This time of year, magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram are packed with dreamy images of holiday tables large enough to seat armies and piled high with picture-perfect holiday decor. Somehow, guests cheerfully manage to pass serving dishes between the towering centerpieces, candle groupings, and festive bric-a-brac.
Yeah, right. In the real world, once the food platters arrived, most of that stuff would have to go. And in the real world, dining room tables and family celebrations come in all sizes – even small. So today I’m sharing a few tips for decorating a small table without sacrificing space.
Use Scaled-Down Centerpieces
I have a tiny dining room that can only house a small table. But because my husband loves to cook the turkey, we happily host Thanksgiving.
For small holiday tables, it’s best to keep the look festive yet clutter-free. So I keep my centerpieces compact. They don’t sprawl across the table, and they are not too tall.
Take last year’s centerpiece for example.
In an urn with a small base, it didn’t take up much real estate on the table. And it was just tall enough to add interest without being a distraction.
Choose an Interesting Theme
Since I have to carefully edit what I do put on the table, I try to come up with an interesting theme. Last year it was jewel tones.
A lively tablecloth and flowers, and amethyst runners and napkins, kept the mood festive.
And the year before that, it was serene earth tones and rustic textures.
Again, these looks are clean and simple. On a small table, any more decor would add clutter.
Use Smaller Plates
Over the years, dinner plates have gotten bigger and bigger. Many modern dinner plates are 12 inches wide. Get a few too many of them on a small table and things look crowded.
For dinner parties, I often use our antique china plates which are just under 10 inches wide. They are a better scale for the table, and they still hold plenty of food.
Use Narrow Chairs
According to Emily Post, for guests to be seated comfortably there should be at least six inches between chairs. So using narrow chairs means that more chairs can be placed at the table.
Place the Silverware on the Plate
Another way to keep the look clutter-free and add the appearance of more space between place settings is to use this restaurant-inspired trick.
Rolling the silverware in the dinner napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate (as opposed to beside the plate) saves space.
Rethink the Placemats
When I’m trying to seat eight people on my small dining room table, placemats wind up too closely spaced to look good. Scaled-down chargers can be a nice alternative.
Bending the rules a little is fun too. Simply using smaller, attractive dinner napkins as placemats can work.
Last year, I placed narrow homemade runners across the width of my table to give the place settings definition without taking up space.
Which leads me to my fun new way to define a place setting without taking up any table space at all.
Put It Under Glass
When we are not hosting dinner parties, we take the leaves out of our table and it becomes a small square table – great for two to four people.
It’s an antique table from the Craftsman era, so to protect the wood – and make the table easier to clean – we had a piece of polished glass cut to fit over the top.
Sometimes we put a tablecloth under the glass and sometimes we just enjoy the look of the wood. Either way, it’s super easy to clean now. This is a wonderful option for a small table.
And it got me thinking. I started playing with ways to define place settings by placing gilded leaves – in this case, witch hazel leaves – between the tablecloth and the glass. (For how I gilded the leaves, see this post.)
They are placed fairly tight around the edge the of the plate – again keeping the look compact.
The dark tablecloth adds elegance and sets off the golden leaves.
And as you can see, the leaves are under the glass, so they don’t interfere with anything on top of the table yet they still add interest.
Leaves can also be arranged under the glass to expand the look of the centerpiece.
The possibilities here are endless. For spring and summer, flowers or fern fronds would be fun.
Of course, once we expand the table for Thanksgiving, our glass top won’t fit. But at least this started me thinking, so this year my Thanksgiving decor just might include leaves pressed under glass.
Whatever the size of your dining room table, things always turn out better when you enjoy decorating it. So don’t forget the most important tip of all: Have some fun with it!
35 Dinner Party Themes
Recently, ProFlowers reached out to me to share their wonderful post “35 Dinner Party Themes Your Guests Will Love.” It’s a compilation of dozens of creative dinner party themes with helpful filters such as style, season, and guest size to help plan the perfect holiday get together.
In addition to being packed with creative ideas, the guide is beautifully photographed. I hope you enjoy perusing it as much as I did!
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