Living Space

Living Space: How to set a beautiful table

Tribune Media ServicesMarch 15, 2013 

No fancy centerpiece? Arrange napkins in your wine glasses to add height.


Whether you’re throwing a bridal shower, hosting a holiday party, or just want to make an evening meal special, adding something extra to your table set-up will make the occasion more memorable.

Place-setting rules

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to set a beautiful table, there is a prescribed pattern for how plates, silverware and glasses are arranged. For the basics, visit There you’ll find the precise way to lay out your table, with simple tips, such as the fact that knife blades should always point toward the plate. Under “Table Setting Guides,” you’ll find the correct way to arrange a formal or informal setting.

Once this is established, your creativity can take over.

Pull it all together

Today’s homeowners often have several sets of china, but there’s no reason these can’t be combined. China can be mixed with porcelain or crystal. In fact, it’s the mix that makes it interesting. Look for commonalities in your serving ware, such as color, and work with table linens or flowers to pull out a color to emphasize.

Mix it up

Don’t be afraid to mix patterns, either. Even if your china patterns are different, you might be surprised how well they work with a plain white plate between them. Have a lot of white plates? Add a colorful or patterned napkin between a dinner and salad plate. Or spread table runners across the table to work as two placemats. For drinks, try mixing different glassware types. Mix colored glasses with clear for a fun, funky look. Mix up your cutlery, too.

Add height

If you’re looking for a way to add instant impact, go for height. A tall centerpiece can look fabulous. Instead of flowers and candlesticks, why not use a figurine flanked with fruit and flowers? Try a large porcelain bowl filled with blossoms or a sculpture to draw the eye to the center of the table. No time to shop for just the right piece? Simply use your wine glasses filled with napkins in an interesting fold ( to create visual interest quickly and easily.

Add whimsy

Create your own napkin rings by hot-gluing bobbles to ponytail holders. For something more substantial, buy lengths of copper tubing to wrap into spirals. Finish the end with a crystal or bead and the top with an artificial flower for a one-of-a-kind napkin ring.


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