Ways to display vases

Vases are the easiest way to dress up dining tables that see everyday use, as they needn’t take up lots of space. With a little thought, they can enhance any size of table, from a small square one to a long, formal table designed to seat twelve.

When choosing a vase, think about how you’ll echo the proportions of your table. Long, rectangular or square tables can take any vase shape, but curved shapes feel more natural on a round table. Consider scale – too small and it’ll seem like the vase has been marooned on an empty surface, too large and it’ll overwhelm (not to mention being impractical at mealtimes).

On tables that only get occasional use, you can get away with larger clusters of vases. Try arranging some small ones around a central statement piece on a round table, or place them in a row to accentuate the shape of a long design – such as the simple display of Castleford vases in the last picture. Varying the heights and sizes of your vases helps to create a soft, elegant look – if they were all the same size, it would just look too stiff.

You can add branches or flowers to your vases – one or two stems can be striking – but really, the idea is that they look just as good empty.

A touch of greenery

If you don’t use your dining table all the time, it can quickly start looking a bit empty or lifeless. Potted plants are a great way to get around this problem, especially if your table is on the larger side and needs height to add interest.

If your dining room looks out over the garden – like the one in our picture, which features our Sheldrake extending table – having lots of greenery creates a nice link with the outdoors, but equally, if it doesn’t have a view, plants add some much-needed vitality.

Keep planters relatively plain so the focus remains on the foliage – grey or terracotta work well, with perhaps a pitcher or two for variety – but, again, combine different scales. This will make a formal table feel more relaxed and approachable.

A spot to linger

In some homes, dining tables are on duty all the time. Maybe you have an open-plan kitchen/dining space that you often use for quick breakfasts and lunches, working with a laptop or just sitting down to read.

Alternatively, perhaps you have a second, formal dining table that serves just for special occasions and that you could get more use out of. 

Both these kinds of tables can benefit from some softer touches, to encourage you to linger there at different times of day. Add an upholstered chair or two to the setting – perhaps even an armchair, if it fits – and some cushions and throws that you can relax with. You might reposition the dining chairs you don’t need every day (try them as a dressing chair in a bedroom or an accent chair in a hallway or landing) and move the table against a window or a fireplace, so it’s more atmospheric and easier to walk around.

A simple still life

Dining (and kitchen) tables are often gathering places for clutter, such as newspapers, books and bowls of fruit. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s simple to make them look a little more beautiful.

Think of the objects gathered on your table like a still-life painting. An artist would always add some glass to catch the light, and a softly draped linen tablecloth to add texture and a hint of colour. There might be some beautifully simple crockery, and the odd candle to set things aglow – unscented pillar candles or naturally fragranced beeswax ones won’t overwhelm the senses if you intend to use the table for eating. Place them inside hurricane lanterns for extra safety (and because it looks pretty).

Your still life doesn’t need to feel too ‘done’ – casual arrangements work just as well, but a beautiful backdrop (such as the textured, painted wall in two of the images) can make it even lovelier.