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Laura On: How I Set The Table

Tue, May 16, 2017

As you may have gathered by now, I love to entertain. From our annual Thanksgiving dinner, hosting both sides of the family, to small gatherings around my kitchen island – there are a few things I always consider when setting the table for any occasion.  


For me, the mood sets the table. Having an idea of the kind of mood I am trying to portray is the first step.

  • Am I hosting a celebratory occasion or having friends over for a dinner? 
  • Will it be dressy or more casual? 
  • Will we be inside or outside? 
  • Do we want to sit in the dining room or gather around the kitchen island?

Placemats & Tablecloth

With the mood in mind, I pick out a tablecloth or placemats. I consider this my blank canvas. Once I decide that foundational piece, I can create a variety of table settings. For dressier occasions I may use my vintage fabrics, while I find that casual settings are a fun time to play with natural materials.

Often times, I’ll leave the table bare and let the beauty of the wood be the canvas, never worrying about marks or glass rings. To me, the table is where people gather and life happens. I welcome those scars on our dining room table.


Based on the linens I’ve chosen, I’ll pick out my dinner and salad plates. I like to mix and match the styles and shapes of plates - round dinner plate with a ruffled salad plate or a square charger with a round dinner plate, always mixing in prints with geometric patterns. To make this easy, I have created a library of sorts with different colored dishes, glasses, and textiles. Every couple of months I change out the dishes in my cabinets and store the ones I’ve been using for a while. Doing this always sparks my creativity with fresh options.

Napkins and Silverware

Napkins tie everything together, so the colors and fabrics I use depend on the other pieces of my table setting.  I like a play of formal against casual, creating something unexpected. I may pair my silver - a gift from my grandmother on my wedding day - with wooden plates and casual fabrics. It’s really anything goes!


My favorite part of setting my table is choosing which glassware to use. Over the years I have amassed a large {Milton says too large} collection of glasses in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Glasses can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of the table.


For me, the centerpiece isn’t the most important step in the process. In fact, I will often end up removing the larger pieces in order to not block table conversation. With that in mind, if I use an oversized piece - say, large lanterns or a collection of flowerpots - I like to also have smaller items on the table so when the larger items are removed the table still looks great.

I’m not one to create large floral arrangements and generally opt for something simple. I’m a pretty relaxed entertainer, so I try to find the easiest way to pull this together. I may go by the grocery store and choose a few bunches of a particular flower, cut them and arrange them in multiple vases {you can read how I did so when entertaining the Editor and Chief of Flower Magazine here} or, if I don’t have time to go by the store, a houseplant in a unique pot will do the trick. I’ve also been known to cut greenery from the yard for a natural touch. Just be sure to get the bugs off first!

I hope this may provide some inspiration for your next celebration. In a few days, Kyle will be sharing how she sets her table as well. It is always fun for me as her mom to watch her come into her own as an entertainer.

I would love to know what other topics you would enjoy reading on the blog. Leave a comment below and let me know what you would like to hear about next.



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