So many of our dining table decor ideas involve bringing the outdoors in, as if to assert some kind of connection between our consumption and its creation. More often than not, seasonal dining table decor reflects this theme. We use pumpkins or smaller gourds, twine leaves and garlic braids with twigs for harvest. We cut pine boughs and dip their cones in gold paint and splash some holly and ivy around for the winter holidays. We continue the trend with greenery for spring and cut fresh flowers in summer.
There’s no end to found-in-nature objects you can use to jumpstart dining table décor brainstorming. To move beyond the ordinary, here are a few non-traditional suggestions.
High contrast for winter
Since the three functional elements of a dining room are its chairs, lighting and the table itself, why not focus on two elements at once and make your centerpiece the most food- and mood-flattering light source you can find? After all, it is in the winter when we rely most on artificial lighting to boost our spirits.
Whether your table is round, square or rectangular, the centerpiece should be your dining room’s pièce de résistance, the object that draws the eye to the table before your guests’ gaze radiates outwards.
The classic approach is, of course, candelabra—a single, large fixture centered on the table, or a series at intervals. Instead, try taking an eclectic approach: if your dining room is modern or functional, find the most elaborate, massive, rococo bronze candelabra available and pose it on a damask brocade table runner with gold tassels. The contrast between your sleek teak or glass table will startle and intrigue.
If your dining room is traditional, go another route and invest in something modern and Calder-esque—a candelabra made from copper plumbing fittings, clean, geometric metal shapes or simple, black staggered cubes of variegated height.
Clean and green for spring
When the days start to get longer, it’s time to time to strip the table and let its lovely lines and textures speak for themselves. Get rid of your layered-linen approach and switch them out for placemats and a runner. Alternatively, try a long, narrow mirror on a rectangular table to shine and reflect light from new angles.
Spring is all about seizing the day and ending our hibernation, as well as spending time outdoors for longer and longer each day. Make it easier to migrate to the patio or deck by using a round, square or rectangular tray as your dining table centerpiece. This makes it easier to grab when you realize it really is warm enough to have coffee or dessert outdoors.
Try also to sneak more than one shade of green into your dining room: a series of small succulents, the palest of green linen napkins or some startling chartreuse placemats. Think beets and asparagus, snowdrops and lilacs when choosing your table linens.
Light and airy for summer
Summer is all about fresh, and your dining room decor should reflect that. It’s a time for linen and lace, not brocade and velvet. Let your table decorations reflect that sentiment and get rid of heavy tablecloths in favor of light and airy fabrics and bold, bright colors. If they make you think of corn and watermelon and fresh peas, they’re a perfect choice. Consider also translucent fabrics paired with white linens.
Still want to bring the outdoors in? Use an herb garden as your table’s centerpiece and keep some kitchen shears handy so you can make the rounds just as dinner is served. You can welcome guests to your table as you sprinkle a few fresh-cut chives, a basil leaf or two, or a fresh sprig of rosemary, coriander or parsley on each plate.
Invest in a few great fruit bowls that are also conversation pieces and lead with a fresh fruit dessert centerpiece—mangos, berries and cherries for a summery feel.
Spare and bare for fall
Most fall dining decor themes reflect the abundance of the harvest season, with its russets, taupes, ochres and rich, dark greens. Try taking a minimalist approach to fall dining decor. The falling leaves expose a tree’s true form, and decor that reflects structure can be dramatic. Take advantage of the changing angles of light to feature a series of small wood sculptures as centerpieces. Choose ones that look good from all angles and contain depths of color: marble, granite or wood. Or try a large round metal piece that both reflects and absorbs light. Embrace the stark and don’t be afraid of high-contrast color choices. Rather than black and white, though, think tan and gray.
Just as what we eat changes from season to season, the way we eat changes too. Try to create a dining experience you can customize to reflect the rhythm of the season.