The Pioneer Woman Tasty Kitchen
Profile photo of Erika (TK)

Let’s Talk Table Settings

Posted by in Holidays, Kitchen Talk

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Let's Talk Table Settings!

Let me start by saying this: Put me in a room and, in all likelihood, I will be the least crafty person in that room. And by crafty, I don’t mean slick or clever or sly, though that applies too. No, I mean Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, Katie Brown kind of crafty. My talent for finding innovative ways to use ordinary things does not extend beyond the usual MacGyver kind of application. Give me a handful of eucalyptus branches and I’m more likely to whittle them into arrowheads or door shims than arrange them in a pretty slender vase on a foyer table.

This week, I hope to bring together those like me with those of you who actually own slender vases and foyer tables. Although we’ll be talking about something that isn’t quite part of the meal, a well-presented table can still play a big role in bringing it all together. So our Kitchen Talk question this week is:

Do you have any tips to share for setting a beautiful table?

The holidays are coming up and I know we could all use some new ideas for making our beloved guests extra special even before the food emerges from kitchen and onto the dinner table.

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Let's Talk Table Settings!

As mentioned earlier, I have close to zero talent for setting a nice table, so my tips will be very basic. I like using chargers because I think they frame the plate nicely, and they help save space around the table when used in lieu of placemats. I also think pretty cloth napkins with a simple napkin holder are always a nice touch, along with cute place cards.

Nanci likes to go out into the garden and trim some branches with bright red berries and dark green foliage, or whatever is in season. Then she pops them into a nice vase.

Betsy shares, “Our mom used to bring in leaves from our magnolia tree, and arrange them around pretty white candles. Loved that!” She also likes doing a bunch of different colors and/or patterns of cloth napkins. Betsy loves color!

Ree loves color, too, and she prefers to rebel against all the earth tones associated with Thanksgiving and throw in purples, blues, and even bright pinks. “All the Thanksgiving food is very brown and, well, food-colored. Blues and purples are unexpected contrasts!”

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Let's Talk Table Settings!How about you? What are your neat little tricks for making your table look extra special? Come share! We’d love to hear your ideas.


Comments are closed for this recipe.

Profile photo of billiev

billiev on 12.27.2013

Shawna, we rarely put our food out on the table itself, we leave it on buffet server if we are eating in the dining room or on our kitchen bar if we are eating in the breakfast room. We do put the bread basket, butter, salt and pepper, gravy boat, etc. (the little things like that) on the table. It just seems easier for us that way and leaves room to ‘dress up’ the table if we want to.

David Donahue on 12.8.2013

We used to place a wide shallow bowl in the middle of the table partially fill with water and float Camellias with the first two leaves, smells nice too…

Shawna on 11.26.2013

I have to wonder, where do people put the food if you have such beautifully-decorated tables? Are your tables massive? At my house during the holidays, between the traditional dishes, the non-traditional dishes, and the vegetarian dishes, we barely have enough room for the food. I feel like I’m missing a key tip here… do you take the decorations off the table when it comes time to eat?

Sam on 11.22.2013

It’s different every year at my house. This year I’ll spread colorful leaves from my trees down the center of the table like a runner, and set a a big pumpkin carved with a leaf design all the way around it in the middle of the table, light it up, and use it for a centerpiece. I’ll use vintage martini glasses at each place setting for floating candles. I dip the rims first in corn syrup and then some coarse sugar crystals which sparkle when the candles are lit, fill 2/3 with water, and set a little candle to float in each one. Last week I found some really cute maple leaf shaped candles, and will use orange sanding/decorator sugar on the rims of the glasses. A couple of Xmas’s ago, I used snowflake floating candles and chunky white sugar crystals for the rims. I also use individual salt and pepper shakers, and make butter “rosettes” with a pastry bag or mold it into appropriate shapes in chocolate molds and put a few pieces on little piles of crushed ice in tiny clear glass dishes and set them next to the S & P shakers by each plate.

Profile photo of Kari Lindsay

Kari Lindsay on 11.22.2013

I think food looks great on white dishes, and I change out the table linens (although I do love white linens as well). For a sit down dinner; rather than a large center piece and tall candles, I like to have lots of small glasses with a few blossoms and plenty of votives in carved out mini pumpkins for Thanksgiving, for Christmas just I just lay some tree branches and sprinkle some pine cones or small ornaments depending on my mood.

Mindy on 11.21.2013

That literally made me laugh out loud…I too have the same crafting abilities….but boy can I McGyver things!! Although I did pick up the crocheting chain stitch and macrame from my mother, THAT was it for me….but I can cook, bake and garden (something my mother never did when I was a kid) like my maternal grandmother did, or so my mom tells me. Thanks for all of the ideas, I will pass them on to her so she can perfect them, and then someday I will just remake them!!

Profile photo of WestieMom

WestieMom on 11.21.2013

Wow – I feel inadequate as I didn’t even notice the knife! I do love these table-setting ideas, though; and I’m definitely trying Elly’s empty can votive candle holder suggestion! I do aspire to be more creative in the tablescape department (I’m much better at the cooking & baking part) so last Thanksgiving (at each place setting) I placed little votive candles in holders with cranberries. Beautiful effect…unfortunately 2 guest burned themselves reaching for food! Just an FYI to keep those lit votives away from between a guest and something yummy! Thanks again for the ideas & great photos :)

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.21.2013

    We didn’t notice the knife either, obviously. You won’t find perfection here! But we do our best. Good tip on the votives! We do aspire to avoid burns and fires. :)

Elly on 11.21.2013

“empty cans to make candle holders that were raved about! I just add water, freeze and use a nail and hammer to punch holes around for decorations”
I LOVE THIS! I’ve seen them and wondered how they were punched without smooshing the can. Thank you. :)

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.21.2013

    Love this one. Thanks, Elly!

Beth B on 11.21.2013

Thank you for mentioning the placement of the knife! That’s all I could see when I first looked at the photos. The table settings are beautiful though. Love this post.

KrissyC E'sMommy on 11.21.2013

I am far from fancy when it comes to table settings. For ordinary dinners, generally the food takes center stage. For holidays I like to decorate a tad since I do host for my inlaws. Generally I go with a table cloth, and whatever decorations match the holidays. At Thanksgiving I do little pumpkins (since here in MN the leaves are all brittle, and gone by Thanksgiving) and I like to put pretty colored candles in little jelly jars. Since I often burn the candles (votives) in place of ribbon around the tops, I use the canning bands, without the lids, and let my daughter paint them various colors that match the season. I don’t do fancy plates, or napkins as we are a very simple family, but my daughter does make little place cards for everyone invited to place around the table. For thanksgiving she usually makes little turkies with names written on the bellies and little cardboard feet as a stand. Last Easter my daughter did little easter egg holders made from cardboard toilet paper rolls cut in half, wrapped in ribbon and decorated construction paper and used plastic eggs filled with candies as a name card. Beautiful does not have to be expensive or fancy. Ordinary mason jars make perfect vases (drop some colored marbles in the bottom to play them up a bit and wrap with ribbon…or use some paints and decorate with flowers and the like) and there are no better artists for name cards than little kids! I’ve even used empty cans to make candle holders that were raved about! I just add water, freeze and use a nail and hammer to punch holes around for decorations. Crafty does not always have to mean making something like martha stewart, it just means to use what you have to make something pretty.

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.21.2013

    Such great ideas for involving the kids with homemade elements. Makes for a really special table. Thanks for sharing, Krissy!

Becky J on 11.20.2013

I was going to comment on the knife in the first photo too, but see someone already did. :)

Table setting ideas I use are to have small individual butter dishes and salt and pepper bowls if there is enough space for them. Votive candle holders at each place setting add an extra touch as well.

Festive napkins folded in a pretty shape or in a ring and set on top of the dinnerware is another option instead of beside the plate. Tucking a pretty colored leaf in the napkin is fun.

Profile photo of grammiecooks

grammiecooks on 11.20.2013

Hi there! I totally admire your desire to set a lovely table and feel that it is important, even for everyday family dinners. It makes even leftovers taste better and sets a great example for children. That being said, if the first photo with the white dinner plate and soup plate is yours, the knife should be turned with the blade facing in toward the plate in order to be correctly set.

Profile photo of Patricia @ ButterYum

Patricia @ ButterYum on 11.20.2013

I like to set the table with pretty china, flatware, stemware, and individual salt and pepper shakers – then sprinkle coloful fall leaves, acorns, and tiny votive candles all about.

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.21.2013

    Love this approach. No enormous centerpiece required. Thanks, Patricia!

Colleen (Souffle Bombay) on 11.20.2013

I cracked up at your description of your lack of talent in the craft department….were we separated at birth (let’s not talk about wrapping things)? I am totally the same. It’s horrible AND I too often my MacGyver-like skills!! Once in a while I do come up with something pretty that I am proud of. For Thanksgiving I like using natural things – like things from outside as well as fruits and veggies. But honestly I let the food take the stage…that is easier for me. I got the talent with food…my sister got the talent for decorating – together we can throw fabulous gatherings/parties :)

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.21.2013

    That’s what family is for, Colleen! I’m right there with ya!

Tara W on 11.20.2013

I use my Fiesta and mix up the colors, with white linen napkins, and add some greenery or pumpkins and apples. Candles always dress up a table.

kerry on 11.20.2013

My father in law is a master table setter, and as far as I can tell his main elements of success are:
1) vegetation. This is usually from something growing outside, but he has also been known to fill a vase with beautiful produce (i’m thinking specifically of those mini peppers that look like Jalapenos, but are red, orange and yellow and not hot)
2) don’t try to be so orderly. My inclination is always to have an even number of everything, evenly spaced. Then while I am trying to figure out why it doesn’t look like Martha just came by, he will walk by and move stuff, sprinkle leaves randomly around etc, and inevitably it improves the look.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

    Profile photo of Betsy (TK)

    Betsy (TK) on 11.20.2013

    Sprinkling leaves! Love it. We will try this.