Tablescaping: four ways to bring joy to your table

Tablescaping is the decor trend that’s cheering up your Instagram feed right now. Ahead of her School of Stylist virtual workshop, interiors expert Zeena Shah teaches us the ropes.

You’ve seen, and probably liked, the posts: sprawling, freshly dressed tables, adorned with elegantly folded napkins, flowers and small dishes bursting with colour. It’s not enough to lay the table any more, you need to curate it, and a growing wave of highly skilled events planners and interior designers are leading the tablescaping charge. 

Since lockdown, the trend has gathered pace as a creative way to make mealtimes feel more indulgent, and there are currently over 1.1 million posts under #tablescape on Instagram. “There’s excitement in creating a table that looks extraordinary,” says interiors expert Zeena Shah. “And making mealtimes feel fun has never been more important than right now.” 

As our lives have become smaller, and we’re spending more time than ever indoors, creating joyful corners of our home has become a comfort. Later this month, Shah will host her first School of Stylist workshop on mastering the art of tablescaping. Here, she shares a preview of the secrets she’ll let you in on. Psst – you can book tickets here. 


Before you begin, think about what exactly it is you would like to create. “There are two types of people in the workshops I teach,” says Shah, “the perfectionists and those who dive in, making it up as they go along.” If you’re deadset on it looking right, for example, Shah recommends working from a photograph (Pinterest is a great resource, as well as the #tablescape hashtag), stepping away every now and then to see it with fresh eyes or looking at it through a camera for perspective. “If in doubt, always take something away. Less is more,” she says. If you’re nervous about it going wrong, or unsure of what to incorporate on the table, Shah recommends setting a theme for the dinner. “It’s so much easier to figure out what you want to use when the items link to a theme. If you were having an Italian dinner, for example, use big, beautiful wine glasses as part of the decoration, a red and white gingham table cloth or napkins and big dishes to serve food in, family-style.”


Adding personal touches will make it feel uniquely yours and, crucially, special. “At the moment many of us have more time for hobbies and to master new skills, some of which could come in handy when you’re decorating. If you’re hosting a social-distanced dinner party, create name cards for each guest – an excellent way to practise your calligraphy (I bought an affordable calligraphy set on Amazon), draw a doodle, or write out a quote that you think is relevant for each person.” If you’re feeling more adventurous, Shah recommends trying your hand at origami. “Whether made out of paper or a napkin, it’s a lovely way to make the table thoughtful and different (YouTube is awash with tutorials).”


The most important thing to have in your table design, according to Shah, is colour – mostly because it has the ability to transport us to somewhere else. “I live in a rented flat, it’s super tiny, and I work and eat on the same dining room table,” she says. “Adding lots of colour when I’m decorating is what makes it feel different from the place I was in that morning.” Shah says that there are several ways you can do this, but if you’re a total beginner, it’s best to pick an accent colour and work around that. “If you love blue, for example, choose to highlight that colour with some of the pieces on the table, such as the candles, tablecloth and cutlery. Some brands I love for table decor are H&M Home (reasonably priced), Oyoy Living Design and Edition 94. But equally, eBay is great for bargain finds.”


Better still, create your ideal tablecloth or napkins using avocado pits – yes, avocado – to dye some old, tired ones pink. “This is a great way to upcycle something you might otherwise throw out and is perfect if you’re on a budget,” says Shah. To do it, place pre-soaked white fabrics in a pot with about five avocado pits and enough water to cover the materials. Then, let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes until you have your desired shade of pink (the longer you leave it, the darker the colour). “The most important thing is to create something that makes you happy to look at and has come from your imagination,” Shah adds. “And, once the dinner is over, you can tidy your napkins, tablecloth and trinkets away for next time.”


Join Zeena Shah for an hour-long workshop on tablescaping. The interiors and textiles designer will share everything she knows about how to host a colourful dinner party, no matter how small your table, including practical tips on upcycling, personalisation, the art of layering and using food as design. As well as running her brand Zeena, a beautiful collection of silk screen-printed home accessories, Shah also runs a programme of craft workshops to inspire people to get making, and now is your chance to join her.

School of Stylist: Bring Joy To Your Table; Thursday 30 July, 6-7pm; tickets £12, from

Pictures: Getty

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