setting a spring dinner table

Tips for Setting a Beautiful Summer Table

Our summer meals are typically casual, often involving the barbecue and cold salads, but I still find it gratifying to set an attractive table for our family and friends to gather around. It doesn’t require much time and by putting a few special touches on the table I’m able to create a more enjoyable, attractive setting.

grill and setting the table with blue plates

Here are my tips for setting a summer table: 

The Comeback of Table Runners and Placemats 

There’s a resurgence in the popularity of table runners and placemats and I’m all over this trend because adding a textile creates a layering effect that is pleasing to the eye, as opposed to a hard, flat surface. I also use a runner or placemats as a way to add colour (my favourite is blue!) although a neutral, textured table runner or placemat can also be attractive. I usually have a runner on my table all of the time and then when setting it for a meal I add placemats.   

Tip: In cottage country “jute” and “rattan” are popular textiles for the table as they evoke a natural, earthy tone often used in coastal decor.

Add Height to Your Table with a Centrepiece

 A surface is always more attractive visually if there are differing heights, and for a dining table, that height can be added at the centre. Lately, I have been using a woven tray in the centre of my table with attractive (and useful) objects in the tray to add height including a wooden lantern lit by a candle, some fabric napkins, and a small vase with a flower sprig. The most popular objects to create height in the centre of a table include candle holders, a vase with flowers or branches, a lantern or a large wooden bowl, or a cake stand decorated with small decor items. The options are endless and inspiration can easily be found by searching “tablescape” on Pinterest or Google. 

Tip: While a centrepiece creates an inviting, beautiful table be sure to pay attention as your guests begin to sit down and move the centrepiece if it will interfere with their ability to see and talk to one another. Simply return it once guests finish their meal and leave the table.

blue table settings

Beautiful Napkins Make Guests Feel Special 

My mom always said that if company is coming for dinner then you need to set the table with special napkins! There are so many gorgeous paper napkins these days in a variety of colours and patterns and when I’m ordering them for our store I try to make sure we have a wide selection. Choose your napkin based on the colours and vibe you want to bring to your table whether it be a crisp blue and white pattern to create a “lake” inspired table, a beautiful floral for a soft, feminine table or a black and white or gold “art deco” inspired napkin for a more sophisticated look. The options are endless and you can have fun with this as it’s an inexpensive way to add style to your table. 

setting the table nautical decor

Have a Good Selection of Serving Dishes

I find the job of entertaining in the summer is made much easier and more efficient when I have a nice selection of serveware, especially platters for barbecued meats, bowls for salads, and plates for your appetizers. I can quickly pull my serving ware pieces out of the cupboard, assemble the prepared food and bring it to the table in an attractive way. I typically use white or cream serveware in the summers because the food I’m serving is typically colourful on its own. I also have a few whimsical pieces particularly suited for summer like my platter shaped like a fish and my navy and white printed bowls. If I’m entertaining and I’ve made a one-pot meal or a crumble dessert then I’m sure to make it in either my Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch Oven or casserole dish, as the vibrant colour is already so attractive before I even take the lid off to reveal the delicious contents.

fish style serving platter

To Use Melamine Dishware or Not?

In general, I use our melamine (unbreakable) dishes when I’m serving the meal outdoors, as this type of dinnerware is so light, virtually unbreakable and so easy to clean (which is especially helpful for those summer meals when you linger around the table outside and don’t get the dishes scraped off and in the dishwasher right away). When I’m serving the meal indoors I find my ceramic dishware to be more appropriate as the table decor tends to be a little more elevated but believe me there have been occasions I’ve used my summer melamine dishes indoors, particularly when my guests are kids!

Turquoise serving pot

Here’s My Favourite Summer Salad Recipe

If you’re going to be entertaining or going to a potluck this summer then grab your favourite summer salad bowl and try my favourite pasta salad recipe that I discovered in my beloved Barefoot Contessa recipe book. It is always a crowd pleaser and isn’t overly time-consuming to make so you can get outside and enjoy the weather.

rice dish


Dining in the summer should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience as it is such a special season that often provides us with opportunities to spend time with family and friends around a table. For that reason, I think a casual table setting is more than appropriate so that you’re not spending a lot of your valuable summer time fussing and fretting. But remember, it often only takes a few special touches to take your table from ordinary to beautiful. I hope you find my tips helpful and that you enjoy the rest of this very special season in cottage country.

Sincerely, Rose

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