These arrangements will inspire you to doll up an average weeknight dinner, and help you sail through the prep for the most formal affairs.
Pretty up a spontaneous get-together with color, pattern and any unusual finds you're tempted to try. Family dinners never looked so good.
Pick rich gemstone hues to balance out geometric elements. "The graphic black-and-white stripes are surprising against the muted jewel tones," designer Oliver M. Furth explains.
"Tablesettings are like guest lists: Diversity is key," says Bunny Williams. "Try patterned tablecloths, palm leaves as placemats and rattan chargers for layer upon layer of interest."
Pile on textiles in the same hue for a lush yet cohesive look. Layering antique white place mats and a tablecloth adds "texture rather than warring colors or patterns," Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi says.
Bring in the outdoors by pairing potted plants with fresh bouquets, like this fall tablescape by Susan and William Brinson. Guests can enjoy the mini garden rain or shine.
An elaborate space calls for a colorful table. California designer Mark D. Sikes drew inspiration from this room's Moroccan-style wallpaper to pair the patterned plates and textiles.
Set a table with gilded pineapples and palm baubles to evoke balmy breezes during dinner.
Swap kitchen chairs for colorful stools to transform a dining space fast, says Christina Stembel. Her quick fixes? Use velvet ribbon as a stand-in for a formal table runner, and hang greenery to save valuable tabletop space.
Showcase vintage bottles as bud vases and up the relaxed vibe by skipping napkin rings and stemmed wine glasses. This spring party thrown by Susan Feldman looks both casual and refined.
A night of Chinese takeout doesn't seem right for a formal dining room, but a quick bite in the living room deserves more than just greasy cartons and paper napkins. Analisse Taft styled this dinner party with fine china and cute tchotchkes usually associated with a home-cooked meal.
Alessandra Branca stuck to a patriotic color scheme for a casual lunch with friends. The exaggerated borders of the bowls, plates and chargers pull together the rest of the scene.
If you're dressing up for the occasion, don't forget to deck out the table the same way. Pull out all the stops: stemmed glassware, elaborate centerpieces and of course the good silverware.
Branch candlesticks, plants and nature-inspired china, napkins and placemats (those are real Monstera leaves!) bring a table to life.
A clear sightline can't be overstated. "Keep your centerpieces low so your guests can talk to each other without needing a chiropractor afterward," says Tatiana Sorokko.
Layer your way to an elegant look, inserting metallic accents to pick up glimmering candlelight."Use a tablecloth and a placemat — or two — and a beautiful charger. The more the merrier," says Amen Wardy, one of Aspen's legendary retailers. The colored glasses cast off another lovely glow.
Before splurging on contemporary place settings, look online (and in thrift shops) for beautiful sets of antique china and silver flatware, recommends Bunny Williams. They'll feel more special to guests than brand-new ones.
For a romantic fall table, move beyond your basic tea lights to a more sophisticated type of lighting. "Candle lamps are a joy," says William Yeoward. "The height of the flame stays constant, and you can change the color of the shade to change the atmosphere."
Novice florists can nail a bouquet by choosing monochromatic blooms and a matching vase."I love those voluptuous peonies and roses mixed with the fragile viburnums," says interior designer Marshall Watson. "I just gathered them from the garden and stuck them in that creamware footbath."
If you're short on fresh flowers, think outside the box for a centerpiece that can also double as a conversation starter. "I select artifacts my children or I have collected," says home furnishings designer Jan Barboglio. "These pieces have a richness of spirit, a softness of age and a story."
Calligraphy or chicken scratch, a thoughtful note never disappoints. "Always write your own place cards, even if your handwriting is quirky," says designer Thomas O'Brien. "It makes the setting more personal."
"The table is crowded enough to feel cozy, but it has breaks to create calm moments," Bronson van Wyck says of this sculptural display. "Anything tall is thin, so nobody's view is blocked."
Modern flatware can update even your great-grandmother's china. "If everything is vintage, it looks like a jumble," says event planner Tara Guérard. "Layering in contemporary elements keeps things clean, and then the special pieces can really stand out."
Don't underestimate the value of a little shimmer. Designer Laura Kirar set this glimmering table for a fall dinner party. "I kept high objects on one end and draped the gold mesh runner down the center, creating the effect of a waterfall," she says.
After you nail all the details, don't forget to enjoy your own party. "Plan everything, do everything, then let it go," says fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
Pack a visual punch like one of these monochrome tables. Just stay within your chosen color palette for a wow-worthy first impression.
This whimsical tablescape is colorful enough to wake everyone up for Sunday brunch.
Rattan chargers and clear blue goblets help designer Michelle Nussbaumer's red library pop in this intimate table setting. "There's something fun and sexy about eating somewhere other than your dining room," she says.
Make a solid first impression with bold hues — and lots of it. "I want my guests to walk in, see the table and know that the night is going to be special," says tabletop expert Kim Seybert.