Tips For Setting A Beautiful Table

We’re well into spring here in Central Otago, and we’ve had so many beautiful warm days of late. It’s not great for the ski season here, but to be honest I’m fine with an early spring because it’s got me excited for a bit of entertaining at our new home (currently being renovated). Which is why I wanted to share some of my favourite tablescapes as well as some tips for setting a beautiful table.

I also get lots of messages and emails from people asking where I source certain table decor from, so I wanted to share some of these with you. It truly doesn’t have to be too hard, or overly expensive to create a beautiful and welcoming table. In fact, sometimes simple and natural is best.

Tips For Setting A Beautiful Table - Cottonwood & Co

Table linens

If you’re looking to up the ante a little, then start investing in a few tablecloths and fabric napkins. Beautiful table linens are an entertainers secret weapon and good quality linens will last many years. Even at short notice, throwing over a tablecloth or adding some beautiful napkins to your table, will instantly make your setting look impressive.

Above was our Easter table this year and I absolutely love the handwoven stripe tablecloth and special hand painted “bee & hive” plates from Moustiers in France. You can see more of this setting here including all the links and sources.

Table linens don’t have to be expensive, however. Etsy is a terrific source for affordable tablecloths and napkins! I’ll link some of my current Etsy favourites down below. I try to buy colours or prints that I know will work universally or can be “mixed and matched”. It may take time to build a small collection but soon you’ll be able to interchange pieces and create seasonal table settings with ease.

Setting A Beautiful Table - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ

Heirloom or handmade pieces

Too often, holiday seasons can solicit a swarm of contrived and overly themed decor ideas. You don’t always need 3 layers of plates, every piece of cutlery, nor every ginger gar you’ve ever owned to create a beautiful table setting.

In fact, some of the most beautiful and authentic settings I’ve seen, often use heirloom china or glassware, or beloved vintage pieces collected through travels or with intention. It adds another layer of charm to your table when not everything is ‘store bought’, or brand new. I also love including handmade ceramics which makes your setting a bit more interesting and unique.

Flowers or foliage

Use foliage or flowers from your garden (or picked locally) to create either one main centrepiece or a few smaller ones. It doesn’t have to be a fancy arrangement but fresh flowers and foliage will always trump faux. In fact, if I can be so bold as to say just don’t go faux at all. Very rarely do faux flowers look real, but if you do have some good faux flowers, mixing in some real foliage will make the arrangement look a lot more realistic.

Here I simply used white hydrangeas from our garden, in a pretty white jug, for a casual summer BBQ with friends. I also mixed in vintage serving plates so it wasn’t matchy-matchy. The drinking glasses I bought from Barbara’s Storehouse in Bowral many years ago, the stripe linen napkins are from here, the white plates from here, and the rattan placemats from here.

When in doubt, go seasonal

This sort of entertaining is probably my favourite as it’s less fussy, people can help themselves, and it’s these impromptu get togethers that are often the most enjoyable. I try to always keep leftover biscuits/crackers in the freezer (yes freezer lets them keep much longer so you’ve always got crackers on hand), and keeping a stash of dehydrated fruit is great to pop into a G&T or homemade cocktail.

Setting A Beautiful Table - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ

Another thing I’ve invested in over the years is table-ready serveware. Probably my most favourite are my Amanda Lindroth rattan serving dishes, which are oven and dishwasher safe. It doesn’t matter what’s in them, it could be beans, crackers, or mash potato, these serving dishes complement any table setting!

Setting A Beautiful Table - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ

I also love using vintage or unique plates, bowls and platters for serving food. It adds another layer of interest and these can often be super affordable too. I get such a thrill when I find a beautiful bowl or plate for next-to-nothing at a vintage shop or estate auction!

Summer Entertaining - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ


Of course I don’t think i’ve ever entertained without candles! A table without candles (when it’s afternoon or evening) just looks flat and has little atmosphere to me. Personally, I think there’s nothing quite as beautiful as the golden flicker of candlelight of an evening

Living in the country and being accustomed to power outages, we always have a stash of candles at the ready. These days I’m trying to opt for more natural options like beeswax candles.

Fall Entertaining - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ
Tablecloth from here
Fall Entertaining - Cottonw& Co - Wanaka NZ

Below I’ve mixed in a handmade ceramic bowl from Ali F Made It, along with some antique Gien plates from France, with woven placemats & rattan serveware both from Amanda Lindroth, and then vintage spoons mixed with our Jean Dubost Laguiole knives. I also adore this tablecloth which is the loveliest colour and pattern but also generous in size. I’ve linked it below.

Fall Entertaining - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ
Fall Entertaining - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ

The gorgeous new metal picnic plates and incredible glass margarita glasses which I’ve shared with my email subscribers. I cannot wait to use these soon… once our furniture arrives from Australia and we can officially entertain again!!

Casual Entertaining - Cottonwood & Co - Wanaka NZ

I’ve scoured Etsy for some of my current favourite tablecloths and I’ve linked them for you all below. Well priced and super pretty.

I absolutely love this one and it’s soft blue greens – very versatile!

This one is a lovely soft grey green and could be mixed with so many linens

If you can look past the terrible photos on their Etsy, I think this one is super pretty!

If you’re after something plain and linen, this is a beautiful option and amazing price!

Another gorgeous neutral linen and I adore the ruffle detail – plus this has huge range of sizes.

This one is quite amazing, comes in round and would be absolutely gorgeous for Christmas.

Nicki xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the Conversation

  1. Wow so many pretty tables I think I have pinned every single one to my Pinterest folders! Love this post Nicky 🙂

    1. Ha. That’s very kind. Thank you, Sarah! xo

  2. Very beautiful images and great advice, Nikki, and I love that cupboard in your dining room with the pots on it. Really inspiring. Maureen

    1. Thank you, Maureen. I miss that cupboard – it was our pantry in our last little cottage and held lots of our kitchen treasures 🙂

Cottonwood and Co © Copyright 2023. All rights reserved.