TABLE setting is the MOST exciting part of ENTERTAINING

How to Create the Perfect Table Setting stock photoValentine Table Setting

Are you one of those people that obsess about having a large group over for dinner?  

Do you also stress over setting a table?

What does make a dinner party fun?


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What if you’re having more people than you have napkins, glasses, or plates?  How do you make the table attractive without extra expense and energy?  Let’s experiment and have fun setting the table.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and then in a few months, it will be another holiday or special occasion.


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It’s fun to have many folks over.  There’s nothing wrong with buffet style and often it makes for a great casual setting.  Even then, we still want to make the house feel and look festive!

But we run out of one kind of napkin or one kind of placemat with those sorts of numbers.  Most of us buy 6-8 of one kind.  There are solutions, and they apply whether you’re having 4-6 or 8-16 guests or more.

Your first temptation is to go out and buy what you need.  But then sticker shock overcomes you.  Besides, how many times do you have a large number of people?  The solution is obvious and one we’re almost forced to do.


It’s rewarding to see it all come together when you MIX & MATCH.

Mix & Match

Let’s say you do have 15 people, coming for dinner.  Then find three different napkins and work with five of each.  Use a variety of napkin holders as well.  If you’ve got 15 people then use five different kinds of napkin holders.  The important thing is to be consistent with your inconsistency.  Does that make sense?  Put a different napkin holder on each of the five napkins.


Always be on the hunt for looks you like in magazines. House Beautiful is a valuable resource for that. But, there are hundreds of places to look.  Pinterest is PERFECT for this.

Then clip, photocopy with your phone or save the link.  You can file them in a safe place or put in a folder on your computer. Then later make the modifications that are necessary. Take a look at the picture and see how you can change the look without stressing.  If you can, invest in a solid cream or white tablecloth  (in my humble opinion, cream is softer and easier to blend.)  CREAM TABLECLOTHS from Overstock.



Take candleholders of varying size, texture, and width and mix and match.  For example, wood candle holders look great with iron. Glass candle holders of various sizes and shapes work well. Thrift stores are the perfect place to add to your collection.

Take a look at this setup for our CHRISTMAS mantle this year.  We worked with wood and metal candleholders.  The wood ones are from the fifties and found in various locations.


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If you prefer to buy them, a set like this is great.  BIRCH Candleholders from Amazon

What you want is several sets of various kinds. Then you have flexibility going forward to MIX AND MATCH.  Here’s another set of metal ones that would be fun.  Three Posts Geoff.  Clear candlestick holders are versatile and when at different heights make terrific looks.  Studio Silversmith-Crystal Candlestick.


Remember SETTING A TABLE  is like painting a blank canvas.  You want to create something that doesn’t all “matchy match.”  It’s true for salad plates too!  You can work with your theme and use many different plates. Remember this article –  Inexpensive Decor?   Check it out! I can’t wait till next Christmas to set a table for 12.  It’ll be exciting to see how this table setting with 12 individual vintage plates looks!

See the cake pedestal on the left?  That kind of look will also look great on a smaller table.


Look to your left.  Remember how we talked about using ideas you see in magazines?

Here’s my version of the picture clipped on the right from a magazine, many, many years ago.  The flowers are Alstroemeria and last and last forever in a vase. They appear similar to a lily, but smaller and more delicate.

They are NOT one of my favorite flowers.  But boy, do they give you a super, “bang for your buck!”

It’s our centerpiece for our Valentine’s Day table setting with friends. We intend to have a “Friends Love Fest!”

As far as a vase goes, another idea is to save bottles of various sizes.   These are terrific to throw multicolored sweet peas in beside each plate.  Bottles such as Balsamic Vinegar bottles work well.  Before you throw a bottle away, check to see if it would make a fun vase. Is the shape, without the label, attractive?  People use wine glasses or matching bar glasses. Why does this also work?  Because, although you’re using similar objects, the colorful flowers add the needed variety.

Back to this lemon and lime Alstroemeria centerpiece.  It should last at least 8-14 days.  But, only, if kept filled with fresh water. Here’s a post that discusses this flower, the Alstroemeria.  They grow prolifically in most gardens.  This article describes it as a flower that – “symbolizes friendship and devotion.”   It lasts and lasts so this is apropos.  Check it out:  The Flower Expert.  They are in any grocery store.  Trader Joe’s is a ready supplier of terrific fresh flowers at low prices!

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If you like this fruit filled vase look, here’s another wonderful reference.  Pictured to the right with examples:  Blooms by the Box

The thing to focus on is that elements must work in unison on your table.  But, as said earlier, it doesn’t have to be one big matched event.  Yes – pick flowers that blend with your napkin colors.  Contrasting colors work well too.  If color blending is difficult, look here:  COLORS FOR TABLE SETTINGS.   Make sure your flower centerpieces are at the right height or that you look through them.  You don’t want to inhibit conversation.


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Sometimes the most dramatic looks are simple groupings of the same object. For example, Crabapples together in a shallow bowl. Mini-trees at Christmas create a fun look!  Lemons or artichokes are terrific as well and let’s not forget a favorite – Pomegranates.  Mini pumpkins of the same color in a flat bowl look elegant as well.



Heirloom tomatoes make a great look in a flat wooden bowl.  At Easter inexpensive plastic eggs in a large shallow bowl look sweet!  Wax candles found at your local drug store for cheap put on a Salmon plank make a fun display as well. Persimmons look fun just atop a raised cake plate. Camellias, Azaleas, or Roses of the same color look outstanding floating in a simple bowl of water.




This year for our “FRIENDS LOVE FEST” for Valentine’s Day it seemed fun to pull out an old project we did with the kids ages ago. Making these crayon melted heart shapes was always a treat.  Every February at my store I’d hang these in the sunniest window and customers would think they were glass until they got up close. You and your kids or grandkids can make them also into a mobile or just drape them in a sun- filled window.


They appear to be stained glass.  First, grate some crayons as shown upper left.  Put the grated crayons between two sheets of waxed paper with the coated side in – like a sandwich.  Then iron them on both sides and watch the colors spread into fantastic rainbows.  If you don’t feel comfortable drawing the hearts, then get a paper copy of several Valentine’s and use them as a guide.  Then cut them out. These hearts will look stunning in a sunny window!  Look at the ones featured below:


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It’s amazing how beautiful these look in the light of day shining like glass! You can make them the centerpiece of your table. It’s a super project for your grandchildren or children. They can easily participate and will LOVE the collage effect of ironing these hearts has on the crayons! What child doesn’t like RAINBOWS?




Check out this mobile below made with fishing line and a stapler.  Our dining room has little direct sunlight.  It works against capturing a quality representation.  These hearts would also be beautiful stapled to twine and draped across a sunny window in a child’s room!   The sun makes them look radiant!


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Do you sometimes struggle with a birthday celebration and want to make a great cake?  Have you ever tried a SUGAR LITHO? It’s such a personal touch.  It can be your centerpiece!  Most baking supply stores have a litho machine. Just bring in your photos, and they will make them into sugar litho sheets.  You then lay them on top of your cake.  It’s an easy way to make a cake look fabulous for a special birthday or anniversary (Unfortunately, I was having too much fun to photograph some of my best litho examples.)  It will most assuredly put huge grins on your GUEST of HONOR!  One can imagine the possibilities here for a whole host of celebrations.


Haley's Grad cakeJohn's 70th Birthday CakeThe store will charge you for each sugar litho.  So use a glue stick and place your photos on a sheet of paper.  Placing them just how you prefer them to sit on top of the cake. Then they will copy this on one single sheet of sugar litho.  Instead of getting sheet after sheet for each individual photo.  It’s cheaper and easier.   Either way, it’s not expensive.  Plus, this makes it easier for you to apply.  Do not get the sugar litho warm.  Keep the cake in a cool dark place and don’t put the litho on until the day of the party.  You can put the cake in the fridge with the litho on it – if necessary.  I would put it in a cake box to keep moisture out.If you prefer, a logo versus a photo-litho.   You can check them out here:
Sweet Express Images.


But,  in my mind – “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

Photos of your loved one, as a baby or as they graduate, or at their wedding, make fabulous cakes.

You will blow your guests away with this trick!

Let’s get back to the whole notion of table setting.  Remember, LESS IS MORE!  Start several days before your dinner party.  Stand back after each addition to your table and ask yourself.   Should I add this or subtract other items until YOU are pleased.

If your gut says, it’s gotten too busy, then TRUST it!

Trust your GUT

Hope this helps you with fresh ideas for your next dinner party. Look for more posts onFlourless Chocolate CAKE

TABLE SETTING – it truly is the best part of entertaining! 

Dinners on...gotta go now

PS – Dessert – Flour-less CHOCOLATE cake – SIMPLE to prepare and tasty!