Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Tablescape: An artfully arranged collection of objects placed on a table (or other flat surface) for decorative purposes.
I love "tablescapes" and if you're reading this, chances are that you love them too. 
Since I was a girl, I've been arranging my things to look more beautiful.  Every little precious object that seemed unique to me was collected and arranged on my night table, dresser, or window ledge as a girl.  I was a self-taught stylist, arranging old things, my mother's jewellery and ornaments, and organic things from the outdoors (like leaves and branches).  I would photograph my arrangements with my little Kodak Disc camera (the one with the round negative), and change them around on a regular basis.  I was constantly "dusting my dresser" and re-arranging everything.  You'd think I would have realized sooner that I had a bona fide decorating addiction. 
I had a beautiful and very old pressback chair in my bedroom, from my Grandmother's house.  It was the nicest piece of furniture in my room, and together with an old orange crate my Dad gave me, it became the central player in many early tablescapes and roomscapes.  These dreamscapes were inspired, no doubt, by "Country Living", the only decorating magazine I could find at my local drugstore, and upon which my teenaged self was utterly dependent (along with Duran Duran).
Tablescapes have evolved from the wee collections girls (and some boys) arrange on their dressers.  Decorators everywhere create painstakingly perfect tablescapes of rare objects, arranged and rearranged with obsessive care.  But there is nothing more beautiful than a casual collection of simple things that doesn't look too contrived nor too carefully curated.  
A highly organized tablescape can look refined and elegant, even with simple elements.  Symmetry and tasteful flowers makes this tablescape all the more regal and formal-looking.
Kitchen tablescapes evolve haphazardly and can be beautiful too.  I love looking at the food and table styling in magazines like Cooking Light, to which we subscribe.  The patina of copper pots and a weathered countertop create a perfect backdrop for a tablescape of classic kitchen objects.
I like very lived-in tablescapes.   I don't arrange my house too carefully, except for my sideboard, which is the most static display space we have.  Even it changes every couple of weeks, but my other tablescapes change almost daily as I move things around.  I am constantly moving books, candles, and flowers, and switching decorative objects from one spot to another.  It is almost compulsive.  Even at 11:00 at night, I sometimes leave my bathroom for bed, carrying a little object to another part of the house. Please tell me that you do this too...
I don't like overly contrived arrangements, but when you have beautiful artistic pieces, it's hard not to let them hold court and have a surface all to themselves!  The problem is, a too-perfect tablescape doesn't invite real life - like keys and gloves, newspapers and our copious electronic devices - to share space with the decorations.  Life must be allowed in, even if it means forcing it into baskets, trays, and pretty bowls in strategic locations!  
Tablescapes are best when they evolve and are not-quite-perfect all the time.  
Which also leads me to think of the thousands of tablescapes and roomscapes that we all see but that no one else ever sees - the way the light falls across your newspaper on a Sunday morning, with your coffee grounds in the bottom of your mug, and your egg shell still sitting in your bowl.  For me, I notice that I like my house best on nights when we have dinner parties and the guests have gone home.  Then, I sit with my last glass of wine, listening to classical music in the soft spell of candlelight and look at the debris of a beautiful meal on the table and feel spiritually full!  There is something about partaking in a lovely meal with good company that makes the table and the house almost more beautiful after the meal than before, because now it is imbibed with experience.
 I see these ever-changing landscapes in my home and they make me very thankful for the beautiful stuff of life that only I can see.  
Next time I will post about designer Vicente Wolf who is, in my opinion, a master of the artful  tablescape.

Thanks to Shoot Factory for all photos except the 1st, 3rd and 4th photos from House Beautiful.


  1. Great post Terri. So thoughtful and lyrical.
    I'm in the process of collecting photos to do a post on console tables, and after reading your post, I've just realised why I love them so much is that they are an opportunity to create tablescapes. I love creating them and switching them around too, although not quite as much as you I think!
    By the way, I hope you don't mind but your 'joy' and 'noel' Christmas banners have inspired me to do something similar. I've found some brown paper mache luggage tags, and I was thinking of covering them with music sheet paper (Christmas themed, if I can find it) and stamping them with black letters and attaching them to a white velvet ribbon by tiny little wooden pegs. Thought I'd do it now so I don't forget come Christmas time. I'm not normally a crafty type of person, but if they turn out alright I will do a post on them.

  2. I just found your blog, and absolutely loveit. I could relate to so much in this post. I do wake up in the night because I thought of something that would look good somewhere else in my house, and actually get up and move it around. hee! You're not alone!

    I love the images of the private vignettes you described - the sun across the newspaper, the coffee grounds in the bottom of the mug -

    I'll be back! Often! :)
    xo Isa

  3. OH, yes, I have risen in the night to rearrange. We are crazy, aren't we?

  4. Lovely posting -- we lived for two years on 5th street in Calgary! We're now in Dallas. Love the tablescapes -- and yes! I do carry things through the house at night LOL! And re-arrange stuff in T.J. Maxx, restaurants and hotels too! DH literally holds my hands in some homes so I don't leap up and re-arranage during a party! LOL!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  5. Thanks for sharing the beautiful collection of tablescape photos. Love your blog.

  6. Oh, that will be fun to see next time...

    Yes, I fiddle with stuff all the time. I 'm torn between the functional and the lovely. I don't always have both.

    Sister, could I ever show you a few tablescapes that are definitely not contrived. ;>

  7. Hi there,
    I love tablescapes, and am also constanly rearranging things everywhere on my chest of drawers, to create a beautiful look.
    you posted lovely images, very inspirational!

    have a good weekend,

  8. great post - I'm going to send this on to Peeking Through the Sunflowers who is stumped about a tablescape right now! and that calendar you made is adorable.

  9. I am always impressed by people who effortlessly display their objects so beautifully.
    I like those displays on top of the mantles, especially the one with the column capitols and the small figures. It shows such a great sense of balance.

    Thank you for a lovely post.


  10. This is a wonderful post! I truly think that tablescapes are like little miniature paintings, just in 3D. It takes a lot of skill with balance, proportion, differing heights, to make a pleasing tablescape.

    You have a picture in here I have never seen before, and I love it - the one with the large painting/charcoal sketch above the console.

  11. its quite impressive simple but great like the guy wearing big and tall suit.

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