Remember when laying the table simply meant getting out the knives and forks? These spring tablescapes on Pinterest are magical – here’s how to add drama or romance to your repast.

Tablescaping entered the lexicon in 2003, when US television chef Sandra Lee first coined the hybrid phrase. In recent years, it has gathered momentum to become an artform all of its own, with some Insta-savvy folk even making whole careers out of their much-considered table presentation.

And yet, the desire to elevate a feast to something really special by making it beautiful as well as delicious is nothing new. In the 1930s, beautifying the table was practised competitively in America at county fairs. And one need only think of Downton Abbey, along with a clutch of other costume dramas – or indeed to have visited any National Trust property – to know that we have long cared deeply about the lavishness of the table. The Greeks and Romans enjoyed a well-laid table, as evidenced both in archaeological discoveries, and in works of literature. Petronius’ Dinner With Trimalchio, for example, tells the satiric tale of an overly opulent dinner served by an ex-slave who embodies ‘new money’ and serves gaudily elaborate food from gaudily elaborate bowls and goblets.

In medieval times, such sensibilities declined, and setting the table merely meant ensuring the trestles were sturdy enough to hold the meat about to be devoured. But times and tastes began changing with the Renaissance, rippling outward from its Italian nucleus. And in accordance, gradually the tablescapes were restored to lavishness once more.

Today we might focus less on how shiny the silver is and more on a theme or a general ambiance, but we’re no less devoted to the idea of transporting ourselves and our guests to somewhere magical, far from the daily routine of feeding ourselves and our kids. As its trailblazer, Sandra Lee, reflects, ‘It’s so much more fun when you organise your table around a theme, don’t you think?’

Here is some Pinspiration, as well as ideas for how to ape the look.

French Elegance

This set-up took place at Chateau Diter on the Côte d’Azur and we would heartily love to inhabit the picture and settle in for a long lunch. It screams elegance (and, of course, it helps if you have the classic French dining chairs to hand – not to mention a handy loggia to set up under).

Get The Look

Rowen & Wren

Bingley Brass Candlestick, £18


Vintage Brass Chalice, £13


Pink Candles, £12


White Gauze Table Runner, £37.40

Nordic Colour Pop

We love this set up. Fun, simple and full of colour, it demonstrates that you need not go OTT to make an impression.

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H&M Home

Cotton Velvet Cushion Cover, £12.99


Sutton Taper Holder, £14


White Cartoon Clouds Tablecloth, £92.60

The Mamahood

Dip-Dye Neon Candles, £16

Patio Prettiness

Longer evenings call for al fresco suppers. Whether you have a country idyll or a small city patio, you can still make it magical with the use of candlelight.

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Summerill & Bishop

Handblown Glass Teardrop Jug With Handle, £84


Egyptian Alabaster Candle Holder - Round Alabaster Votive Candle Holder, £63.99

1st Dibs

Pair of Rare 60s Alabaster Table Lamps, £467.24 per set


Timo Tealight Chandelier, £45

Floral Tribute

Sometimes, all you really need to lift a table is armfuls and armfuls of flowers. This pretty example is ideal for a summer wedding – or just a really special get together in the garden under the dappled sun.

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Burrow & Best

Glass Bottle Vases, Set of 6, £13

Central Living

Kastehelmi Votice Clear, £14

Sophie Conran

Giardino Hand Etched Wine Glasses, Set of 6, £79

Sophie Conran

Dappled White Fluted Dinner Plates, Set of 6, £95

Rustic Romance

What is more beautiful than supper under the stars illuminated by lantern-light? The scene could not be simpler, and it is all the lovelier for it.

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The Conran Shop

Crystal Tea Light Holder, £12

Volga Linen

Coloured Hemstitch Napkin, £20

Rowen & Wren

Linen Tablecloth, Ash Pink, £89

Garden Trading

Ablington Lantern Small, £25

By Nancy Alsop
April 2022

Read More
22 Stylish Ways To Lay A Table
How To Master The Art of Tablescaping
Rebecca Udall

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.