. A tablescaped table sets the mood for your holiday, formal event, or even everyday dinner. It makes people feel especially welcome and can be a lot of  fun to create.

When to Tablescape

Tablescaping is often done for holidays or formal occasions like weddings, baby showers, or big anniversary celebrations. These events are heavily associated with food, many times formal meals. Thus, the table becomes the focal point and the place where people spend a lot of time. Lavishly decorating the table increases the sense of importance around the event.

A great thing about tablescapes is that you can create them any time you want to. Do you want to show appreciation for how well your kids have been doing in school? Have a meal in their honor and create an appropriate tablescape. Or perhaps you and your family are in a rut. Break out of it by creating a fun tablescape for a weeknight dinner.

How to Create a Tablescape

A tablescape involves more than simple table décor, just as landscaping involves more than lawn ornaments. Think big when creating a tablescape. Unleash your creativity and think outside of the box. You’re on your way to landscaping your table. As you begin, keep these two important guiding principles in mind:

  • Layers
  • Details

Layering and adding details are what give your tablescape depth and interest. They will draw guests’ interest again and again as they study your magnificent creation.


Your theme sets the mood for the entire tablescape. If you’re tablescaping for an event or holiday, that will guide your choice of theme. If not, a theme can center on colors, textures, and ambience. Use nature, historical periods, or anything that appeals to you as inspiration. Although the goal is often to match the type of gathering you’re having, let your imagination be your guide.

After deciding on a theme, work from there. Mix and match fabrics, plates, candles, florals, and other objects. This is what Food Network’s Sandra Lee, the entertaining guru who coined the term “tablescaping” recommends.


Building the Theme

As you create your tablescape with all of its rich details, keep your theme in mind. Match your various elements to the general mood so you end up with a table setting that has depth.

Build your theme using the following elements:

  • Color (muted, bright, contrasting, etc.)
  • Materials (natural objects, metals, household objects, and more)
  • Texture (rough burlap, smooth satin, and everything in between)
  • Personalization (name cards, photos, or other small items representing each guest)
  • Your own interests and personality (pull your uniqueness into the theme in little ways)
  • Era (modern, traditional, vintage, specific historical period)
  • Feel (sleek, cozy, warm, cool, etc.)

What to Include in Your Tablescape

Your table is a blank slate. Craft any scene that you fancy. And include whatever you need to create your theme and mood.

That said, here are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind:

  • A flat tablescape isn’t interesting. “Flat” refers to both height and depth. Mix and match multiple textures, colors, patterns, and heights.
  • Don’t make table centerpieces so high that guests can’t see each other, cautions House Beautiful.

Tablescapes incorporate the entire table. Not just the physical surface but all of the items that are part of the meal experience. Your setting isn’t separate from the meal. Nor does it compete with it. Instead, it enriches it and turns it into a full experience. Therefore, all things that are placed on the table become part of your tablescape.

Examples of Items to Include

  • Table Covers. The foundation of your tablescape, tablecloths and runners can become a rich base. Layer table coverings and use multiple textures and colors.
  • Place Mats. Decorate standard placemats with stencils and fabric paint, or anything else that adds pizazz without interfering with guests’ ability to eat. You can also decorate kraft paper – including creating borders with a themed hole punch – sheet music, or any other surface that enhances the theme and holds plates.
  • Place Cards. Write guests’ names on anything that fits the theme. Be creative in what you use as card holders. Wine corks, fresh fruit, or a small floral arrangement are just a few objects that make great place card holders.
  • Napkins, Dishes, and Silverware. Incorporate them into your tablescape. Use ribbons or twine to tie silverware together. Place something on the plates that is part of your theme, such as a leaf, some flower petals, an old photograph. Anything that brings the theme onto the dinnerware. Ribbons on glasses or goblets, complete with a trinket, further enrich your tablescape.
  • Centerpieces. A centerpiece doesn’t have to be one large object. Incorporate a few pieces of varying heights. Find household objects to use in the setting. As with tablescapes in general, use multiple colors and textures. Centerpieces should complement your theme.

Your tablescape doesn’t have to stop at the edge of the table. HGTV illustrates how you can Incorporate chairs so that guests are fully engulfed in the mood. Adding elements like ribbon or large bows extend the effect without overdoing it.

A tablescape sets the mood for your event, be that event formal or ordinary. It’s a fun way to enrich the experience of coming together for nourishment. Your themed scene adds depth and interest to entertaining, and your guests will likely talk fondly of your tablescape, long after the party’s over.

Image Source: Adobe Stock

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