Originally Published on December 10, 2019. Last Updated on August 18, 2022.
When we’re styling our dining photos we like to pretend we’re actually throwing a backyard get-together. We think about how many people will be attending, will we be serving a meal or just appetizers, cloth napkins or paper?
There are so many options when you’re pulling a table together (real or pretend!).To help you with your own gatherings, we’ve compiled our favorite tips for setting the perfect table below. Happy planning!
Choose A Color Scheme
First step to creating a glorious outdoor table setting is to choose a color scheme. There are no ironclad rules, but when selecting your colors you can stick to one family (warm colors, for example) and then add two neutral hues like brown and white. Or you can select complementary colors like burgundy, pink, and mustard with a couple of coordinating neutral tones.
Use the decorations you already own as a starting point and work from there. You want your home to flow naturally, so stick to prominent colors around your home and yard to stay on the right track.
Don’t know where to start? Several online tools exist that take the guesswork out of selecting a decor color scheme. Canva and ColorSnap allow you to upload a photo and receive automatically generated color schemes based on the image. Coolers.co and Colormind are also effective color scheme generators that will help you build a theme from scratch.
Texture, & Pattern
Table Cloths & Table Runners
The foundation of a dynamic al fresco table setting is a unique outdoor tablecloth or table runner. Cycling between a few staple table cloths depending on the season and occasion will help transform your outdoor dining set depending on the mood you want to set and the food you plan to serve.
Tablecloths featuring patterns, prints, and multiple colors are ideal for spirited occasions from summer brunch to afternoon tea parties. For more formal occasions like a dinner party or a retirement celebration, stick with solid-color tablecloths with a texture paired with coordinating patterned napkins.
Another opportunity to add dimension is to utilize napkin rings — metal, wood, beaded, and more! There are so many options out there and a simple napkin ring can really add that extra detail to your tablescape (they’re like the earrings to an outfit).
If you’re going all out with color and pattern with your tablecloths and/or napkins, we recommend sticking to neutral tones for your plates and bowls. A simple white plate coordinates with anything!
However, if you choose to stick to a neutral decor palette with your tablecloth, or don’t use one at all, colorful plates, bowls, and serving dishes are an excellent way to add color to the table. We love pairing two different sets of dinnerware too — don’t feel you have to keep everything matchy-matchy. A soft blue dinner plate paired with a white patterned bowl, for instance, will create a layered yet still coordinated look.
Let’s Talk Glassware
Another way to add texture and color to your tablescape is with glassware — experiment with size, shape, style, and color. From a rose-hued highball glass to an amber honeycomb votive, you can rotate out distinctive glassware sets based on your drink menu and the tone you want to set for your meal.
You can even go a step further in creating a unique-to-you look and incorporate vintage glassware into your table setting (who doesn’t love a treasure hunt at the antique store?).
Incorporate Natural Elements
Extend the greenery from your yard all the way to your dining table with flourishes of flowers, succulents, herbs, and more!
The simplest way to add plants to your tablescape is at the center of the table — just the middle, or down the length of the table with a strand of greenery. Pick a vase-full of flowers from your garden or buy a simple bouquet from the market for a touch of color. Have a few potted herbs on hand? Transition them to the table for a touch of green texture for free!
If you need all available space on your table for entrees, drinks, desserts, sauces, and serving bowls, you can still invest in some potted plants to give your dining area a breath of life. Is your dining space nestled along the barrier of your deck? Fill some railing planters with zinnias or verbena to attract butterflies that will delight your guests.
A few simple potted shrubs in vertical planters in the corners of your dining space will completely change your outdoor dining experience. Maybe you would prefer to grow vines that snake down a lattice wall to provide privacy for your outdoor brunches and dinners. When it comes to greenery, the only limit is your imagination (and the amount of time you have to keep your plants watered).
Specialize Events With Small Details
We love the idea of adding an extra element to your table setting. Below are a few examples of little details that act as a cherry on top of a terrific table setting:
- For a graduation dinner or retirement party hang, a large sign or banner over a pergola to center the celebration around the guest of honor. Attendees can write messages on the sign beforehand so you can keep it as a meaningful memento.
- You can light your evening affairs with overhead lighting or lanterns, but why not illuminate your dinner with candlelight? Candles instantly cultivate a romantic mood. Instill your table setting with a historic feel with a few distressed candlesticks.
- Add inexpensive rustic details to any special occasion table setting to really shine. Wrap silverware in a napkin and add a long sprig, tied together with twine. Or place all of the plates atop an unsanded round wood charger to add an aura of enchantment.
- Hosting a fancy reception? Take your table decorations to the next level by printing custom placecards or napkin nametags for each setting. There’s no need to be a graphic designer — you can find dozens of attractive, customizable templates online.
No matter what theme you choose and how many decorations you try, a great tablescape begins with a solid foundation — you know, like a durable, weatherproof outdoor dining set constructed with genuine POLYWOOD lumber. A POLYWOOD dining set will endure summer after summer of outdoor gatherings and fall parties near the fire pit. Not to mention, you can choose between dozens of unique styles, sizes, and color schemes.
Have any additional table decor tips? Share your favorite table setting designs and tricks with us in the comments below!