As far as seasons go, autumn ranks high on the celebration scale. From Rosh Hashanah to Thanksgiving, with the likes of Halloween and Diwali in between, fall is the time of year to sit around a table with loved ones and share a meal. In preparation for the slew of events to come, we turned to the experts and asked for their top tablescaping tips.
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Keep One Foot Between Guests
Helen Ellis of Shida Preserved Flowers notes that, no matter how you decorate, “there’s nothing worse than bumping elbows and falling glasses at a dinner party.” To avoid a cluttered, jumbled mess, she advises keeping 30 cm (about one foot) between guests. “You should also think about safety if you are choosing to use real candles on your table. Make sure there’s minimal chance of these being knocked over!”
Ellis also notes that nothing sets the tone like lighting: “I love combining ambient, accent, and decorative options to help create the perfect atmosphere. Think about the timing of your get-together. Will you need to gradually add more lights as the night draws in? Statement pendants, string lights, and candles will provide a pretty glow and make the evening that much more magical and memorable.”
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Follow the 1:4 Rule of Flower Arrangements
Marie Jean-Baptiste of Blooms For Your Day has similar advice when it comes to determining how many floral arrangements you’ll need. “It’s great to always start with the number of guests and follow the rule of one arrangement per four guests, given they are sitting across from each other.”
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Choose One Focal Point
Michal Kowalski and Michel Dariane, the team behind the London-based Blooming Haus, advise selecting one centerpiece as your focal point, placed in the middle of the table.
“This will divide the table into two symmetrical parts and invoke feelings of grandeur and opulence,” they say. Once your centerpiece is determined, then it’s important to consider your proportions. “If you opt for a flower arrangement, make sure the height of your bouquet or flower arrangement doesn’t exceed 30 to 40cm (12 to 15 inches) for a comfortable conversation between the guests. Generally, the width of the arrangement should be 1.5 times its height.”
For a simpler hack, take this trick from Jean-Baptiste: The height of arrangements should never be taller than the distance between your elbow and your wrist.
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Go for the Gold
If you’re looking to add metallic accents to your autumnal tablescapes, Mark Feldman, Chief Home Officer of Riverbend Home, tells us that gold should be your go-to: “A trend that is really popular for this upcoming season is selecting a white set of dishes and accenting them with gold serveware, flatware, and glasses. The items can either be completely gold or have beautiful gold accents, creating a warm festive fall feel.”Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Give Your Table Rose-Colored Glasses (or Red, Amber, Blush…)
Dana Dore of @AdoredHouse tells us there’s nothing quite like colored glassware when it comes to autumn tablescaping: “Fall is my favorite time to incorporate colored glassware onto the table. Whether it is cranberry red, amber, blush, or blue, there is something about the richness of colored glassware that feels 'fall' to me. I always have luck finding a collection of vintage colored glassware on Facebook Marketplace or at thrift stores.”
Glassware can also make or break your setting, depending on the meal. “When it comes to changing things up for different meal times, you’ll want to keep it simple,” Feldman says. “At brunch, a nice set of fall-themed mugs will be beautiful on your table, and then at lunch, you can swap them out for water glasses. At dinner, [replace those with] wine glasses.”
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Layer Your Colors
Mahaley Woods, Event Designer at Montage Palmetto Bluff, advises that some care should be taken with colors. “When designing a table for fall gatherings, I’m drawn to the rich hues and warmer colors of the autumn season,” she says.
The key here is not to rely on just one color—and to reveal your palette through multiple sources. “Use varying shades of your favorite fall tones in floral arrangements, linens, flatware, candles, and other design elements,” Woods tells us. “Incorporating color in thoughtful ways can really elevate your everyday tablescape."
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Enjoy the Harvest Themes
While flower arrangements are beautiful year-round, Woods encourages aspiring tablescapers to lean into the themes of the harvest season.
"For a seasonal design, pair whole fruits or veggies and other autumnal elements with your blooms to give the table a lush, bountiful feel,” she says. “This allows your table to exude that coveted fall feeling with tasteful and purposeful styling.
Kate Fairlie at Truffle Tablescapes agrees: “A bowl of fresh fruit can add a pop of seasonal color to your tablescape—think apples or pears in autumn and pomegranates for a festive feel.” Best of all, if displayed correctly, these added elements can serve a dual purpose. “You can even enjoy these decorations in cocktails throughout the evening,” Fairlie says.
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Garnish Your Napkins
While napkin-folding is intimidating, Fairlie tells us that festive autumn tablescapes are the perfect time to enhance your linens with organic accents: “A display of delicately scented herbs can also work as a napkin posy. Rosemary and thyme tucked into napkins can garnish G&Ts as the meal progresses, or take a sprig of your fresh, faux, or dried flower display and tuck it into each napkin. This will pull the color from the center of the table out to each guest place.”Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Shop From Your Home
If you’re working on a budget or would rather not buy things specifically to adorn one meal, Fairlie suggests looking around your home. “Trinket boxes, decorative dishes and jugs, beautiful bowls ... all look fabulous on a table,” she says. “Placecards can be created using stones or leaves from around the home and garden. Simply handwrite your guests’ name on whatever you are using and add the place cards to your tablescape.”
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Skip the Florist
On a similar note, Sara Raak, interior design ambassador for Polywood, advises skipping the florist and sourcing your florals from whatever you have on hand. “To create a unique and gorgeous season table, grab a pair of scissors and step outside! I love to use colorful leaves from our yard as place setting cards, with our guest names written in gold marker,” she says.
“And no tablescape is complete without a conversation stopper centerpiece,” Raak adds. “Clipping fall florals and stems and using them in conjunction with mini pumpkins, fruits, and candles creates a beautiful and natural centerpiece.” Plus, clipping from your home garden is the most cost-effective!
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Elevate with Tiny Accents
Angie Kantor of Angie’s Tables notes that some of the smallest accessories will elevate your tablescape from a festive meal to a true event: “Add a printed menu [and] place cards. These additions will elevate your table and definitely feel [like] more of a celebration rather than just a dinner.”
Whichever elements you include, consider your tablescape as featuring touches of autumn rather than being autumn-themed. “I like to follow the great advice of Coco Chanel—‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,’” Feldman says. “Don’t overdo it and think that every single item that you select has to be screaming autumn. Select a few key pieces that create the atmosphere you desire, and let a subtle supporting cast of non-fall themed items be the background that will make your autumn-specific items pop.”