The Interior Design Approach to Dressing a Table

setting a table

For many, creating a beautiful tablescape is one of the more tedious and difficult aspects of interior design. It takes a more than a good eye – it requires understanding the balance of scale, shapes, texture and color. Today we share the philosophy behind how we approach dressing a table.

Memorable Dining Tables:

Dining RoomsTo begin, we consider the event. Large family gathering? Intimate dinner party? Ladies brunch? Holiday? The look of the dining table will be determined by the reason behind the gathering. Also, understanding how the table will be used helps us determine our starting point – to “set the wood” or to use a tablecloth.

“Set the wood” means to dress the table without the use of protective pads and a tablecloth. It is imperative that you have a waterproof-finished tabletop that can stand up to spills, heat and dropped silverware. With the table color and texture as our base, we then layout placemats that will set the tone for the soft aspects of the table. In other cases, the tablecloth serves the same purpose.

Believe it or not, we never use all matching china. We recommend having multiple sets of dinnerware and mixing them up. We may use salad plates from one and dessert plates from another. Begin your collection with plain white plates in an interesting shape that can be combined with anything. Then continue to add to your collection over time with different colors to mix and match.

Stemware offers another opportunity to add visual interest to your table. We mix and match styles and colors here too, using one set for wine glasses, another for water glasses. Just like with china, we suggest collecting many styles of durable and beautiful stemware over time.

With the linens, china and stemware taking centerstage, we tend to not be so picky about silverware. However, when mixing sets, we suggest using one style per place setting over spreading different pieces over many people.

Finally, while we always include fresh flowers on our dining table, they are not fragrant varieties that will overpower the food and wine aromas. Stay away from lilies and roses in particular. Fragrance-free candles are also a must, as are bobeches, the little coasters that sit around the top of a candelabra to catch melted wax!

Well-Appointed Accent Tables:

How to decorate an accent tableAccent tables come in all shapes and sizes, so we tend to take an eclectic approach to these versatile furniture pieces. How they are dressed has a lot to do with scale and the proper mixing of elements. Too many sizes, shapes, or colors do not look coordinated, yet matching everything can look too contrived. For example, we will use three family photographs in different styles of silver frames; coordinated, but not matched.

Lighting is an important element for accent tables, and needs to be chosen with scale in mind. Lamp lighting offer versatility when the table must be moved, while hanging lamps over accent tables is limiting. We love the soft, indirect light of lamps, which offers mystery and romance to a space.

Large accent tables require large-scale accessories that will have a presence on the vast space. For example, we will place a tall, weighty lamp and larger plants, glassware, sculpture or attractive books to ensure the pieces do not get lost visually. The items need to look like they belong on that table.

Smaller tables are the perfect place to showoff small collectibles, such as Limoges porcelain pieces. Collections of small photographs, a pretty stack of coasters, and a smaller scale lamp are other options. Remember to leave space for people to use the coasters.

Dressing a table to reflect the look, feel and functionality of your home can be quite a challenge. Applying these fundamentals can help you choose your pieces wisely. However, we are always here to help! Just give us a call at 317.253.8986 or send us an email.

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