How to Decorate With Table Runners

holiday table runner

Jude Green

Looking to elevate your tablescape the next time you entertain? Try a table runner! "Table runners can really ground your table settings and can serve as a backdrop for any decorations, highlighting centerpieces and giving the table a symmetrical finish," Dean Tomihama, of Sferra, says. "They are a great addition on top of a tablecloth, used more as a layering piece, or as the base directly on top of the table." And these linens aren't just for the dining room. "Table runners can be great accessories for other furniture as well," Tomihama adds. "We’ve styled them for bedside tables, console tables, and even coffee tables."

If you're new to the world of table runners and are looking for some guidance to ensure that you're decorating with this type of piece correctly, keep reading for expert insight below.

gray table runner


Keep Proper Placement Top of Mind

Unsure exactly how to position a table runner? "Regardless of where they’re used, a table runner should hang over each side of the table, meaning it should always run longer than the length of the table," Tomihama explains. Be sure that the table runner you select isn't too short for your piece of furniture. "Aesthetically, the amount of material hanging off on each side should be symmetrical, similar to how you’d drape a tablecloth," he adds.

However, table runners do not need to be used solely for formal situations. Atelier Saucier has designed shorter table runners that measure 52 inches in length and are "designed to be a centerpiece on one’s table...versus a more formal runner that drapes over both ends," explains company co-founder Nikki Reed. "As a result, it is a linen that can live on one’s table day and night, as opposed to only for special occasions."

plaid holiday runner

@grandmillennialmama / Instagram

Note That a Runner Can Be Used As a Base or Styled Alone

A table runner serves as an excellent starting point when it's time to decorate your tabletop. Experts say it's entirely your choice as to whether you wish to jazz up your surface further. "Even when nothing else is on your table, a bright and colorful runner is the best way to welcome anyone into your home," says Atelier Saucier co-founder Staci Inspektor. "It is also the best-kept secret of how to look like you are always ready to host!" If you do wish to add some accessories to your tabletop, Reed offers a few suggestions. "Add a vase of freshly picked blooms, a fruit bowl, candle sticks, or festive decor and you have the perfect beginning to a thoughtful tablescape," she comments. Don't forget about pieces such as placemats, either, Inspektor says. She suggests going for colorful, patterned ones that complement the runner.

Keep These Tips on Hand If Your Runner Doesn't Quite Cut It

Perhaps you've taken your table runner out of storage and noticed that it isn't in tip-top shape for hosting. Lifestyle expert Megan Chiarello of Leallo weighs in with a solution. "If you're working with unpresentable table runners, whether wrinkly or an improper size for the table, I always suggest decorating with nature-evocative pieces, distracting from the runners but in a tasteful and curated way," she advises. Consider shopping your own backyard for accents, which is not only affordable but also a practical option if you're short on time. "Being in the Hamptons, nature is such a big part of my life and something we are so grateful to be surrounded by," Chiarello adds. "We always go for a hike to forage some pretty branches, beach grass, and shells to create a natural tablescape. It’s always fun to find different treasures." However, keep in mind that table runners do last for quite some time, so you don't need to worry too much about the general wear and tear. In fact, the more storied the piece, the better, Tomihama states. "Table runners that have been passed down for generations or received as gifts are a wonderful way to add something meaningful to table settings for special occasions," he notes. "A runner is an item that doesn’t tend to endure much wear, so will last for many years."