Raise a Glass—My Scandi-Inspired Holiday Party Table is Here

One of my favorite holiday traditions is the annual dinner party that Adam and I host for a few friends the weekend before Christmas. It’s become a tradition we all look forward to, and I cook up a feast—usually some version of my sweet and spicy glazed short ribs, pesto parmesan potatoes, and my holiday jewels kale salad. We drink champagne by the fire, and soak up one more great night of conversation before the year comes to a close.

It always reminds me how much I love hosting intimate dinner parties at home. Cozy nights with our closest friends around the table is my happy place, and sharing food and great conversation during this season forges deep connections.

It’s no secret that I always love the chance to set a simple Christmas dinner table with place cards, greenery, and candlelight, so I thought it would be fun to share with you guys exactly how I’m setting the table this year. Handmade ceramic dishes and recycled glassware from Casa Zuma are most definitely making an appearance, as is a stunning evergreen garland that takes center stage.

First, watch the video below to see how I decked the halls this year—then scroll on for my tips on keeping it simple but special—so you can enjoy the party as much as your guests.

The Scandi inspiration

As I shared in our Holiday Decor tour earlier this week, I’ve got evergreen branches, twinkling fairy lights, birch bark candles, kraft paper gifts, and bowls of pine cones on my mind. It all came together for a Scandinavian woodland vibe, especially against a minimalist backdrop of neutrals. Lush textiles and twinkling candlelight made the table feel like it was its own little cozy world, and my goal was to capture that warm sense of hygge throughout the space.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - holiday table with evergreen runner, casa zuma dinnerware

The perfect linen tablecloth

Throughout most of the year, I embrace the natural look of our unfinished teak dining table. But for a dinner party, I always dress it up with our casual linen table throw that doesn’t fully cover the table—I love to let the beauty of the natural wood show a bit. Don’t stress about getting every last wrinkle out—the beauty of linen is that it’s casually rumpled. This simple white palette adds to the Scandinavian feel, especially when topped with our natural evergreen runner that’s low enough to not get in the way of dinnertime conversation.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - casa zuma dinnerware place setting

A lush, evergreen runner

My friend Elle Worsham owns Gracious Garlands, and her team creates the most beautiful evergreen garlands to hang on the mantel or lay simply down the center of the table. This one is super lush and textured, acting as a sort of “runner,” that doesn’t block conversation the way that a taller floral centerpiece would. Plus, it lasts for weeks, which means that I get to enjoy it throughout the entire holiday season (not just on party night!)

It also coordinates so beautifully with our Casa Zuma Holiday Wreaths hung above the mantel and on the window near the table. Handcrafted from a California-inspired mix of Fraser Fir, Leyland Cypress, Gold Tipped Cedar, and Seeded Eucalyptus, it brings so much warmth and natural beauty to the space.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - champagne toast, casa zuma goblets, citrus
Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - champagne toast, casa zuma goblets, citrus

Cast a warm glow

Once I’d laid the foundation with my white linen tablecloth and evergreen runner, I was ready to pop in the twinkling candlelight that makes every dinner party setup feel special. Out of all my holiday table setting tips, candlelight is the quickest, most affordable way to give any gathering a magical glow.

When adding tall, sculptural elements like candlesticks to the table, I like to keep things a bit asymmetrical—and for added twinkle, feel free to tuck a few votives in among the greenery.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - champagne toast, casa zuma goblets, citrus

Raise a glass

I set this Christmas table with our Playa Dinnerware from Casa Zuma. I love that these feel elevated for a dinner party, but they’re also rustic and durable enough to use every night for our casual weeknight dinners. I paired them with our new Recycled Glass Goblets, which add a beautifully wabi-sabi touch that elevates whatever you’re drinking. Made by artisans in Guatemala of locally-sourced recycled glass, these glasses are incredibly durable, and lend a relaxed, organic vibe to the table. Sized just right for water, wine, or cocktails, I use them for literally every dinner party I host.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - holiday table with evergreen runner
Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - casa zuma dinnerware place setting

A place for everyone

Taking a few minutes to handwrite simple place cards is one of those simple touches that really elevates a table and makes it feel special occasion-worthy. I used simple rectangles of recycled paper, handwrote each guest’s name, and then tucked in a sprig of cedar and a dried orange slice. Don’t worry about perfect penmanship—the imperfect nature of these cards is what makes them feel personal and special.

Camille Styles Holiday Decor 2023 - holiday table with evergreen runner

Pull Up a Chair—My Warm & Natural 2023 Thanksgiving Table is Here

Is it just me, or does life feel busier than ever right now? The days are so full, and while they’re packed with people and projects that I’m incredibly grateful for, I frequently long to slow it all down and soak up more unhurried days at home (anyone else bingeing #quietlife content?) Which is why I’m feeling extra excited for Thanksgiving this year. It means an entire week to bake cozy recipes, watch holiday movies, and read in front of the fire. And as you guys know from all the Thanksgivings I’ve shared here in the past, one of my favorite parts of the entire holiday is taking time to set an extra special Thanksgiving table for our families.

My usual approach to family dinners is laid-back and casual. Let’s be clear—I’m not usually designing elaborate tablescapes—my focus is really on making the food delicious and spending quality time our families. But—Thanksgiving is different! This is a day when I embrace the chance to go all out and make the table feel really special. I have so much fun planning it, and then when our family shows up and sees this really special table, it’s like a mental cue that says—today is a festive day.

In today’s post, I’m sharing my “practice round” for our real family Thanksgiving this year. I’m going with warm, natural wabi sabi vibes, and I’m using all dishes from Casa Zuma and incorporating some fall produce from the grocery store and olive branches from my backyard. And of course I’ll include links where you can find everything below. So let’s go set the Thanksgiving table!

Get inspired

I approach setting the table as a creative project and the table is my blank canvas. I always start by creating an inspiration board on Pinterest so I can hone in on my color palette and what materials I want to use. Then I shop my own house for vases, candles, and linens that I already own that fit the vibe of what I want to create.

The fun part is figuring out how to style everything in a way that feels fresh and different from last year. I don’t usually get super theme-y – I’m not a big fan of having things I only get out once a year. If I’m going to buy something new, I’m looking for things with a timeless quality that I can mix and match with everything I already own.

Keep it stress-free

My top priority with any Thanksgiving tablescape is that it’s not going to stress me out. That’s why my number one tip is to set the table completely the night before—on Thanksgiving, there’s already so much to do just to get all the food on the table, I want my table to be already set and ready to go. 

Color palette

I love a neutral color palette any time of year, so at Thanksgiving I lean hard into all the organic earth tones. I love all of those muted autumn colors, but I also want my Thanksgiving table to feel special, so I rely on lots of texture to warm things up. From the table linens to the woven serving pieces, I incorporate so much texture so my table feels warm and layered.

Laid-back linens

I am not one for perfectly starched linen tablecloths. My vibe is almost always a casual linen table runner or linen table throw that lets the beauty of our teak wood table show through. Today I’m using our white table throw from Casa Zuma and it feels really fresh, like the perfect palette to everything we’re going to layer on top of it.

Also hot tip: I almost never iron my tablecloths anymore. I love my wrinkle release spray, and give the entire linen tablecloth or runner a spritz before I shake it out or throw it in the dryer. The result is that perfectly rumpled (but not too wrinkled) look that I love.

Celebrate fall’s bounty

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to let food double as decor. Often I’ll set out a cheeseboard on the center of the table so its like a centerpiece and appetizers in one. This year, I kept it really simple and got inspired by the idea of a modern cornucopia, but instead I used my mango wood serving platter, and just filled it up with the prettiest fall fruits and veggies.

Bring the outdoors in

Instead of buying flowers, I headed into the backyard and pruned a few branches from our olive tree, then laid them simply down the middle of the table. The effect is so pretty—almost like a natural runner.

Warm & rustic dinnerware

If you know me, you know that I am a DISHES GIRL – beautiful stoneware and pottery dinnerware is one of my passions in life, and that love was one of the main things that inspired me to start Casa Zuma. All the pieces in our collection are in a neutral color palette, so that I can mix and match all of the pieces and continually come up with a fresh look. 

Today I’m using plates from our Playa dinnerware collection, recycled glass goblets, and our teak wood flatware sets. I gravitate towards pieces that are handmade and rustic and not too perfect. These are the things that really give a table its character and make it feel warm and welcoming. 

Spark conversation

I love to tuck simple conversation starters under each plate, to spark lively discussion throughout the meal. Creating connection and meaningful conversation is what it’s all about.

Pour a glass 

I love using a mix of our recycled stemless wine glasses, tumblers, and goblets for a table that’s not too perfect. And I love recycled glassware for a few reasons:

  • It’s a sustainable option (it removes millions of pounds of glass waste from landfills)
  • It’s also beautiful and it’s more durable because it has this thicker wall – I always put these in the dishwasher.
  • And aesthetically, I just love the more rustic and casual look that recycled wine glasses and goblets bring to the Thanksgiving table.

Add sparkle with candlelight

I always say that flickering candlelight is the easiest way to make an impact on the table. You could literally let a grouping of simple pillar candles be your entire centerpiece, and it would still feel special.

I have a mix of ceramic and wood candlesticks that I’ve been collecting for years, and I like to mix and match them together on the table. Some of them are special marble and stoneware pieces I’ve collected through the years, while others are from Target—the high-low mix totally works.


And that’s my 2023 Thanksgiving table! I hope that you feel inspired to use what you have, infuse it with a little creativity, and take your cue from nature and the beauty of the fall season. With your own unique style as your guide, you can create a Thanksgiving table that’s all your own and that brings more joy to your holiday this year.

And don’t forget to hop over to the Youtube episode to watch me set the table start-to-finish—I’ve been loving creating these videos and hope that you’ll subscribe to our channel!

20 Thanksgiving Table Ideas On Our Editors’ Pinterest Boards

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Whenever the conversation arises, others offer up Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and even Halloween. But with the coziness, theme of gratitude, and opportunity to gather with my favorite people (not to mention eat all of my favorite foods), Thanksgiving always wins out. And of course, the majority of hosts dedicate their time and attention to the dishes themselves. But the power of Thanksgiving table setting ideas is that they serve to create an atmosphere and an environment that welcomes your guests with grace and warmth. I’d argue that’s something to spend a little time considering.

Thanksgiving tablescapes can go in infinite directions. But we prefer to align our approach with the season and spirit—taking inspiration from nature and setting a table that’s elegant, organic, and understated. With this guidance, there are plenty of ways to make it your own.

20 Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas

Whether you opt for a Thanksgiving dinner or lunch (or sometime in between—the holiday throws out all convention when it comes to our mealtime), these Thanksgiving table setting ideas are a true celebration of the year’s most anticipated feast. We looked back in the archives to pull inspiration from our favorite tables over the years. From modern monochromatic to organic and earthy, scroll through our favorite Thanksgiving table setting ideas that we can’t wait to weave into our holiday decor planning. Trust us, your turkey will be in good company.

Psst… for more guidance on table setting etiquette, consult our guide to basic, casual, and formal table settings.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Use Dried Flowers

There’s no need to face the crowds on Thanksgiving morning to pick up a fresh arrangement. Dried flowers are having their moment, and we love the sustainable approach to creating a beautiful tablescape. Dried grasses, amaranth, and even hydrangeas lend a gorgeous visual texture to the table. Arrange in an earthenware, ceramic vase and pair your flowers with neutral linens. You won’t believe the impact this simple touch adds to your Thanksgiving feast.

Add a Grazing Board for Edible Color

IYKYK: we’re all about a good grazing board here. And while it serves as a perfectly good appetizer and pre-cursor to the main meal, it can also be a way to give your table an interactive quality. Split pomegranates, whole pears, and halved figs all look gorgeous layered on a board with olives, nuts, cheeses, and dried meats. While the holiday may be all about the turkey and pie, we’re always here for the snacks.

Use Branches in Creative Ways

We love the dramatic look of branches arranged in a tall vase. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from the Barefoot Contessa (and we’ve learned a lot), it’s to keep your table decor height at a minimum to ensure guests can see each other across the table. Instead, set a table runner down and place branches so that they run parallel to the length of your table. It creates a whimsical, woodland scene that feels straight out of a Thanksgiving fairytale.

Go Monochrome

While we love the layered look of linens, plates, and flatware in different, but coordinating colors, there’s something so dramatic about a Thanksgiving tablescape done in one tone. (Particularly when that color is white.) Here, the color palette serves to accent and emphasize the shades brought forward through the food and natural touches. If you really want your menu to stand out, opt for this look. Just be sure to garnish your mashed potatoes with a lot of parsley—you don’t want them getting lost in the shuffle.

Match Accents of Copper

As far as materials go, copper is a natural choice this time of year. It echoes the darkened leaves and shorter days of the season. What’s more, it pairs perfectly with green, serving as a strong, beautiful backdrop to the small sprig of olive branches giving depth to the simple napkin and flatware setting. It’s simple Thanksgiving table decor at its finest. To take it a step further, try writing or typing out your Thanksgiving menu and slipping it between the napkin and flatware.

Use Fruit as a Centerpiece

Persimmons reach their ephemeral peak this time of year, and lining them down the center of your Thanksgiving table adds gorgeous pops of color. It’s a design trick that’s so easy to create. Just be sure to keep your table linens simple so they don’t compete with your centerpiece. And if you can’t find persimmons, seasonal fruits like pears, apples, pomegranates, or even mini pumpkins work beautifully as well.

Add a Sprig of Something to Your Napkin Ring

Rosemary, olive, eucalyptus, or dried flowers are an easy way to dress up a plain napkin ring. Even if you’re keeping your table decor streamlined and simple, add a little depth to your place setting with something from nature that ties the whole look together.

Serve a Buffet

When you’re serving a crowd at Thanksgiving, you often have to do the challenging dance of making the food accessible, but also ensuring it doesn’t take up too much space at the dining table. Rather than having everyone shuffle in and out of the kitchen, set up an additional table to serve as a buffet. This frees up space for your decor and puts your dishes within reach so guests won’t have any trouble going up for seconds.

Keep Candles Low-Key

It’s easy to overdo it on the candles. When you’re tempted to illuminate a million tea lights, tapers, and pillar candles, take a step back and embrace a less-is-more approach. We like just a few taper candles at different heights to create enough variety and interest without competing with your guests’ view or your table’s precious real estate. Plus, little flickers of light are so much more elegant.

Go Maximalist With Greenery

Add height and color to a simple runner by arranging greenery all along the center of your table. Pick up a few bunches of eucalyptus from the grocery store (hi, Trader Joe’s) and place them so that groupings of leaves extend out in alternating directions. It’s such an easy, low-effort, high-reward trick.

DIY Pinecone Place Cards

When we have the time, who doesn’t love a good holiday craft? Spend an hour or so the weekend before Thanksgiving putting together these darling pinecone place cards. (With Gilmore Girls playing in the background and a mug of something warm nearby, this sounds like an ideal Saturday activity.) Purchase some cardstock, write your guests’ names in simple lettering, and secure to a pinecone. You may need to go foraging or you can easily find bulk mini pinecones online. It’s simple and stunning.

Incorporate Color in Unexpected Ways

When it comes to adding color to the Thanksgiving table, we like to leave the work to our accessories. Keep your larger pieces—dinnerware, tablecloth, etc.—largely neutral and look to the details for an opportunity to incorporate color. Linen napkins are an easy way to do this, as the look will still feel balanced and symmetrical if you keep the accent color the same at every setting.

Create a Three-Color Palette

Pythagoras was right when he theorized three as a perfect number, symbolizing harmony and balance. And when it comes to your Thanksgiving table setting, going with three primary colors is the best way to ensure you don’t go overboard. Here, the look leans feminine with an aesthetic of green, red, and white—echoing the transition from fall to winter. Run a pine garland down the middle of your table and dot it with pomegranates. A white linen tablecloth and cream napkins are a gorgeous way to complete the look.

Establish a Sweets and Bites Table

For many people, this holiday is all about the pie—and as a result, you oftentimes have far too many desserts than vacancies on your table. We like to set up a small dessert table with no more than an arrangement and perhaps a few tea lights for decor. Layer in vessels of different heights to keep the simple setting dynamic, but before you add anything more, remember: this is all about the sweets.

Echo the Fall Harvest

Set a reminder of what you’re grateful for with edible, seasonal touches woven throughout your table. A minimalist cheese plate is a gorgeous—and tasty—representation of the harvest. You can even place a decorative bowl full of pears and apples for even greater impact. Add a few white pillar candles to the mix and bask in the glow. Fruits and foliage are an alliterative pairing we’ll always be happy to let guide our design decisions.

Ground Each Setting With Fall Leaves

Fallen leaves are in abundance, so set out on an autumnal adventure gathering the prettiest ones for your Thanksgiving table. Get step-by-step instructions on pressing and preserving leaves and enjoy the relaxing activity in the lead-up to all the holiday excitement. Once the leaves have dried, you can paint them for a vintage look and use a gold, silver, or white Sharpie to write your guests’ names on each. I love completing this simple Thanksgiving table setting idea with an accent of gourds and pumpkins running along the table.

Streamline Your Pumpkins

Speaking of pumpkins, the tendency is often to go overboard with your harvest. Instead, we like to stick with two colors to ground the focus and simplify the table. Green and white pumpkins look so elegant paired together. Try adding a few mini pumpkins to the mix for a sweet autumnal touch.

Go Glam With Gilded Touches

The December holiday season is all about the sparkle, and if you’d like to embrace the visual magic starting with Thanksgiving, there are a few easy ways to keep the look in check. You can spray mini pinecones with gold leaf spray paint. Or, if you don’t have time for crafts, simply purchase a beautiful golden bundle of pinecones. We also like simple green and silver candles with a soft sparkle to their exterior to help illuminate your table.

dining room table


Add Whimsy With Vintage Plates

I love using vintage plates to merge different design aesthetics. Here, the colorful china is layered over wicker chargers to add a little charm and interest while still keeping the table setting cohesive. Mirror the vintage appeal with silver flatware to unite the look.

Don’t Forget About Seating

No matter the aesthetic of your Thanksgiving table, coziness is always a consideration. To make your guests feel the most at home, drape faux sheepskin pelts over wood benches or chairs. Not only does it lend a little hygge to the vibe, but if your holiday meal is anything like ours, they’ll be grateful for the extra comfort a few hours in.

14 Dining Table Centerpiece Ideas Fit for Any Occasion—and Any Time of Year

I like to think of the dining room table as the grounding piece of any home. Some may call it the living room—where many of us naturally gravitate around the television—or even the kitchen, where we may assist with prep or linger with a glass of wine. But the dining table is where everyone gathers with a common need: to satisfy our desire not only for food but for conversation and connection. That’s why, when it comes to dining table centerpiece ideas, I aim to create not simply a centerpiece consigned only to the dining area, but that serves as a statement for the rest of the home.

Ahead, we’re sharing ideas that span every style and aesthetic. From modern or traditional, to contemporary or vintage, these dining table centerpiece ideas are sure to add a little special spark to any space. Start sending out your dinner party invites—it’s time to give your dining table a glow-up.

Featured image from our interview with Brian and Anissa Zajac by Ashlee Fox.

Image by Michelle Nash

DIY a Floral Bouquet

PSA: You don’t need to shell out $100+ for a fancy, florist-crafted bouquet. While we all love treating our tables once and a while to the professional touch, a simple arrangement picked fresh from your garden will add a spark of beauty to any dining table. Bonus: It’s an opportunity to share what you’re growing, too.

Stack Some Books

Do you have a set of Penguin Classics that could be put to better use? Any set of vintage or otherwise pretty books will do. Simply stack a few books (I find three is the perfect number) and pair them with a candle or a small vase on top. It’s a refined way to add some height and interest to your table.

Image by Michelle Nash

Make an Edible Arrangement

Forgo the cantaloupe-and-honeydew combos of yesteryear and instead opt for something more refined. If you’re hosting, craft a cheeseboard that brings all your guest’s eyes—and appetites—to the table. It’s an easy and edible way to incorporate color and texture into your centerpiece.

Incorporate Varying Heights

I like to create interest and depth by combining two pieces of varying heights. A simple bowl-and-vase combo gives you the best of both worlds. Just be sure to keep the design and contents simple and streamlined. This idea can quickly go from contemporary to cluttered.

Image by Anastasiya Pudova

Keep It Minimal

Just a simple, ceramic bowl can do wonders as your centerpiece. You can leave it empty or fill it with fruit. Either way, opt for a bowl that’s simple but with enough aesthetic interest to keep the table from feeling bare. I love a simple, but stunning wood bowl or a ceramic piece to attract attention. (If it feels empty, add a grouping of single-hued citrus, like oranges or lemons.)

Utilize Vertical Space

This trick works wonders for smaller dining spaces. If you have a circular dining table that fits four or fewer, rather than overwhelm the surface area, select a slender vase with a few taller stems to draw the eye upwards. Just be sure to keep the arrangement minimal—you don’t want it to block your guests’ view.

Image by Michelle Nash

Set the Table

I love this idea for more formal dining areas. (Efficient party planners will love it as well.) Set the table with plates (go all-out with chargers, dinner, and salad plates), cloth napkins, and glassware. I’d just keep the silverware off the table and only add it once you’re ready to eat.

Create a Vignette

Arrange a few found objects to tell a story at your table. Ground the vignette with a tray or board to give the elements continuity. It’s a great way to incorporate creativity into your dining table setup.

Image by Belathée Photography

Line Up a Few Small Bouquets

To create an eclectic vibe, arrange a few DIY bouquets in makeshift vases. Repurposing ceramic jugs or tea tins works perfectly. Set the arrangements in a line to emphasize the length of your table, and go for varying heights to add a touch of whimsy.

Opt for Coziness

Sometimes, a formal dining table centerpiece isn’t the vibe. If you prefer a more casual feel, invite guests in with a candle, houseplant, and perhaps even an open cookbook to make them feel right at home.

Image by Anastasiya Pudova

Arrange a Bouquet of Dried Flowers

My sister opted for all dried flowers at her wedding and I was blown away: genius. Not only will they not droop from the heat or freeze from a cold rush of AC, but they’ll last as long as you’d like to display them. Cost-friendly and sustainable—we love.

Add Color

Some of the best dining table centerpiece ideas emphasize a contrast between the centerpiece and the table design itself. If you have a more neutral table—whether it’s wood or marble—I love to add a pop of color either with a maximalist vase or a bowl filled with bright, beautiful citrus or green apples.

Image by Michelle Nash

Begin With a Table Runner

For a simple, but statement-making addition to your table, lay down a table runner before adding more elements. It’s an easy way to anchor the space and works for both casual and more formal settings.

Display a Coffee Table Tray

Apply one of our favorite coffee table design tricks to your dining room. A tray will ground the table, providing the foundation for more layering opportunities. From there, you can add candles, a design book, or a small, sentimental trinket of your choice.

8 Gorgeous Salad Bowls to Upgrade Every Dinner Table

I used to joke that, no matter what else happened in life, at least I could make a great salad. On the fly, with whatever could be found in my fridge—though I prefer some combination of garden-fresh veg, a great dressing, and always (always!) a little added crunch. Because of this, for potlucks and dinner parties alike, I offer to bring the salad. It adds a colorful touch to the table and balances out whatever heavier main may be served. And of course, even a so-so salad will shine when it’s served up in one of the best salad bowls.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

The Best Salad Bowls

What makes the best salad bowls? Of course, applications vary and you’ll likely gravitate toward different sizes and materials for different uses. (Kids? Make it durable. Dinner party? Make it classy. Picnic? Make it easy to transport.) When I’m selecting the best salad bowls for any given occasion, I focus on three things: material, size, and aesthetic.


The material you land on for your salad bowl will be determined largely by the occasion. Because salads are a picnic and potluck classic, when I’m taking mine on the go, I want to be sure it travels well. For that reason, plastic or enamelware are your best bets. If you’re throwing a dinner party or making a salad for a more elegant gathering, ceramic or a beautiful wooden bowl will be just the thing.


The best salad bowls come in countless sizes. Whether you serve up your salad in an oversized, 17″ bowl or opt for something smaller depends on how many guests you’re hosting. I like to have one small (for 2-4 people), medium (which I’ll use most often for small dinner parties), and oversized salad bowl so that I’m ready for whoever shows up.


Are you down for dessert vibes? Do you love a California-cool, Nancy Meyers-inspired look? To set a streamlined table, ensure your salad bowl aligns with the overall aesthetic you want to create. That way, your plates, linens, glassware, and flatware comes together cohesively.

With that, prepare to shop! Ahead, discover the best salad bowls for every aesthetic, party, and meal.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

This salad bowl’s heirloom-quality construction exudes a well-loved look, allowing it to seamlessly weave into any tablescape. We love placing this salad bowl in the middle of family-style meals to create a laid-back atmosphere—one that’s made special by the intention and care put toward the food, table design, and conversation. Trust: when you bring this beauty to the table, jaws will drop. She’s an understated, effortless stunner.

  • Size: 17″
  • Material: Solid beechwood with a light walnut finish
  • Care: Hand wash only. Dry immediately.
  • Our favorite salad to serve: Pink Radicchio Salad

Fable is known and loved for its minimalist, stoneware pieces. This speckled white set of low serving bowls is the ideal backdrop for a vibrant green salad with a punchy dressing. (As the Barefoot Contessa taught us, white serving bowls and platters help your dishes shine.) We love the low-profile feel, allowing these pieces to blend beautifully with whatever dinnerware you use alongside them.

  • Size: Small: 9.75″ Large: 11″
  • Material: Stoneware
  • Care: Dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe up to 450 F.
  • Our favorite salad to serve: The Best Simple Green Salad

Because many of the best salad bowls feature high-quality, well-sourced materials, they can quickly run up in price. However, Target (our go-to retailer for accessible luxuries), offers up a serving bowl that sits perfectly at the intersection of stunning and affordable. We love the natural vibe of the Acacia wood finish, making it a solid—pun intended—choice for everyday meals and entertaining. Because we’re known for setting a neutral table, we always reach for this bowl to coordinate with the wabi-sabi appeal of our favorite dishes.

  • Size: 12″
  • Material: Acadia wood
  • Care: Air Dry, Hand Wash
  • Our favorite salad to serve: Apple Walnut Salad

Year & Day has been one of my favorites in the ceramics space for years. Their pieces are beautifully crafted, and considering the quality and care that goes into each, the price is unmatched. If you love color on your table, make a move on this salad bowl. It comes in seven muted hues that span the spectrum of neutral to wholly unique.

  • Size: 13.25″
  • Material: Ceramic
  • Care: Dishwasher, microwave, freezer, and oven safe up to 480 F.
  • Our favorite salad to serve: Simple Citrus Salad

The Jenni Kayne ethos exudes just about every core trend 2023 has known and loved, while still feeling beautifully timeless. Quiet luxury, coastal grandmother, Nancy Meyers-chic—it’s all wrapped up in this understated serving bowl. We love the low and wide build, letting you display your salads in all their gorgeous glory. Because these bowls are kiln-fired at high temperatures, you can feel confident using them with just about any appliance. Beautiful, functional, and the answer to any elevated tablescape—this one’s a keeper.

At any picnic, a salad is a must. But I’ve always hated throwing cling wrap over a salad bowl that has no interest in letting it stick. Thankfully, S’well has extended its product offering from the brand’s well-loved water bottles to create practical vessels for just about every need. We love the bright botanical exterior, which adds a fun pop of color to your picnic blanket. Beyond that, the kit brilliantly features a separate leak-proof dressing container (because no one wants to try to scrub olive oil out of a car seat). For any salad-on-the-go need, this bowl has you covered.

Like the oversized, 17″ Casa Zuma salad bowl, this set of smaller, individual bowls is an easy way to elevate your nightly salad ritual. I love the idea of using these as an excuse to serve a separate salad course, reveling in the light and bright flavor of your favorite greens. Each is handcrafted, displaying its own, unique character. These bowls are the perfect finishing piece for any thoughtful table setting.

Enamelware is many things: affordable, practical, durable, and in the best cases—chic. This salad bowl has all of its bases covered, with a maximalist yellow paint-splattered design that brings a cheery pop of color to the table. Created by Crow Canyon Home, lauded as the creator of the iconic splatter enamelware design, this bowl might just be your gateway into the fun and functional world of enamelware.

  • Size: 10.75″
  • Material: Porcelain enamel and steel
  • Care: Dishwasher safe. Safe to use on the stovetop, grill, and in the oven. Do not microwave.

It’s the Ultimate Hosting Hack—How to Use Napkins to Level Up Your Table

With hosting season in full swing, we’re constantly looking to find that perfect table setting that weaves beauty into the everyday. We’ve covered outdoor table settings and dinner party table settings, and we’ve shared foundational tips for setting every type of table, no matter the occasion. But today, it’s time to focus on an understated element of your table that can leave a huge impact: the humble napkin. A napkin can be a statement-maker on your table. We have you covered with several variations that will make your table shine.

A Host’s Guide to Setting a Table With Napkins

It’s easy to find yourself in default mode when setting the table. We all know what looks best on our tables, how we like things arranged, or our favorite design elements. That said, we can all agree that it’s never a bad idea to spark creativity with fresh ideas for our tables and, more broadly, our lives!

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up several tips for how to set a table with napkins that you can effortlessly implement into your own table design. By merging traditional table settings with natural beauty and unexpected twists, you can go forth with confidence in your own design abilities.

Types of Napkins and When to Use

We’ve seen napkins in all shapes and sizes. From little cocktail napkins to our favorite linens, you have a broad range to choose from when deciding how to set a table with napkins. And while different types should be used for different occasions (more on that later), you can’t go wrong by getting creative with your table settings. Utilizing your personal design tastes and preferences is of the utmost importance when you’re soaking up these tips.

The key to crafting a beautiful table with napkins is all about marrying traditional design frameworks with your own unique style. Do we dig it? I think yes.

Another thing to consider when weighing paper versus cloth napkins is the environmental impact. Paper napkins are a paper product, and making them requires lots of water and cutting down trees. During this process, greenhouse gases are released into the environment as well. On the other hand, even though they have to be washed every so often, cloth napkins are a much more sustainable source for your table. They don’t utilize wood pulp and they release a significantly lower amount of greenhouse gases.

However, the occasional use of paper napkins is A-OK—especially if they’re made from recycled materials.

When to Use Paper Napkins

In general, paper napkins should be reserved for more casual and/or outdoor gatherings. A few examples:

  • Barbecues
  • Pool parties
  • Buffet-style meals
  • Casual outdoor dinners
  • Picnics

When to Use Cloth Napkins

Linen napkins can dress up your table a bit more than paper napkins, so it’s good to use these with more formal table settings and/or occasions. Some examples might include:

  • Indoor or outdoor dinner parties
  • Special occasion dinners (birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations)
  • Holiday meals
  • Date night
  • Everyday meals when you want an elevated feel

Our Favorite Linen Napkin

When it comes to setting the table with napkins, we almost always reach for linen. The fabric’s easy-breezy quality is perfect for summer while also adding a natural, organic element to the table any time of the year. This oversized linen napkin is endlessly versatile (its size allows for a seamless swap-in as your go-to dishtowel). And if it couldn’t be more perfect, it also makes for a beautiful and thoughtful hostess gift. We guarantee: you’ll be invited back.

Napkin Placement

You have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to napkin placement. In fact, there are so many spots for the napkin to shine. However, placement can depend on a few things. You might want to consider how many place settings you’re arranging, what kind of centerpieces you have, and how many place settings you’re adding to the table. This can impact how much wiggle room you have with your napkin, which will influence its placement.

Below, we’ve listed a few ways to style a napkin on your table so you have something on hand for every occasion.

On the Plate

Placing the napkin on the plate is one of the more traditional variations of napkin placement. It’s classy, understated, and serves as a visual reminder for your guests to place it in their laps upon sitting. If you’re choosing the “napkin on the plate” route, you’ll probably want to refrain from placing the cutlery on top of the napkin, though it’s not entirely off the table. While other styles open up more room for silverware stacking, it can become a tad crowded here when the napkin is on the plate itself.

Under the Plate

Having your napkin as the foundation for your plates is a gorgeous way to add depth to the table. Think of the napkin as a more-stylish charger setting the base for plates. It’s a simple touch that elevates the table with hardly any effort. It hangs over the edge of the table and helps fill some of the empty space between the chair and table, which looks stunning from near and far.

To the Side of the Plate

Arranging your napkin to the side of the plate opens a lot of doors. Allow me to explain. You can do a lot of different things when the napkin is on the side of the plate. You can fold it up for a more uniform look, shake it out, and drape it naturally for a more textured look, or place your silverware on top of it for vertical depth.

Whatever you choose, placing the napkin to the side of the plate is a simple way to fill out your table beautifully. As for what side to put it on, follow the traditional silverware placement should you choose to layer in those elements.

Knotted Above the Plate

For a fun twist on the table, knot your napkins and place them at the top of the plate. It’s a simple way to add an eye-popping element to the mix and give your guests something to rave about. With this arrangement, I love to add a place card or fresh herb bundle on top of the plate. Or, you can let the plate’s natural beauty speak for itself. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a classic knotted napkin.

Napkin Placement Etiquette

What to Do With a Napkin When You Sit Down

It’s a basic rule of dinner party etiquette to remove your napkin from the table and fold it into your lap upon sitting down. Take the time to gently unfold it and place it in your lap. It’s a simple signal that makes it clear that everyone is settled and ready to begin the meal.

What to Do With a Napkin When You Get Up

This is a tricky one! We’re often told different ways to leave a napkin at the table should you need to step away. Some people leave it in the chair, some drape it over the chair’s back, and others crumple it up and toss it to the side.

Contrary to what we might be accustomed to, none of these are correct. If you need to excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold your napkin before standing and place it to the left or right of your plate. In the traditional sense of etiquette, this is a polite way of leaving your napkin at the table without drawing too much attention to yourself or disrupting the flow of the meal.

What to Do With a Napkin When You Are Finished Eating

When you’re finished eating, you’ll want to do almost the same thing with the napkin that you would if you get up for a moment. Only this time, place the loosely-folded napkin to the left of the plate to signal that you’re finished with your meal. It’s the same idea as aligning your silverware together on the plate to show that you’ve finished eating. It’s simple, understated, and proper in the traditional sense.

The Takeaway

All in all, learning how to set a table with napkins is a simple step you can take to bring your table-setting skills to the next level. While there are many ways to utilize napkins’ often untapped potential, it truly boils down to your preferences and the other elements at play.

You may find that one of these options works better for your go-to arrangement, or that you’re able to use different settings in different situations, or for different tables. And that’s the beauty of it all! With these napkin settings, go forth with confidence in your table setting abilities and infuse beauty into the everyday.

Set the Scene: 25 Table Setting Ideas for Every Occasion

If you love hosting as much as we do, you’ve felt that familiar excitement that comes with setting the table for a big event, holiday, or celebration. It’s a joy that combines seasonal elements, the latest trends, and your personal design touch to create a gorgeous table that makes your guests feel welcome. The only question is, where do you start? Ahead, we’re sharing some of our favorite table-setting ideas for every celebratory occasion. From basic settings for a casual baby shower to formal ideas for a holiday meal, consider this your one-stop shop for table-setting inspo that you can use to elevate any celebration.

Table Setting Ideas for Every Occasion

Let’s be honest: as fun as it is, setting the table can also be a challenge. Personally, I find myself going back and forth between the smallest details that I know my guests probably won’t even notice. Does this linen napkin work? Will a pop of color liven things up? Are these candles totally ugly, or have I just been looking at them for too long? You know the drill. I think I speak for all of us when I say that having a couple of guiding principles is never a bad thing when it comes to setting the table. There’s inspiration everywhere, and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to cull the best of it together in this handy guide for your musing.

While trends are constantly changing (as are your personal tastes), these tablescape ideas are the perfect springboard for sparking creativity. And whether you’ve got an occasion coming up or you’re just looking for eye candy to swoon over, we’ve got you covered with ideas for any celebration in your life that require an equally-joyous tablescape.

Basic Table Setting Ideas

1. Incorporate Handmade Ceramics

Weaving wabi-sabi beauty into your table is a wonderful way to spark conversation and make your table stand out. It can also lean more on the more casual side, which is a plus when you’re not wanting a perfectly uniform look.

2. Let Nature Lead the Way

Filling your table with branches from the garden is a simple and beautiful way to add a natural element to your table. Olive branches, birch branches, eucalyptus branches, you name it. On that same note, greenery of all shapes and sizes are always welcome at the table.

More inspiration: Athena Calderone shares tips for styling decorative branches

3. Embrace Neutrals

Neutral colors combined with textural elements make for a simple-yet-welcoming table that’s lovingly full of life. It’s natural, simple, and full of timeless beauty.

4. Take It Outside

This may seem obvious, but setting your table outside is a lovely way to embrace nature’s beauty. Setting a table al fresco is one of the easiest ways to keep it simple while reaping the benefits of mother nature’s charming allure.

More inspiration: How Camille is styling her table for Mother’s Day

5. Mix and Match

Just because you’re going for simple doesn’t mean your table can’t be special. If you’re low on dinnerware or don’t have enough matching glasses, thrift for coordinating pieces that each bring their own character to the table (literally). The key is to be intentional—found objects shine when the tablescape feels cohesive.

6. Family-Style Dining

Everyone has their own style, but I’ve always preferred family-style dining for a celebratory occasion. If there’s not too much dishware to include, scatter your culinary offerings around and allow the food to naturally flow around the table right alongside the conversation.

7. Add Touches of Green

Pops of nature scattered throughout your table will evoke immediate garden party vibes. Opt for florals, small plants, or echo the color in your linens or dinnerware. It’s an easy way to make a basic table setting special.

8. Carafe Your Beverages

To save you time and effort in the long run, using carafes for the beverages you’re serving is a true savior. Whether it’s water, wine, or a fun cocktail, pouring your offerings into a carafe will keep you from worrying about refilling glasses throughout the meal. Plus, chic pitchers add shape and dimension to your table setting.

Casual Table Setting Ideas

9. Start With Linen

Laying the groundwork with a simple linen tablecloth is a casual-yet-elevated way to infuse natural elements into your table. Toss it over your table, bunch it up in places, and let nature take the reins.

10. Keep Place Settings Simple

Just because you have it in your inventory, each setting doesn’t need all the fanfare of a formal place setting. Keep it minimal to allow your pieces to showcase their beauty. This could be as simple as a salad and dinner plate, flatware, napkin, and a goblet that works equally well for water and wine.

11. Lean Into Scandi Vibes

If minimal-yet-cozy sounds up your alley, you can always turn to Scandinavian design inspo to lead the way. The key here is to think simple. Start with a simple linen tablecloth, neutral colors, and handmade ceramics, then let nature come through on its own. You’ll be amazed by the shining beauty inherent in a few simple wildflowers.

More inspiration: A Barcelona dinner party with Devon Liedtke

12. Keep It Earthy

Earthy elements are a soul-soothing way to infuse nature’s beauty into your table. Incorporating organic materials like rattan, wood, and other natural fibers can help balance your table with an easygoing feel. A natural and neutral placemat means you don’t have to waste a lot of time color-matching your table elements.

13. Utilize Recycled Glassware

Handmade recycled glassware is all the rage right now—both a win for the planet and your table’s look and feel. Its natural beauty and handmade touch is truly timeless and just plain gorgeous.

14. Don’t Leave Dessert Behind

For all the dedication you poured into them, you bet the desserts will be on display! Showcasing your desserts on the actual table is an appetizing preview of what’s to come later in the meal. We love creating varying heights with cake platters and display stands.

15. Keep It Light With Mezze

While you might not want to create a full-blown grazing board for a casual gathering, having something on the table—however small—for your guests to graze on is crucial. Try laying out some olives, sea salt, nuts, sliced fruit, cornichons, you name it. A little bite of something goes a long way.

16. Give Your Napkin a Twist

Twisting each napkin adds something interesting to the table that catches the eye much more than a flat, lifeless napkin that’s been pressed and folded. This isn’t your mother’s tabletop—we create our own rules here.

Formal Table Setting Ideas

17. Add An Edible Centerpiece

Cheese boards are not going anywhere anytime soon, which we can all agree is a blessing. Arranging a grazing board for your guests to snack on before/during the meal is a pro move that everyone will be thankful for. This is also a great opportunity to have your guests help out while having fun in the process! Once it’s done, you can place it smack dab in the center of the table. Cue the “oohs” and “aahs”.

18. Use Place Cards

Adding a personal touch to your table is something your guests will undoubtedly appreciate—not to mention how nice it is for them to know where to sit! These simple place cards made of rosemary sprigs are absolute stunners.

More inspiration: Camille’s modern holiday table

19. Find Your Favorite Flowers

Floral arrangements don’t have to be extravagant. Instead, why not gather a few of your favorite stems and place them in a vase you’re loving? It’s a simple way to elevate your table and make it feel more formal.

20. Layer Your Lights

Utilizing candles at different heights can elevate your table by adding a layering element and some simple variety. Height is huge here! While you should still be wary of placing candles that will obstruct the table view, a few different heights can make your table seem bigger and more inviting.

21. Play With Fruit

Weave a pop of color into your table with clementines, persimmons, tiny pumpkins, you name it. Each of these is a simple way to give your table some vibrancy.

More inspiration: An LA brunch with Sweet Laurel Bakery

22. Give Flameless Candles a Go

No one wants their tablecloth to walk away from a gathering covered in wax. The good thing is, thanks to modern technology and design, realistic flameless candles are out there! And they’re the real deal—trust me.

23. Weave In Dried Flowers

Dried flowers are still all the rage, and it’s no wonder why. They’re budget-friendly (as you can use them for multiple years), modern, and elevated. Mix them in with your fresh flowers, add them to their own vase, or simply scatter them about the table.

24. Keep Your Colors Cohesive

When it comes to coloring, creating a complementary scheme can help ensure you don’t have any clashing going on. Plus, intentionally mapping the color palette out beforehand makes the biggest difference in the end. It’s much more pleasing to the eye, and even makes things simpler for you to set up.

25. Have Fun With It!

At the end of the day, this is your table for your gathering in your home. There’s no strict rulebook you should be following other than your own intuition. A little extra something here or a pop of that there is just what you should be itching to include. These table-setting ideas are your starting point for igniting (or reigniting) an endless supply of decorative creativity. Use these as a guide to your very own tablescape and get to gathering!

17 Ways to Style the Table for Your Next Dinner Party

Growing up, we gathered with family over dinners served on paper plates with plastic utensils. Parties were casual and relaxed (plus, no one wanted to do the dishes). But on holidays, our dinner party table settings were complete with seasonal plates, napkins, and cutlery—and my grandmother always insisted on eating at the formal dining table. It felt special—and it was.

Now, when I host a small group of friends or family, I love to pull out the good plates. I’m one of those old-fashioned gals who actually registered for wedding china, but mine isn’t gathering dust in a cabinet. It’s right there next to our everyday dinner plates. Now, whenever I set the table with those cherished pieces, the whole experience feels elevated—and just as special as my grandma’s table.

Featured image of Brian and Jessie De Lowe’s magic hour dinner party by Michelle Nash.

Image of Rebekah Peller’s Parisian dinner party by Joann Pai

And sure, the menu is where a dinner party begins—but the table setting is where it shines. A table is a blank slate. It’s an opportunity to get creative, bring in elements to complement the food, and truly delight your guests. Right about now you’re either feeling inspired or stressed, but I’ve got good news either way: we’re no strangers to dinner party table settings around here.

From Camille’s own hosting expertise to the tips we’ve collected from tastemakers along the way, you’re in the right place for a huge dose of dinner party inspiration. Gather ’round to spark your creativity (or just outright steal your favorite looks)—our best ideas are just ahead.

How do I set the table for a dinner party?

When it comes to dinner party table settings, you’ll likely want to opt for either a basic table setting or a casual table setting, depending on the scope of the meal. The biggest difference between the two is that a casual table often calls for more dishes than basic to account for the menu (a soup bowl or salad plate, for example). If you need a refresher, here’s exactly how to set the table, from basic gatherings all the way to formal affairs. But if you’ve got plates, flatware, and glasses, you’ve got a solid foundation for any dinner party. Now, let’s head into the inspiration.

1. Use a Linen Table Throw

Keep it casual by opting for a square throw over a more traditional tablecloth. Linen is naturally a bit wrinkly (so skip the ironing) and you can even ruffle it up a bit for a table that’s both rustic and stylish.

2. Put Out Place Cards

You don’t have to be a world-class caligrapher to create a worthy place card. Even the simplest place cards can make guests feel special and considered. I’ve used the backside of an index card or even cut-up cardstock envelopes in a pinch

More inspiration: A Barcelona dinner party with Devon Liedtke

3. Light Candles

It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Lighting candles is truly the easiest way to add instant ambiance. Dot the table runner with tea lights sitting in glasses or make a statement with tall candlesticks—you truly can’t go wrong.

More inspiration: A Greek-inspired bridal shower

4. Knot Oversized Napkins

When in doubt, grab a large square napkin and knot it loosely at the center. Place the napkin either directly on the plate or arrange it around the upper edge if there’s room on the table.

5. Choose Recycled Glassware

There’s something so perfect about recycled glassware for a less formal event. Perfect for water or even as wine glasses. Recycled glasses are unique and special—and decidedly unfussy.

6. Forage for a Seasonal Centerpiece

If you’ve got a yard, you’ve got a centerpiece waiting for you. Snip wildflowers for a group of small vases or grab some branches for a centerpiece that’s more elaborate. It’s an easy way to ground your dinner party in the season and bring in those natural elements that pair so well with a lovely meal.

More inspiration: A backyard brunch with Chef Camilla Marcus

7. Take it Outside

When the weather is right, a dinner party al fresco is a near-perfect option. And take it from us, it doesn’t have to be hard. Camille laid out all her tips to plan a stress-free outdoor party—décor included.

More inspiration: A Santa Barbara dinner party

8. Let Food Be the Décor

If you’re stuck on centerpiece ideas, let the food do the talking. No one will complain about a beautiful cheese board smack dab in the center of the table (and nothing to block their line of sight, at that).

More inspiration: A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Charcuterie Board

9. Use Fruit as a Centerpiece

Persimmons as a table runner? There’s something genuinely striking when an item is repeated over and over again—it just works. Opt for seasonal fruit and either line it down the table, dot them throughout or fill a bowl or two.

More inspiration: Brunch with the co-founder and CEO of Sweet Laurel Bakery

10. Add Cozy Throws or Blankets to the Chairs

Whether you suspect a draft or just want to up the cozy factor, drop some throws along the back of your guests’ chairs or add a wool rug to the bench.

More inspiration: A cozy girls’ gathering at home

11. Make it a Chic Buffet

Truth be told, you don’t always need a dinner party table setting to make it special. Stack the plates and lay out a drool-worthy buffet—it’s décor in and of itself.

More inspiration: This delightful Italian dinner party

12. Decorate with Complementary Colors

It’s a classic tip in the styling world for a reason. For a dinner party, we love choosing a main color and throwing in accents that complement from natural elements. Try it with oranges and limes on a blue linen throw or a pale green table topped with ripe strawberries or red peonies.

More inspiration: A Spain-inspired summer dinner party

13. Match the Flowers to the Food

Delight your guests with an understated color theme. Choose foliage that pairs with the menu and get ready to snap all the photos.

More inspiration: An outdoor afternoon lunch with cookbook author, Aran Goyoaga

14. Mix and Match the Tablecloths

There really are no rules when it comes to styling the table for a dinner party. Grab more than one tablecloth if the length of the table is too long—you can even use sheets or light blankets.

More inspiration: A magic hour gathering in Santa Barbara

15. Embrace Your Surroundings

The first step in planning a dinner party is the where. Maybe there’s a rooftop available or a patio, backyard, or cute tucked-away alley. Think outside the dining room!

More inspiration: An NYC rooftop dinner party

16. Play With Color

We’re known neutral lovers around here, but even we know that a little color can be downright fun. Up the playful vibes with mismatched furniture and bright tabletop pieces.

More inspiration: An Italian-themed dinner party, at a farm in Malibu

17. Use a Picnic Table

The humble picnic table can do a lot of things if styled well. Pop in a few pillows or blankets for texture and fill vessels with fresh blooms for the perfect mix of rustic and modern.

Now that the table is styled, time to plan the menu. Here are some recipes to feed a crowd for your next dinner party. Happy hosting!

How to Set a Table: A Host’s Guide to Basic, Casual, and Formal Settings

When it comes to hosting a gathering, a few things are non-negotiable. Your favorite people, good conversation, and a menu everyone will remember. But every meal is an opportunity to set the table with intention—even a casual Tuesday night dinner. When we sit down to eat with friends or family, we’re nourishing many different parts of ourselves. We’re satiating our hunger, satisfying our desire for connection, and allowing all of our different senses to be soothed at once.

As one of my favorite writers, M.F.K. Fisher so elegantly said, “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”

But we understand too, that when it comes to knowing how to set a table, all the many different etiquette rules and occasions can send your head spinning. And yes, all manner of questions abound. I’m throwing a casual dinner party—how do I fold the napkins? Is there any way I can make my everyday dinners with toddlers feel a little more elegant? Where the heck do I put the salad fork?

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Soup spoons versus dessert spoons and white wine glasses versus red. Your hand goes to place the drinkware with trepidation… Now, is it to the right of the water glass or the left? We’ve been there more times than we can count, and while there are plenty of “rules” to remember, we can appreciate the guidance. Because when it comes to setting the table in style, what’s the point of having beautiful pieces if you can’t let them shine in all their glory?

That’s the fun—and perhaps the beauty—of etiquette. While some may be quick to write it off as antiquated or irrelevant, we like to lean on convention for guidance and inspiration. But, of course, we’re always ones to bend the rules a bit to create space for our creativity. Setting the table is an exercise in balance, after all.

Why It’s Important to Set the Table

Setting the table is akin to getting dressed even when you work from home. It brings intentionality into your day, helping you transition from one moment to inhabiting the energy of the next. And to be clear, the table doesn’t have to match the meal. We love up-leveling the impact of a meal-prepped dinner or leftovers with a freshly-picked bouquet from the farmer’s market or breaking out your best china when friends come over for a meal.

That’s part of making every day a celebration: understanding that when we direct our energy to what’s important, the residual magic is more impactful than we could at first believe.

How to Set a Table: 3 Table Settings for all Occasions

If you’re ready to learn how to set the table for everyday dinners, casual gatherings, and formal affairs alike, keep reading—this guide has you covered.

Basic Table Setting

Our weeknight evening meals can often take place in a frenzy. If you’re the parents of littles, then you know that the shuffle from school to sports to pick-up can be a lot. And getting dinner on the table is a feat in and of itself. This is not the time to go over the top (if you even have the energy to consider doing so… ). Instead, we’re keeping things simple and streamlined. For a basic table setting, all you’ll need is a placemat, flatware, a dinner plate, drinking glass, and a napkin.

If you want to—and have the time to—make this meal a little more special, pop a seasonal bundle of flowers in your cart when you do your dinner shopping. Even just a single stem in a bud vase surrounded by a few tea lights can go a long way.

Basic Table Setting Instructions

Just because we’re keeping things basic doesn’t mean you can’t infuse a little personality into your set-up. We love incorporating accents of color here and there with whatever is in our linen drawer. This is not the time to stress over matching sets.

  1. Cover the table as you see fit. Placemats keep things clean and easy, especially if you’re dining with littles. However, we also love the look of a breezy cotton or linen tablecloth draped over the table. A machine-washable cotton or linen tablecloth means you can throw it in the laundry right after dinner.
  2. Set your dinner plate in the middle of the table setting or placemat. No charger needed.
  3. Lay the napkin to the left of your dinner plate. When it comes to a basic table setting, you can either go with this option or place the napkin on top of the dinner plate for a little elegant flair. Bonus points if you incorporate an accent color that’ll pop off your dinner plate.
  4. Set your flatware. Place the fork to the left of your dinner plate (on your napkin), the knife to the right of your dinner plate, and the spoon to the right of your knife.
  5. Set the water glass. Your glass goes in the top right corner of your setting, above the knife.

Casual Table Setting

Casual gatherings are centered around intimacy. Versus a more formal affair, you’re likely to have fewer guests—and more often than not, diners who are well-acquainted with one another. Even if that isn’t the case, a casual setting allows you to experiment and explore your own creativity when it comes to the table, adding detail where inspiration calls. Whether it be a custom printed menu, a DIY floral arrangement, or a creative napkin display, know that just because you’re going laid-back doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.

With the exception of a few added layers and flourishes, the casual table setting closely mimics the basic setup. However, you may be serving multiple courses during this meal. In that case, you’ll want to incorporate a soup bowl and a salad plate into your setting. As a rule of thumb, only set out the dishes, flatware, and glasses that your menu calls for. There’s no need to go above and beyond (worse comes to worst, it’ll just confuse your guests!).

As for the charger (the decorative plate serving as the base of your dinnerware), you can either opt in or out for a casual place setting. The charger is generally reserved for more formal tables, but if you’d like to accent your plating with one, go ahead. Just be sure to use more laid-back materials, such as rattan or wood.

Casual Table Setting Instructions

  1. Set a linen tablecloth or placemats. In the case of a casual table setting, we prefer a linen tablecloth. But it’s all up to your own design preferences—elegant placemats can work just as well.
  2. Lay a dinner plate in the middle of each setting. Next, layer on a salad plate. If you’re serving a soup course, set the soup bowl on top.
  3. Get creative with your napkins and flatware. The general rules of a basic table setting apply here—go to the left of or on top of your dinner plate with the napkin and your flatware follows suit. However, if you want to change things up and get creative, we love napkins on top of your plates and bundling flatware in drinking glasses. A natural flourish like an herb spring or seasonal flower is a nice accent on top of your napkin.
  4. Place your water and wine glass. The water glass is in the top right corner of your setting, with your wine glass placed beside and a little up of it. If you’re serving red and white, use both glasses. If not, use just whatever you’re serving.

Formal Table Setting

When it comes to setting a formal table, remember: formal does not equate to stuffy. While it might be the most nerve-wracking of the occasions presented here—formal gatherings often mean a multi-course meal, accompanied by different wine pairings—you’re more than welcome to add a little flair to your table. You may be tempted to opt for matching elements, but we encourage whimsy and bringing an eclectic feel to the setting. This can be achieved through vintage pieces, mismatching wares, and thrifted designs you’ve collected over the years. Just because it’s a formal affair doesn’t mean you can’t weave interest and originality into your table.

Formal Table Setting Instructions

  1. Opt for a tablecloth. The formal table setting is all about setting a strong, design-forward foundation for the elements to come. A single-toned tablecloth creates a clean landscape for the other components you’ll use to build your tablescape. And to be clear: there’s no need for a perfectly-starched tablecloth. We love the look of little natural texture brings to the table.
  2. Start with your centerpiece. If you’re using a longer table, go low and long with your centerpiece. Incorporate seasonal fruits, flowers, and herbs to bring color and interest to the table. We love adding a few tea lights for ambiance. The cardinal rule of centerpieces? Be sure guests can see over it and can speak to diners across the table comfortably.
  3. Lay a charger at every seating. A charger adds layered interest to the table design and creates a natural center point for the multiple plates and bowls a formal setting requires.
  4. Layer your plates. While you can certainly lay your bread and butter and salad plates to the left of the dinner plate, a formal gathering will likely mean more guests. If that’s the case, and if you want to create added dimension with height, layer your plates in the following order: the dinner plate, followed by the salad plate, the soup bowl (if serving a soup course), and then the bread plate on top.
  5. Lay a napkin to the left of the charger. To spread your setting horizontally, begin building it outwards by placing the napkin to the left of your dinner plate and charger.
  6. Add your flatware. Your dinner fork will go to the left of your plate, followed by the salad fork. To the right of your plate, place your knife, with the spoon on the outside. Lay your dessert spoon horizontally above the plates.
  7. Incorporate place cards. Place cards are a great way to use more of your creative flair. Opt for any seasonal or evergreen design you’d like or keep it simple by folding a small square of card stock in half and writing the guest’s name in legible script, placing it facing their chair. This is not only a great way for guests to find their seats, but to learn the names of those sitting around them.
  8. Finish off with drinkware. The same rules apply as with the casual table setting. Place the water glass above the dinner knife, with the white wine glass to its right and the red wine glass above, forming a triangle.