Tablescaping, as its name implies, involves much more than setting the table. It requires more than the functional necessities for having a meal—plates, glasses, cutlery—but adorning the table with decorative flourishes to achieve a unified theme. It is usually the type of effort reserved for a wedding. However, as lockdown removed our ability to host special events, the trend picked up steam online as a way to break up the housebound mundanity and make an occasion at home. In some ways the essence of the trend is very old. Imagine the decadent banquets of a bygone era, royals and aristocracy with their polished silver, elaborate floral arrangements, and exotic trinkets. However, in other ways the tablescaping trend is very new, accelerated by the visual medium of Instagram. It offers us an aspirational window into each other’s material lives in a style inherent to social media today. Now, as government regulations have begun to allow, and entertaining at home becomes more feasible, many have sought out tablescaping with gusto.
Related hashtags such as #tablesetting, #tabledecor, and #tablescape bring up millions of hits on Instagram. There are also a number of influencers and designers who have built up reputations for their tablescaping. Fiona Leahy’s Instagram account is full of inspiring tablescapes from ‘trayscapes’ for one to long tables for a garden party affair. Socialite and entrepreneur, Alice Naylor-Leyland, another grand dame of tablescaping, has an entire tableware and homeware brand, Mrs. Alice. One of her first products to launch was a ‘tablescape in a box’ designed to effortlessly deliver the glamorous side of hosting without the hassle. For those not keen to buy and store their own collection of tablescaping materials, rental services have become an option in recent years. Brands like Lay London in London, Social Studies in New York, and A Table Story in Denmark, offer a range of styles to choose from. Usually they charge per person and can be an option for events both big and small. Signature Rentals, based in Dublin, offer ready-made Al Fresco tablescaping packages for up to 10 people. For those looking to give tablescaping a try on their own, now that the trend has gravitated into the mainstream, there are numerous articles and listicles offering advice on where to start. Like any trend intrinsically linked to lifestyle, the cost of entry can be prohibitive. However, there are budget-friendlier ways to tablescape. Often the best center-pieces can be made from foraged greenery or garden flowers. Lots of one of a kind treasures and vintage China can be found in charity shops or on Ebay. JYSK has versatile table linen starting at under €5 and all sorts of affordable Scandinavian-style pieces for a modern tablescape.
The rise of the tablescaping trend is good news for brands in the home space. And certainly one to watch. It is another manifestation of the lockdown-inspired move to thoughtfully curate our spaces. It also seems to be part of a larger counter trend to the minimalism which has been popular for years. As we head into cooler weather, mantle pieces and bookshelves, might be the next area to get this kind of design attention. It is also good news for artisans and makers, as things like embroidered napkins and handmade pottery can elevate and give a tablescape a personal touch. At its heart, tablescaping is hopeful. People are getting creative, hauling out the ‘good plates’ and ceasing the opportunity to celebrate despite the relentless year it’s been.