Top 10 Tips for Autumn Tablescapes

Your autumn tablescape can be understated, bold or somewhere in between.
Your autumn tablescape can be understated, bold or somewhere in between.

Right around the time Indian summer kicks in, I find myself longing for fall -- the cool breezes, the first bite in the morning air, the smell of wood burning stoves and the crunch of falling leaves. Nature's amazing color palette signals that it's time to put away the bright colors of summer and transition to the warm autumn hues, and there's no better way to bring fall inside than to create an autumn tablescape. Here are some tips and tricks for creating a memorable display.

To Theme or Not to Theme?
Create a simple yet elegant tablescape for Thanksgiving with fall colors and autumn produce.
Create a simple yet elegant tablescape for Thanksgiving with fall colors and autumn produce.

Before you get started, think about whether or not you want a theme for your tablescape. Halloween inspires a tablescape with lively and fun elements like decorated pumpkins, plastic spiders and other spooky props. Thanksgiving is another great fall theme, but you don't have to go old school with the cornucopia and horn of plenty centerpieces.

Instead, you can use fall leaves, colorful gourds and all of the wonderful autumn produce. Even if you don't choose an obvious theme, your tablescape should tell a story. You want your audience to appreciate individual elements, as well as the whole picture, but you don't want individual elements competing against others. The overall setting should flow from one end of the table to the other, creating a harmonious vignette.

A Touch of Fall Foliage

Once autumn is upon us, a Sunday drive to the nearest wooded area will yield all the color inspiration you need. Fall is all about blazing earth tones -- oranges, browns, reds, yellows, golds and everything in between. These brilliant colors can be combined to suit any style of décor and provide endless inspiration for an autumn tablescape. Combine all of these vibrant hues for a sensational display, or choose only one for a more modern, monochromatic look.

Fundamental Fall Designs

Now you'll want to come up with an idea for a design. Start with the base -- your table. If the style of your table fits with your overall design plan, incorporate it. If not, you'll need a table covering. If your design scheme is colorful, pick something neutral so it doesn't compete. But if your design elements are more on the monochromatic side, you might want a brighter tablecloth to offer a pop of color. You can even layer cloths in different colors or textures, or combine a cloth and a runner. Plan on at least three height variations to keep it interesting.

Bountiful Harvest
Take advantage of the autumn harvest with gourds, pumpkins and squash that bring some life to your tablescape.

This is where it gets fun. So many great fall props come from nature, and your imagination is the limit when it comes to displaying them. A visit to your local farmer's market will yield maize, squash and all types of colorful gourds that can be displayed in various ways. Apples and pears fill in with mellow greens and bright reds and look great simply displayed in glass bowls or vases. Add a bowl of chestnuts for a yummy fall snack that signals the cooler months have arrived.

Distinctive Presentation

Look around your house and see what display pieces you already have that might fit with your design. You can fill wooden bowls with pinecones and include some wicker baskets overflowing with fresh fall produce. A quick trip to the pumpkin patch will yield mini pumpkins to hollow out and use as candleholders or to hold place cards at each setting. Instead of a fabric table runner, use a moss mat. Make a string of berries using a needle and thread, and weave it throughout the table settings or hang from the chandelier. The materials are endless, so all you need to do is rev up your creative juices and imagine the possibilities.

Creative Centerpieces

Your tablescape centerpieces are where you can incorporate a couple of height levels, and they're a great way to break up the space. Arranging different sizes of carved, lit-up pumpkins in a dim room will delight your guests. You don't have to make scary faces -- choose a monogram of your surname initial for an upscale twist on pumpkin carving. You can choose to skip the single centerpiece and instead use three or four smaller pieces around the table. Mason jars make great vases for single stems of flowers and fit well with an autumn harvest theme.

Fresh Fall Flowers

Getting started early in the season means you'll have your pick of beautiful dahlias. Dahlias come in purples, reds, oranges, pinks and whites and offer ample texture to an arrangement or stand on their own quite well. Sunflowers are also usually around at the very beginning of fall.

If you're a purist, chrysanthemums -- better known as mums -- are the quintessential fall flower. Available in a handful of varieties, mums are long lasting even when they're cut. Goldenrod is a perennial with small, bright yellow flowers that looks great in a fall arrangement.

Tinted Tableware
You can use autumn-themed dinnerware to bring extra color to your tablescape, and place cards give you space to express yourself.
You can use autumn-themed dinnerware to bring extra color to your tablescape, and place cards give you space to express yourself.

If your tablescape will preside over your dining room table, you'll want to incorporate your tableware into the design. Clear glass serves as a good neutral dish option for a colorful landscape. Display fall leaves under the plates or find large oak leaves to replace napkins for setting silverware.

On the other hand, you can opt for some tinted glasses and plates to provide the color in a sea of neutral decorative items. Holiday-themed dishes and serving platters are great for holiday meals, or find platters and plates shaped like leaves and pumpkins for a more general fall feel. For a rustic touch, set wooden or twig placemats.

Classic Illumination

No tablescape would be complete without the drama created by appropriate lighting. Candles are the obvious choice for any table design and can be displayed in many different ways. Wrap jar candles with festive fabric or paper that matches your décor, or put colorful pillar candles in Mason jars. Tea lights can be scattered around the table to set a romantic mood. Grapevine adds a lovely rustic touch and can be wrapped with small, white Christmas lights to add a little sparkle. A row of small lamps down the middle with low light bulbs adds a symmetrical element.

Sensational Scents
Clove-studded oranges with rosemary add a great scent to your sensational autumn tablescape.
Clove-studded oranges with rosemary add a great scent to your sensational autumn tablescape.

Fall comes alive with a whiff of Thanksgiving spices, especially clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Scented pinecones usually come in a spicy cinnamon scent, or you can fill a bowl with cinnamon sticks. Stick cloves in an orange and display for lovely color and scent. Put some mulled cider on the stove and let the scent drift through your home, or just add some water to a pan and boil cinnamon, allspice and clove for a natural fragrance. Add some sprigs of fresh rosemary to your display to sweeten up all the spices. If you're in a pinch, scented candles in any of these fragrances will do.


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