Rustic + Refined: Set a Stunning Fall or Winter Table Setting

Whether you're planning a fall or winter wedding, dinner party or any other cold-weather celebration, follow our tips to set a designer-worthy table that's dressed to impress.

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Set the Scene

Setting a guest-impressing table is easier than you may think — you just need to think like a designer and make a plan. Start with the palette: pick 3 main colors and carry those through the table's linens, centerpieces and dishware. Consider form and function and only fill the table with items that carry your theme or are necessary — e.g. set out just the utensils your guests will need not rows of silverware they won't touch. Finally, add a bit of glam: gold utensils and gilded votives make it shine.

Add a Little Character

Every table setting needs a touch of the unexpected. For this rustic-chic table, I chose a vintage brass peacock, found for a steal at an estate sale, to complement the table's theme while adding a bit of golden glam.

Give Everyone Their Space

Get-togethers can sometimes feel a bit stuffy. Help your guests relax and avoid the question of, "Is this your fork or mine?" by giving each place setting a bit of breathing room.

Get Cozy

Faux fur throws are a great choice for cozying up hard surfaces, like this long wooden bench, while complementing the table's warm color palette and woodsy vibe.

Create Contrast

One rule that designers always follow: contrast is key. Mixing inexpensive (AKA free!), earthy elements, like this wood slice charger, with delicate, vintage china makes the woodsy element feel more organic while, by contrast, the hand-etched details and gilt edges of the heirloom dishes take on a new level of sophistication.

Place Setting 101

Setting a guest-impressing place setting is a snap. Start with a charger (check your local dollar or craft store for inexpensive options), followed by the dinner plate. Top it with smaller salad and appetizer plates, which will be removed after each course. To the left, place the napkin and fork, to the right: the knife (blade turned in) and spoon. Voila, a pro-grade place setting, simplified.

Vintage Vino

Vintage wine goblets are a beautiful addition your guests won't soon forget. Don't worry if you didn't inherit gorgeous glassware — you can always buy them. In my experience, estate sales are far and away the best place to score vintage dishware. Orphaned or mismatched glasses are especially good buys (often less than a dollar each) but complete sets are also a steal. Bonus: Many estate sale companies dramatically discount remaining items on the last day so, if you're a gambler, you may be able to pick up a complete set of the antique stemware you wish you'd inherited for a song.

Go for the Gold

Move over, stainless steel — it's gold's turn to shine. Gold has increasingly become designers' metal of choice for fancy flatware but, like anything that's trendy, new sets are pricey. Check estate sales, thrift stores and yard sales for vintage sets, many still in their original box, with the same golden gleam as new flatware but without the hefty price tag.

Centerpieces: More is More

Maximize your centerpiece's impact by spreading the flowers and greenery among multiple vases. But, don't worry, more centerpieces doesn't have to mean more $$$. Large blooms like chrysanthemum, sunflowers, dahlias and roses provide a lot of impact with just a few stems. Fill in with greenery, either from your backyard or local grocery or florist, and finish with a few berry stems and bare branches.

Bring in Backyard Blooms

Backyard blooms are a natural candidate for centerpieces — in addition to the cost savings of using free flowers, you can also show off your green thumb. Shown here, Veronica (AKA speedwell), dahlias and chrysanthemum are excellent cutting-garden blooms that look equally beautiful brightening up your backyard as they do as the star of your table. Tip: Cut flowers early in the morning when the air and ground temps are cooler and plants are least stressed. And, be sure to place the cut blooms directly into a bucket of water to prevent any moisture loss. When arranging, re-cut the stems at a 45-degree angle before placing into a vase with added floral preservative.

And, Mix Fresh With Faux

Silk flowers have come a long way, often making it difficult to tell the difference between fresh and faux. (Honestly, can you tell which of these blooms are silk?) Combine the best of both worlds to create a centerpiece that looks lush and — best of all — incorporates a few faux elements that can be used year after year.

Roll Out the Runner

For a rustic table setting, skip the tablecloth and let the table's wood surface peek thru with just a runner to add color and texture along the table's center. To keep with our rustic-chic theme, we added lace upholstery trim to a wide strip of textural burlap for a pitch-perfect finishing touch.

Bench It

Able to accomodate more guests than is possible with a line of chairs, benches are a great way to add additional seating space at parties, like weddings, where guests may be table hopping after dinner. The long, low seating's casual, fuss-free look is also right at home with our party's rustic aesthetic.

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