What are the rules for a table centerpiece? 5 tips experts always follow

Table styles change, but the rules remain the same. Here's what the experts follow across the calendar

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece
(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

The centerpiece is the most impactful element in curating a beautiful tablescape – so it is important to get it right. While it may feel hard to go wrong with a timeless vase, candlestick, or fruit bowl – you can accentuate their beauty further with the right advice.

As we move into fall, you may be wondering how to dress a dining table that celebrates the season – whether you're looking to create a statement pumpkin piece or you're adding warmth with a large candle. And though your tablescape may change across the calendar, the rules for curating the perfect centerpiece remain the same. 

What are the rules for a table centerpiece? 5 tips experts want you to remember

Whether you're still managing to enjoy some al-fresco outdoor dining ideas or you're already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving centerpiece ideas. These centerpiece rules will ensure your table provokes conversation for all the right reasons. 

1. Limit the size of your centerpiece 

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

Your guests will likely be the main reason you create a beautiful tablescape. Therefore, it's important to keep them in mind when choosing your centerpiece. 

'If your centerpiece is too tall, it will block your guests' line of sight, too small, and perhaps the table won't be as impactful as it could be,' says Seb Bishop, CEO and creative director at Summerill & Bishop

Seb Bishop

Seb Bishop is the CEO and creative director at Summerill & Bishop – a luxury tablescaping label based in Notting Hill, England. Before turning to tables, Seb gained experience at some of the world's top lifestyle brands – including goop – where he worked as the CEO.  

Seb explains that he is often drawn to seasonal flowers in various bud vases that are cut to differing heights that trail zealously down the middle of the table. This will allow you to create your' own wildflower garden' along your table without interrupting the view of the person opposite. 'The whole point of setting a beautiful table is to spend time with your loved ones, and so you want to accommodate conversation between you and your guests as possible,' he adds. 

2. Consider the shape of your table

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

When thinking about your centerpiece, it may be natural to focus exclusively on the feature in question. However, Seb urges you to take a step back and focus on the centerpiece in regard to the table as a whole. 

'Always consider the shape of the table. I find that round tables suit a single, tall centerpiece best, whereas rectangular tables require more generous attention to avoid seeming sparse and lonely.'

3. A statement vase will go a long way 

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

Vases have an eternal place at the peak of dining room trends, and all for a good reason. This timeless statement is versatile with the seasons – whether you fill it will fall-inpsired foilage or holly at christmastime. However, as Seb suggests, you don't need to fill your vase with flowers to enjoy their style on your tablescape

'Pieces by Astier de Villatte have an unrivaled way of making the moment or occasion feel extra special and elevated,' the expert recommends. 

4. Experiment beyond flowers

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

Flowers will always have a place as a table centerpiece. But as dining room trends change, our centerpiece ideas should evolve to include a unique variety of decor.

'The table is your canvas to be as creative as you like, and so you could use anything from fresh herbs and botanicals that complement the food you’re serving... or family trinkets and mementos that act as conversation starters,' Seb explains. 'The point is to make the table unique to you – the most beautiful tables are always the ones that feel most personal.'

5. Lighting is crucial

Stripes Summerill and Bishop

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

Ambient lighting ideas are crucial in every space, but (arguably) none more so than the dining room. This is a place where your family and guests enjoy food and good conversation, and your light levels have an influence on the practicality and enjoyment of both these elements. 

'I like to use lots of candles to set the mood,' Seb suggests. 'Plus, the flickers of candlelight create the most beautiful shadows on the walls, further adding to the atmosphere of the evening.'

What is the maximum height a table centerpiece should be?

As Seb suggests, the size of your centerpiece is significant in the success of your tablescape. So which measurements should you remember when choosing your statement feature? 

Head of Brands at Portmeirion, Andrea Waters, suggests that ' a 9-inch vase filled with freshly-cut flowers' is the 'perfect' size for a centerpiece – as it will start a conversation – without getting in the way of one. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.