How to Set a Timeless Table—3 Different Ways

Including everything you need to get the look.

November  5, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

In preparation for the quickly approaching holiday entertaining season (hooray!), we’ve turned our attention to the backdrop for all your holiday feasts—the dining table. Setting a seasonally aligned table doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy pumpkin-shaped plates and acorn-embellished napkin rings (although, if that’s your thing, we say go for it!).

For those who appreciate a more subtle take on autumnal themes, we’ve honed in on three design concepts that have all the warmth that you’d hope for when gathering in fall, but can easily be created using pieces that work all year round. Keep reading to identify the style that speaks most to you—as well as the five key pieces you need to get the look.

1. Modern Farmhouse

Pairing sleek, modern pieces like two-toned flatware and stackable wine glasses with rustic tabletop elements like cabbage-leaf plates and gingham place mats creates an appealing juxtaposition of disparate aesthetics. Pull it all together by layering an assortment of fairytale pumpkins in dusty tones and fragrant greenery down the center of your table.

Get The Look

Anthropologie Ceramic Cabbage Plate | Shop on Anthropologie, $34 Photo by Anthropologie
Artifacts Rattan Charger | Shop on Amazon, $18 Photo by Amazon

This ceramic plate—of the cabbage variety—is cast and hand-glazed in Portugal. Choose from two sizes (salad and dinner) and from four different colors. Layer it over natural, textural elements—like this 13-inch rattan charger—which lends a nice, unfussy vibe to the overall design of the table.

DII Reversible Check Placemat | Shop on Walmart, $15 Photo by Walmart
Bysta Stainless Steel Flatware Set | Shop on Amazon, $50 Photo by Amazon

Whether you prefer a small or large check, you’ll be covered with this reversible, 100 percent cotton design. Top it off with sculptural, two-toned flatware, which feels like jewelry for your table.

Pared down in the perfect way, this simple glassware not only looks beautiful on a table, but thanks to its stackability, it’s also practical and easy to store once the dishes are done.

2. Warm Minimalism

Seemingly simple, this look gets its soul from lots of little details—patinated brass candlesticks, cut-crystal drinkware, and raw-edge natural linen. Together, these elements create a table that’s pared down but in a thoughtfully considered way. Layer in an heirloom gourd or two, and a few sprigs of autumn eucalyptus to complete the look.

Get The Look

Crate & Barrel Copper Plated Charger Plate | Shop on Crate & Barrel, $15 Photo by Crate & Barrel
Blomus Sablo Ceramic Dinnerware | Shop on Food52, $42 Photo by Food52

Soft white dinnerware pops against a copper-colored metal charger. Don’t be afraid to mix metals on one table—copper, brass, and silver all work well together and make the elements feel collected. And while guests likely won’t turn the plates over to look at the unglazed bottoms and edges, they add a nice subtle dose of earthiness to this design.

We love the idea of going heavy on the candlelight—get enough candlesticks to scatter them down the entire length of your table, with room to pepper in a few pumpkins and greenery. They’ll look especially lovely with vintage glassware collected from flea markets across the French countryside—and they make for a fun tidbit to share with your guests. A special finishing touch, woven napkins are a nice textural contrast to the more refined elements on this table.

3. Color, Color, Color

This design assigns a different hue to each guest—and asks the host to collect a fun assortment of mix-and-match plates, drinkware, and linens. This design’s multicolor palette, while a little unexpected for fall, works because the tones are muted. Bonus points if you add a floral arrangement in coordinating shades.

Get The Look

Hawkins New York Simple Candle Holder | Shop on Food52, $32+ Photo by Ty Mecham
100-Percent Linen Napkins | Shop on BedThreads, $50 Photo by BedThreads

With their clean lines and streamlined silhouette, these candlesticks are a great addition to a modern table and pair beautifully with colorful tapers and 100 percent French flax linen napkins in a rainbow of on-trend shades. Time to mix and match to your heart’s desire.

Estelle’s glassware is hand-blown in Poland by artisans, and comes in 16 colors. We love the stemless style for this particular table, but they’re also available with stems (if you prefer), and in coupe and martini shapes.

Echo the curves of the stemware through dinnerware and serveware with influential mid-century designer Russel Wright’s signature ceramics. They're handmade in the U.S. and comes in nine colors that pair beautifully together. Finally, complete your multicolored table with elegant, handmade tapers each dipped 35 times (!!) to create their rich, irresistible color.

Which tablescape recipe is your fave? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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Cat Dash

Written by: Cat Dash

Design editor & prop stylist—on the hunt for beauty always