Tablescapes are Not Only for the Dining Room

Mary McDonald Tablescape in Tangerine

I LOVE getting questions from my girlfriends about their houses.

It sends me on a little research project to make sure I give them the perfect, researched advice. It’s nerdy, exhilarating, and fabulous. For me, it’s second only to presents.

And I love presents.

TExt Message Question

My first step is to immediately refer to my design Bible, Bunny Williams’ Point of View, and then turn to some of my other favorites like Mary McDonald and my mom.

Did you know the term “tablescape” was first used in 1968 by David Hicks? And he wasn’t talking about dining room tables with artfully arranged fall pumpkins and rustic pinecones. Whoa. I didn’t know that until this week. Thank you, girlfriend!

“It is perhaps I who have made tablescapes – objects arranged as landscapes on a horizontal surface – into an art form; indeed, I invented the word . . . What is important is not how valuable or inexpensive your objects are, but the care and feeling with which you arrange them.” -David Hicks, David Hicks on Living with Taste, 1968

Two tablescapes styled by David Hicks

Two tablescapes styled by David Hicks

So, let’s study the arrangement of Mr. Hicks. It’s great, but what makes it great?

  1. There are layers including art as a backdrop.
  2. There are varying heights.
  3. The space is utilized so there are things in the foreground & the background.
  4. There is something tall, fat, and flat.
  5. At least one item is black.

Here is one from Mary McDonald:

Mary McDonald Tablescape in Jade

Designed by Mary McDonald

Okay, we have a backdrop again. Additionally, there are varying heights. She makes use of the background and foreground, and the middle urn is wider in shape. This time we have a mostly monochromatic scheme to the selections, except for the black shade. It’s all very chic.

Here are a few more to study…

from Melanie Turner Designs

A blue and white chinoiserie tablescape from Melanie Turner Designs. (Get excited, she will be a guest at this year’s Art & Antiques Show in December 2016.)

A corner in interior designer Timothy Corrigan's stunningly restored French chateau.

A corner tablescape in interior designer Timothy Corrigan’s stunningly restored French chateau. Notice the varying heights and the width of the small, pedestal dish.

So, to my dear friend, for your tablescape I suggest:

  1. Lower your mirror an inch or two to provide a backdrop to your mise-en-scene.
  2. Incorporate old and new family photos like we discussed. I think it is so precious to have a sense of family history in our homes.
  3. Borrow the idea of “monochromatic chic” and do all gold, layered frames… just vary the textures.
  4. We will keep our eye out for an interesting flat little dish, perhaps with little side handles for width.
  5. Do one frame in a navy, maybe in a great lacquer finish. Something shiny and glamourous to pair with your lamp. This can be your stand-in for the black that keeps popping up in many of the other tablescapes.

And here is my very professional drawing courtesy of the YouDoodle app on my phone (minus the pedestal dish… my finger was too fat to draw it):

I am quite sure Bunny Williams uses YouDoodle when sketching her designs, :)

I am quite sure Bunny Williams uses YouDoodle when sketching her designs, 🙂


Or, if all else fails,  just take those ginger jars off the kitchen counter and put them on the entry table.

Blue and white can always save the day.




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