Interior designer Nina Campbell's top 5 tips for laying a summer dining table

The legendary British interior designer has key advice for creating timeless tablescapes for summer

Nina Campbell tablescape
(Image credit: Create Academy)

Ever wondered how interior design professionals set a table?

One of the world’s most influential interior designers, Nina Campbell has been creating interiors that exude effortless style and charm for over 50 years.

And today she's exclusively bringing us her summer table decor ideas and tablescaping tips

black and white portrait of nina campbell
Nina Campbell

Nina Campbell started her career at the age of 19 at the prestigious practice of Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler. Shortly afterwards she formed her own interior design company, with one of her first projects a castle in Scotland. She has been at the forefront of British interior design ever since. Nina has shared her style secrets with us before: these are the latest.

1. Let table linen inspire your color scheme

Tablescaping by Nina Campbell in greens

(Image credit: Create Academy)

'I find so much joy in laying a table for my guests – curating an eclectic mix of pieces collected over the years and embracing a range of styles, shapes and aesthetics which I often then unify with an underlying color palette (normally inspired by the table linen that I’m using). 

'In this instance I’ve chosen to bring in complementary, tonal shades of green across the table – placing emerald colored water glasses alongside clear Murano wine glasses to bring a cheerful pop of color which ties in beautifully with the wider scheme and brings a subtle, sophisticated feeling of cohesion. 

'I also have various slipcovers for the dining chairs in different colors and patterns that I’ve coordinated with my crockery so I can seamlessly switch up the look of the table as and when needed.'

2. Build on your collection

China cabinet with tableware

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

'If there are certain colors that appeal to you more than others I would always recommend opting for these as a starting point to build out your own treasured collections of tableware, textiles and glassware. 

'When you’re out shopping, be sure to refer back to the pieces you have at home and how they might work together – it’s helpful to have a library of pieces that you know you can easily throw together. I have a number of different and distinct color stories in my cupboard that I buy into regularly – green and white, pinks and amethysts, brown and tortoiseshell – I’ll make sure I have the ‘staples’ such as napkins, tablecloth, cutlery and crockery for each look. 

'On a practical note, I would suggest using storage that is in your dining room or close to your dining table – it makes setting up for a dinner party so much easier rather than running to and from different rooms! If you have open storage the harmonizing colors will look wonderful together and form a display in their own right.'

3. Include low flower arrangements


(Image credit: Create Academy)

'I prefer flowers to be quite low on a dining table so that you can easily see and speak to your guests... I’ve actually found some beautiful glass ice buckets that work really well for holding short bouquets of flowers, so I’ll normally put two of these on the table if I have six guests around a table, or three if more. 

'In between these I’ll then include some mirrored plates that will reflect the magic of the table and for evening meals you could also place candles which bring a warm, ambient glow and never fail to make a dinner party feel special.'

4. Think outside the box

Place setting by Nina Campbell in greens

(Image credit: Create Academy)

'Changing your table will completely alter the feeling of a room – setting the tone for the evening and elevating the food that you serve. If you entertain a lot and have repeat guests quite regularly, I always think it’s fun to change up the dining table on each occasion as opposed to sticking to one look. 

'Silverware and stemmed wine glasses will always bring a more formal tone to a dinner table but for something more relaxed I tend to use saris as tablecloths which create a real talking point.'

5. Reinvent your favorite finds as centerpieces

Beautiful tablescape with a large centerpiece

(Image credit: Summerill & Bishop)

'While I love using tablecloths to add visual interest to a dinner table, I do sometimes opt to leave the tabletop uncovered so the wood grain of the table forms part of the curation. For this look I like to use amber glassware, rustic table mats and tortoise shell handle cutlery – leaning into the earthy hues further by adding decorative wood urns and antique salt and pepper pots.

'A key piece of advice when you’re thinking of how to decorate the table is to ‘shop the cupboard’ – you don’t always have to have flowers at the center of the table – look at what you have already around the house and think whether you could make a display of it. 

'It's sometimes a nice way of re-appreciating objects and looking at them in a new light.'

Nina Campbell’s new online course ‘A Definitive Guide to Decorating’ – in which she shares how to decorate your home – is available now. 

Lucy Searle
Content Director

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Today, Lucy works as Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Ideal Home and Real Homes.