Setting Ideas for Dining Room Tables (Tips) | Kitchen Table

Setting a table with all the utensils in the right spots doesn’t have to look or feel fussy. In fact, with the right layout, you can actually make things simpler for your diners.


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Define the Space

Starting with a placemat will give each diner an easy understanding of the items that are theirs.

A vinyl placemat is a great option for kids and for creating a casual feel, while a cloth placemat can run the gamut from a country plaid to Victorian floral tapestry.

You can make the dining table decor as formal or informal as you want by changing up the placemat.

With neutral tones as a background, your dining room ideas can serve as a foil for a variety of settings.

dinner table

Create a Mood

Your table decor choices can be formal or casual, so your ideas about presentation can run the gamut.

A small vase of daisies and place settings featuring red-checked napkins sets one mood while a tall vase of 12 roses and crystal candlesticks paired with linen napkins sets another.

If your table design features candles, remember they should only be lit after dark.

A Word About Fragrance

Many people like to use scented candles to freshen a room. Avoid putting scented candles on the dining table as some diners find these scents overpowering.

When possible, let the decor you use and the fragrances in the space serve as a background for the food you’ll serve.


Try to give diners plenty of clearance in your dining room for their comfort and to make sure your place setting ideas don’t look too crowded. This may mean plating up food for your diners and serving them at table rather than putting food serving dishes on the table.

Assign the Tools in the Right Order

Whether you’re dining room is formal or you’re eating at a kitchen table, your table setting ideas should be consistent and easy to understand by all the diners as depicted in this video:


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It’s traditional to create the table setting so diners pick up tools from the outside in. If you’re having salad, put the salad fork at the far left of the setting. Inside of that should be the dinner fork, then the plate. The dinner knife should be to the right of the plate with the blade directed at the plate.

If you provide a salad knife, it should be just to the right of the dinner knife, again with blade pointing in. The direction of the blade is an old tradition from when dinner knives were sharp and it was considered rude to point them at another diner. If you plan to serve soup, place the soup spoon to the right of the knife or knives.


The placement of the dessert tool is flexible. To remember how to direct the handle, remember that this tool will ultimately become part of the setting. If you’re having crème brulee, place the spoon at the top of the plate with the handle to the right so it can be moved down beside the soup spoon. If your dessert ideas include cake, place the fork at the top of the plate with the handle to left so it can be easily moved down beside the salad fork.

Bread & Beverages

The bread plate belongs above the forks and the butter knife lies across it diagonally with the blade pointed at the plate. If room is limited or you’re not serving bread, this tool can be omitted. Water goes to the right of the dessert tool and the wine glass goes above the knives. Place the napkin under the forks or on the dinner plate. Your table is complete!

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