How to Set a Gorgeous Table

Erin T. Gates is a Boston-based interior designer, blogger, and curator of all things stylish. She began her blog, Elements of Style, in 2007 and formed her own design company, Erin Gates Design, shortly thereafter. Her work and writing have been featured in publications, such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, House Beautiful, Boston Magazine, Inside Weddings, and Better Homes and Gardens. She is married to Andrew Gates and is mom to her two furry kids, Baxter and Oliver. They live in Boston.

TableSetting400When decorating your table for a special meal, think chargers, fun flatware, unique glassware, and just the right centerpiece. From Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life.

I remember after I got engaged, I skipped through store aisles with a scanner gun as I filled up my registry with all sorts of tabletop goodies. And when it came to one of the most important registry items, my china pattern, I went with simple and plain over patterned and historical. I have to say it’s a big regret of mine. To be honest, I think I’ve used my china a total of five times in eight years—partially because we don’t formally entertain that often but also because it bores me to death. Why didn’t I get something magical and bold from Bernardaud? Or a classic from Herend? I was scared, plain and simple, of making the wrong choice. But I have learned that when setting a table, it’s all about the mix! One set of china, no matter how graphic and colorful, is uninteresting on its own, just like a matching bedroom set (word to the wise, never buy a set of anything that is furniture related. EVER). Here are a few tips to help you set a creative and gorgeous table.

No matter how basic your china is, adding different chargers and salad plates really makes it look unique. I love using patterned salad or dessert plates in combination with my classic china and a metallic charger—and it’s not expensive to do. Try searching your local discount store for options!

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life

by Erin Gates

  • Get Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life
  • Get Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life
  • Get Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life
  • Get Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life
  • Get Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life


From gold to matte black, from twig-shaped handles to bamboo accents, there are tons of choices out there these days for interesting flatware to excite dining companions. Consider investing in a fun set of flatware to use with your plain china or to dress up a setting of your everyday dishes!

One of my favorite possessions is my set of turquoise-blue French opaline wineglasses. I picked them up at an antiques show and I can’t tell you how many compliments I get on them when I set them out for dinners! Mixing colored water glasses or wineglasses with a clear, basic set adds color and texture to an otherwise monochromatic table.


Having an array of linen options available to use is key when setting a table—from various colors and patterns to luxurious monograms. Sometimes keeping everything else simple and using a bright solid napkin or a funky black-and-white stripe is all you need to take your table from boring to beautiful.

Creating a centerpiece can be daunting. Try not to go too crazy and stick to these quick and easy tips:

• BUY A COUPLE VARIETIES OF FLOWERS, but all in the same color, and put them in vases of varying heights clustered in the center or down the length of a table.

• FIND A GREAT TRAY and top it with white pillar candles of varying heights for a nonfloral option.

• FILL A BIG BOWL (or several bowls on a rectangular table) with preserved green moss.

• AVOID ANYTHING TOO TALL that keeps people from being able to look each other in the eye or pass food.

• DON’T GO OVERBOARD so that you can’t fit serving platters on the table too!

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