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In this post, I will show you how to make a pretty Fall French Table Setting easily.

Are you someone who loves the looks of a beautiful tablescape, but feel overwhelmed at the idea of creating one?

Well, my friend, I’ve got you covered. It’s truly a straightforward process, once you know some simple table-setting ideas, much like creating a beautiful outfit. Let me show you.

How to Make a Pretty French Table Setting

Step 1: Start with the table linens

The first step in making a gorgeous French table setting is to select a pretty tablecloth. This beautiful French Provencal cloth has a yellow foulard print as its background and then it has a central panel as well as a border that is orange-red. It contains sunflowers as well as small bundles of wheat. The sunflowers make it a cloth that can easily be used in a summer table setting or as a pretty fall tablescape. The wheat bundles suggest harvest time which makes this a good choice for a fall tablescape.

Pro-tip: I frequently purchase tablecloths when I am on a trip and I find a gorgeous linen store. I used to get nervous that I wouldn’t purchase the right size. But I got over that when I realized most tablecloths look better placed at an angle on the table in order to display the pretty design. So what I do now is, place a neutral tan cloth over the whole table first. This serves several purposes: it covers the protective dining room table pads, and it covers the entire table so that angling the decorative tablecloth looks fun and deliberate. Lastly, it eliminates the need to get an exact size for the decorative cloth.

Here is the dining room table with just the protective pads in place.
Here is the dining room table with just the protective pads in place.

Next, I then determine what napkins I am going to use. I usually select one of the colors in the tablecloth, in this case, a pretty yellow. I prefer 100% cotton or linen to polyester as they’re more absorbent for your guests. The cloth napkins are best placed to the left of the plate. Pro-tip: If I have a large crowd, I may pick two colors in the table design, and I alternate them.

Here is the dining room table with just the first tan cloth on the table.  This is used to cover the pads and to act as a background to the decorative cloth.
Here is the dining room table with just the first tan cloth on the table. This is used to cover the pads and to act as a background to the decorative cloth.
Here's the gorgeous Provencal cloth with a creamy yellow foulard design in the background and a gorgeous sunflower and wheat bundle motif to the center and border.
Here’s the gorgeous Provencal cloth with a creamy yellow foulard design in the background and a gorgeous sunflower and wheat bundle motif to the center and border.

Step 2: Add a Placemat to Every Setting

This is where the fun begins! I really love a layered table setting! By that I mean, rather than just placing a cloth squarely on a table and then adding the plates, silver, and glassware, I enjoy the look of the two layered cloths (as above), followed then by a woven or cloth placemat. In fact, these oval rattan placemats have been used on the vast majority of my table settings for the last ten years. They wear like iron and can be readily wiped off with a damp cloth.

Here I have added rich brown rattan placemats on top of the Provencal tablecloth.
Here I have added rich brown rattan placemats on top of the Provencal tablecloth.

I love the look of a placemat on top of the tablecloth because I love the visual interest and warmth it brings to the table. As I routinely use the tan tablecloth mentioned above, as well as these rattan placemats, they become quite cost-effective to purchase. If you’re lucky enough to have a distressed table surface (my dream) or one impervious to water staining, you can skip the tan cloth and protective table pads.

Step 3: Select the Centerpiece(s) for this Fall Tablescape

I love simple centerpieces. I like them to be spaced down the table and short enough that the shortest guests can see over them. In this fall tablescape, I used faux sunflowers and hydrangeas. I used faux flowers because I had them scattered around my great room and they looked so perfect. Both fresh sunflowers and hydrangeas can be a bit tricky to purchase in that they can wilt in an untimely manner.

Here the centerpieces are placed. There are three of them and they are clear glass containers with faux hydrangeas as well as sunflowers.
Here the centerpieces are placed. There are three of them and they are clear glass containers with faux hydrangeas as well as sunflowers.

Since I love to set the table several days before my party, it seemed like a good idea to use silk flowers instead. I actually bought the hydrangeas in the glass container last fall from Pottery Barn, but I decided that they needed sunflowers, so I added these to the vases. A great benefit is that the flowers can be reused from year to year.

Step 4: Add the Plates

Here I added basic white ceramic plates as they really work with ANY table setting. They’re another table-setting basic that will stand you in good stead for years of fun meals. The plate should be centered on the placemat, with the napkin on the left.

Now, I have added the napkins and white ceramic plates to the tablescape.
Now, I have added the napkins and white ceramic plates to the tablescape.

Do you know the BMW trick of table setting? “B” stands for the bread plate and it is (if used) placed to the upper left of the place setting. “W” stands for the water glass which is placed to the right of the plate. The “M” stands for the meal plate. Pro tip: So at the next party you attend, if you’re not sure which bread plate or water glass is yours, remember “BMW” to impress your fellow guests.

Step 5: Add the Silverware and Butter Dishes

For most dinner party table setting ideas, I use my everyday stainless steel flatware. I typically place the fork on top of the napkin to the left of the plate. If I am serving a separate salad, I put the meal fork immediately next to the plate and the salad fork goes to the left of that. This is so the first item used is placed on the outside of the setting, I place the knife to the right of the meal plate, with the blade pointed toward the plate.

Here you can see the butter dish, and the clear votive holders with candles.
Here you can see the butter dish and the clear votive holders with candles.

If a spoon is needed for the meal, I place that to the right of the knife. Lastly, If there is a fork or spoon to be used for the dessert, I place that across the top of the plate with the handle facing to the right.

I added two glass butter dishes to the table, one on each end.

I sometimes set the table with a salad or dessert plate on top of the meal plate. In this setting, I added a sunflower plate to echo the sunflowers on the tablecloth.

Step 5: Adding the Water Glasses, the Candles, and the Wine Glasses

The final detail in simple table setting ideas involves adding the glasses and the candles. I frequently use glass votive candles as they go with all table settings. If children are present, I use battery-operated votives for safety’s sake. Always be safe. It’s not worth the worry and risk that a child won’t actually reach for the flame and get burned. If the group is all adults, I strictly use unscented candles. I am EXTREMELY sensitive to fragrances and get migraines from many scents, colognes, and perfumes. And the scents of the candles can interfere with the food scents. Go unscented. I will thank you!

Here you can see the gorgeous French table setting with a butter dish, and the clear votive holders with candles.
We’re almost complete with the silverware, clear water glasses, and votive candles.

As for water glasses, I usually use a clear glass tumbler. For the red wine glasses, I usually serve the wine before dinner and the guest brings that glass to their setting.

This is the final tablescape with sunflower plates on top of the white ceramic plates.  I have placed water tumblers as well as wine glasses.
This is the final tablescape with sunflower plates on top of the white ceramic plates. I have placed water tumblers as well as wine glasses.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to make this French country table setting. Simple table-setting ideas can be as varied as the people hosting the party. I was inspired by the sunflowers, wheat bundles, and tablecloth colors. You might be excited by some centerpiece ideas. Go for it! Get excited about making a pretty tablescape. And realize that all the items used are easily reused many times over at other meals, so it makes it a more practical luxury.

Happy Dining!

XO,

Dr. Julie

PS Here are a few posts for you to enjoy:

Delicious Ten Vegetable Soup

How to Create an Elegant Fall/Thanksgiving Tablescape

The BEST Ginger Cookies Ever

DIY Fall Leaf Garland

Three Fall Family Photo Outfits Ideas

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