Outdoor Wedding Reception Tablescape Inspiration. The School of Styling - How to Style a Beautiful Table. Photo by Maria Lamb. http://www.theschoolofstyling.com

Kaleb Norman James is the founder of Kaleb Norman James Design, a full service event design firm that specializes in wedding planning, floral design and event decor. Today he shares his top four tips on how to style a beautiful table!

Whether you are throwing a fancy dinner party for a few close friends or you are designing a wedding for a client, knowing how to style a table is a must-have skill.  And more than it being a great skill to have in your back pocket, it is so satisfying being able to create something beautiful!  The reason for making a table look amazing goes beyond getting a positive crowd reaction.  When we style a table, we want each person to gain an experience where they feel like they are important enough to be treated like royalty.  This means that the small details are the most important ones.  And often times are the things that make a person feel most loved.

Before talking about the actual process of styling a table, we always come up with a theme and color palette.  This will be helpful for you in the occasion that you are stumped on which piece of decor you should use or which flower choice you should go with.  You can always come back to the original theme and color scheme, which will give you a seamless design.  It is important that all elements of your table flow together.  This doesn’t mean you are prohibited to mix and match!  But, be mindful of the style of things that you are putting together.  In order to successfully relay to your guest what theme you are going for, things need to coincide with each other.

We will break it down into four main components that are necessary pieces in creating a stunning tablescape.


First of all, take into account the setting you are designing in. Are you designing al-fresco, for an outdoor patio, or are you in a formal dining room? Are you working with a rustic, exposed wood table or something more elegant with a floor-length linen? These pieces are the foundation of what you are building off of and should ultimately set the tone for your theme and color palette. You want the decorative pieces you add to your table flow, so it feels consistent and intentional.

In our world, flowers are a key piece in creating a tablescape.  It is such a natural decoration that brings life to the table. One of the things we like to create is some sort of floral arrangement that goes down the center of the table.  This makes a natural divider between the two sides and also makes the table look more complete. If you want a table to look lush and full, have your arrangements set between each of the place settings across from each other. So for a table of 8, you’d have 4 mini arrangements down the center, in between each set of plates. We love adding different heights to our centerpieces. It gives a nice contrast that especially looks brilliant in pictures. Put together a few shorter flower arrangements, paired with tall candle sticks interspersed throughout and you have your first part finished!


The second key component are your place settings. We have a serious addiction to incredible plates and chargers here at KNJ. There is something about a stunning tiered stack of plates, mixed with unique glasses and a custom menu card that just gets us excited. We like to add a personal touch to each person’s seat, whether that be as simple as a hand written place card or as detailed as their favorite treat. This small gesture shows that you thought of them amidst creating this space.  

To break down what we think a top notch place setting includes, we will start with chargers.  A lot of people underestimate the beauty of a charger. This is the larger plate that your dinner plate actually sits on. Chargers can make even a simple white plate look fancy!  Next we have the dinner plate. Depending on your color scheme, find a fun patterned plate that will make the table pop!  Since every seat has a charger and plate, you want to make sure that the design of them is the main color in your palette, due to the fact that there are so many of them.  To top off your plate, finish it with a folded napkin and a menu card. The menu card should always make a great statement and match well with whatever piece makes the loudest statement. If you have a bold color in your dinner plate, re-introduce that color in the menu card. If your napkin has a floral pattern, have your menu card tie in the same colors. Nothing should compete with each other, but rather enhance it.


One final piece you will need for your place setting is your flatware and glassware. Don’t let your mind be fooled in thinking that coordinating your theme stops at the flowers or chargers.  Even your flatware and glassware have the potential to complement the rest of your table. Our personal favorite for flatware is going with something that is different than the usual silverware you have at home. Flatware can be so boring and typical. We love using mismatched vintage silver, or finding more ornate pieces with pearl handles or wood accents. These add character and charm in an unexpected way. Next we have glassware. Glassware is really fun to play around with! We are always a fan of mixing different types. Our recommendation for finding these gems is looking high and low at your local antique shop, or even browse through places such as eBay. We’ve found some of our favorite pieces that way. We love it when we come up to a table and every setting is cohesive, but features mixed-and-matched elements. It’s like each guest is sitting down to their own piece of art, and it causes your guests to take the time to look at each place and take in the entire design.

Overall, a well designed table really comes down to how you choose to pair the items you have available. Make sure you combine pieces that make a bold statement with items that don’t overwhelm the design. If you wanted vibrant plates, we recommend choosing a softer toned tablecloth. If your plates and chargers are on the muted side, this makes room for the tablecloth to have more color or a fun pattern. Don’t be afraid to throw in some personal elements and play to your guests. They’ll love that and remember the efforts.

We hope that these tips are helpful for styling your next tablescape! Remember, it is so much more than pulling off an incredible event or well put together table. Your friends, clients and guests are going to feel so loved by the time and thought you put into the design and style of your table.  

Happy styling! We love hearing the style and ideas that other people have. Comment below with your favorite style of table or your next event that you are designing!


Website / Instagram / Pinterest / Facebook



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *