Tabletop styling by Marie Flanigan Interiors. Photography by Marie Flanigan Interiors.
With the holiday season just around the corner, now is a good time to try to slow down and appreciate the beauty of fall before we begin decking the halls. As focal points and places to gather, our tabletops present wonderful opportunities to embrace an autumn vibe, so we reached out to five experts across the country for advice on how to elevate our everyday table décor. Here, they share recommendations on everything from seasonally inspired floral arrangements to organic elements to pattern-mixing and more.
Let your linens guide you. If you’re at a loss for where to begin when designing your table, Marie Flanigan, principal at Marie Flanigan Interiors in Houston, Texas, finds her color inspiration in linens. From there, she threads those same hues throughout the glassware, chargers, plates, candles, and especially flowers. You can see how this plays out in the photo above, where traditional fall colors mix with less expected hues that provide interesting contrast and a fresh look.
Incorporate handmade items. Courtney C. Peters, owner and designer at Courtney C. Peters Interior Design in Jackson, Mississippi, tends to gravitate toward handmade items from talented artisans here in the U.S. “There’s something special about being able to use something made by hand for your family gatherings,” she says. “It’s just so much more authentic.” Whether you’re choosing place settings, serving pieces, glassware, or vases, incorporating handmade items into your tablescape will add a lovely organic feel and warmth that is perfect for this time of year.
Mix in old with new. To create an inviting table, Flanigan loves to use both new and heirloom pieces in her designs. “Start your table with the items that mean the most to you, maybe it’s your grandmother’s stemware or family china, and then fill the place settings with the remaining pieces.” In this vein, Peters likes to add one-of-a-kind crystal candlesticks to the table to convey an intimate yet eclectic aesthetic.
Layer in patterns. Bringing varying patterns into your table décor is a stylish and surefire way to add interest. “I rely heavily on layering in patterns,” Amy Studebaker, owner and principal designer at Amy Studebaker Design in Saint Louis, Missouri, says. She recommends choosing a consistent color present in all materials to make the look cohesive, and then layering a patterned tablecloth with a patterned placemat and patterned napkin.
Bring in flowers. One of the easiest ways to make any meal feel like an occasion is to have flowers on the table. Martha Schneider, owner/lead designer at La Maison Home Boutique and Trellis Floral Boutique in Raleigh, North Carolina, recommends two options for florals. The first is a low centerpiece container (or a carved-out pumpkin), which she likes to fill with barista roses, cockscomb, celosia, fall hydrangea, and ranunculus, as well as some small kale heads and berry branches for texture. Alternatively, she suggests using many different vases of varying sizes filled with a mix of fall flowers. “It’s always a good idea to add a few gourds in between the vases to round out your design,” she adds. Meanwhile, Studebaker likes the sophisticated charm of white mini pumpkins for a centerpiece.
Look to your landscape. Peters points out that a quick scouting session around your yard can reap wonderful benefits. Freshly cut branches—bare or with greenery—can add warmth and interest to any tablescape. For her part, Studebaker loves trimming fresh magnolia branches and placing them in a silver bowl with a few pinecones, creating a simple, classic arrangement.
Make it last. If your decorating philosophy is more one-and-done than continually mixing it up, Jill Self, owner and principal designer at Sticks and Stones Design and Furniture in Park City, Utah, has a solution. She likes to create a still life down the center of her dining table and sideboard using naturally shed antlers, leaves, feathers, pinecones, acorns, pumpkins, cut and potted flowers, and autumn-themed ribbon that lasts from early September though Thanksgiving. “I always include lots and lots of candles,” she adds. “Candles make everything beautiful, and I light them every night.”
TSG Tip 405 from Marie Flanigan, principal at Marie Flanigan Interiors in Houston, Texas; Courtney C. Peters, owner and designer at Courtney C. Peters Interior Design in Jackson, Mississippi; Amy Studebaker, owner and principal designer at Amy Studebaker Design in Saint Louis, Missouri; Martha Schneider, owner/lead designer at La Maison Home Boutique and Trellis Floral Boutique, in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Jill Self, owner and principal designer at Sticks and Stones Design and Furniture in Park City, Utah. Marie Flanigan Interiors appears in The Scout Guide Houston. Courtney C. Peters Interior Design appears in The Scout Guide Jackson. Amy Studebaker Design appears in The Scout Guide Saint Louis. La Maison Home Boutique and Trellis Floral Boutique appear in The Scout Guide Triangle–Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill. Sticks and Stones Design and Furniture appears in The Scout Guide Park City.