How to dress a delectable dining table

We don’t entertain often, but when friends come for dinner I like to make a little extra effort. The toys get put away, the powder room gets a good scrub-down and the dining room table — usually littered with papers and Lego and other assorted bits and bobs — gets cleared and set for a proper, civilized (!) meal. Dinner could be nowhere near ready when guests arrive but if the table’s in order, I feel like I’ve got things somewhat together. More importantly, it makes guests feel welcome. I mean, how fancy do you feel when you walk into someone’s home and the table’s set with pretty dishes and linens, sparkling glasses, maybe even a centrepiece or two? With a little creativity, you can take your own table from meh to marvelous. Here are some tips from a workshop I went to this week at Urban Barn, called How to Dress a Delectable Dining Table. (This is not a sponsored post, I just love Urban Barn and want to share what I learned.)

urban barn table 1

Stunning, isn’t it? The layered centrepiece, the harmony of colours, the inviting seating — apart from the empty wine holder (wouldn’t it be more inviting with a few bottles?), this table is perfection.  We’ll take a closer look at it in a sec. The tip here is to consider your guest’s comfort, particularly if they’re sitting on a hard table or bench. Here they’ve provided a little cush for the tush by removing the insert from one of their mongolian toss cushions and draping the cover over the bench. If you were dining outside, you could toss a cozy throw over the back of a chair.

urban barn table 2

Mini pumpkins at each place setting add a playful touch and can double as a fun take-home gift. Perhaps you want to incorporate a little something in your decor that guests can take away?

Notice too the layered placements in leather and what looks like bamboo. They add texture to the scene, particularly in contrast to the rustic wood of the table. Don’t be afraid to mix linens and even china, for that matter. The blend of new and vintage dishes and glassware provides additional interest. (It’s all new here, but it’s a great tip.)

urban barn table corn

Remember to keep salt and pepper shakes and condiments within easy reach. If you have an especially long table, you might want to use a few sets of each.

urban barn centrepiece

The beauty of this centrepiece is in the layering, from the low grasses, corn and pussywillows, to the larger gourds and the tall vase.  Keep your taller elements (i.e. those that would block a guest’s view of the person across from them) on the table until you’re ready to serve the meal, then take them away and put them in the spot you’ve already identified they’ll go. (Because you figured that out before the guests came, you smart cookie, you.) Dim the lights, light some tea lights if you like (mind the foliage!) and enjoy!

urban barn second table

Here’s store manager, Lorrie Shirton, demonstrating how a rustic table like this Ironside extension dining table can accommodate a variety of styles. People are moving away from tablecloths to expose the weathered wood, all the more charming for its dings and dents.

urban barn feminine

In this feminine setting we again we see the layering of placemats, with the chevron one folded into thirds and tucked underneath the dinner plate. What do you think? Will you try this at home?

urban barn masculine

Same table, this time what you could call a masculine setting. You can’t see it here, but colours and textures of the placemats and the dishes coordinate with the fabric and rich wood of the dining chair.

Lorrie switched out some elements of the masculine setting to show how ones from the feminine setting could work just as well. Experiment! Have fun! Mix and match!

You can also take a lot of inspiration from your napkins. Speaking of napkins, do you know the proper place to put one in this setting? If you said under the forks, you’re correct! (And here I’ve been putting them under the knife and spoon for years! I’m so uncouth.)

urban barn third table

The third and final vignette creates drama by Irish contrasting the rustic Irish coast extension table with elegant table dressing.

urban barn third table close up

Here they’ve added a butler table for extra storage, in this case the mugs and cups for tea and coffee after dinner. If you’re serving serving family style or buffet and don’t have a sideboard, an extra table like this one can provide a handy additional surface for clearing or holding additional items on your menu.

Looking for an easy way to add a pop of colour? Try a bowl of apples, oranges or pears. Make a paper flag from a toothpick, stick it in a piece of fruit and you’ve got a quick and easy place card.

urban barn third table centrepiece

If your guests are allergic to flowers and plants, candles might be the way to go. Just remember to use unscented candles so they don’t interfere with the food.

urban barn third table place setting

Simple, inviting, delectable dining.

Which tips will you use? I’d love to hear some of yours too. Please share in the comments!

10 thoughts on “How to dress a delectable dining table

  1. I like the look of white dishes. I figure that I can jazz them up or down with accessories.

    I have beets in the garden still. Have any ideas how I could incorporate them into my table. Besides serving them for dinner of course 🙂

    Thanks for sharing what you learned with us. I would own one of everything from Urban Barn if I could.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

  2. That fall table up top is AMAZING! I want to buy everything in that picture and put it into my own dining room. I’m so glad I ran across this post, because my table is never short of looking like a catch all…. it could definitely use a little spruce up. Matter of fact, this makes me want to buy a new table all together! Looking forward to getting to know you better and reading future posts!

  3. I have never been to Urban Barn because the window settings are too much for me. I can’t trust myself with such beautiful things. My mom always goes all out and makes us feel special, and I admit I think with 30 on the horizon I may need to up my party host skills. Thank you for the beautiful post Julie, as always your pictures make me yearn for more.

  4. All of these settings are gorgeous. I particularly love the table with the bench seat and Mongolian seat covers. And the new take on pumpkin soup 🙂 I’m inspired now to step up my table setting game. I may need a visit to Urban Barn.

  5. how beautiful !! how about the place cards being made out of your cookies with your guests names on them made by those talented kiddos of yours


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