When decorating your dining room table, your first consideration should be your own personal style. Are you formal or casual, serious or whimsical, bright or subdued.
Having established your style preference, consider the table itself. What is the condition of its top and legs? If your table is in excellent condition, you can choose now between a tablecloth or placements. Either can be enhanced by the use of a table runner. If you choose to decorate without a tablecloth, place mat, in either a formal or whimsical pattern, in front of each chair.
If you table top has seen better days, then a tablecloth is a must. But before you choose your tablecloth, take time to consider what you want to go under it. The under cloth, or “silencer” serves two purposes. First, it protects the table top from heat (although it is no replacement for hot pads under casserole dishes). It also minimizes the sound made by plates and utensils striking your table. You can purchase heavy, rigid silencers from any high end furniture store. You can also have them custom made to fit your table. While this is expensive, it could be a wise long term investment to protect a pricey table. If you budget is more limited, or your table top is not that valuable, you can simply cut a wide piece of heavy felt to fit just the top of your table.
Having settled the issue of plain table versus covered, we move on to the tablecloth itself. While there are many beautiful tablecloths available today, you are not limited to just those already made. Any fifty-four inch wide or wider piece of fabric can be made into a beautiful tablecloth simply by hemming the ends. If you do not sew, you can even hem them with an iron on hem tape available at your local fabric store. To calculate how much fabric you need, simply measure the width and the length of your table. Then, when you find a fabric you like, subtract the width of the table from the width of the fabric. Add the result to the length of your table plus two inches. That will tell you how much fabric to purchase.
Once you have your tablecloth on the table, it is time to consider the runner, if you plan to use one. From a design standpoint, you are safest when you choose a solid runner to go with a print tablecloth and vise versa. However, if you wish to be a bit more adventurous, you can place a runner with a very tiny print over a matching tablecloth with a large print. If you choose this route, make sure that your centerpiece is of a very simple, low key design.
And speaking of center pieces, that is the final step for decorating your dining room table. Obviously a single bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fruit is a classic. The only thing to remember is to choose a longer container of flowers or fruit for a long table, or a round container for a round or square table.
But wait, what about personal style, and flower allergies? Obviously, there are many other options. For a formal look, choose some silver or pewter candlestick with tall tapers the color of the tablecloth or runner. If your are looking for something more casual, try a grouping of small objects scattered down the center of your table. Intersperse these objects with votive candles in tiny cups and you have a great looking, well decorated dining table that will add panache to any room.