Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A DIYer Guide to Creating a Centerpiece

Be forewarned: I am not an interior decorator, but I have spent a lot of time with one. I love making things look pretty and I am very particular and a slight perfectionist when it comes to the "rules" of decorating. In fact, many of my friends and family as me for decorating advice, particularly with paint colors and centerpieces.

Which leads me to the entire inspiration of this post: my bestie is decorating her new house! Yay!

She has been trying to find a centerpiece for her dining room table, but she was having trouble making it look natural. She really wanted it to be balanced, but she was placing the objects in a very symmetrical way which was making her feel uneasy about the project. She asked me for some advice about how to make a centerpiece visually interesting and organic looking.

I thought I'd share what I told her!

By no means am I an expert, but I have spent a lot of time with my interior designer, Celeste. She has helped me on countless projects in my house and taught me a bunch of things along the way. It helps that I like to pick her brain constantly so that I can come up with my own ideas and stop paying her (I, of course, did not share my motivation with her). Most of this information is what I learned from speaking to her about projects (she is awesome and I love her) and most of the pictures are what I've done with the information she has given me and then a few inspirational pictures as well.

Basic Centerpiece Concepts:

Pieces that are grounded by some object-- a tray, a placemat, a table runner--- will give you boundaries so you know what you have to work with. For most people, this is the easiest way to create a visually appealing focal point.

Always remember function-- using trays as a place for your make up, perfume, or daily beauty supplies is perfect in the bathroom. It will make things look neat and less cluttered even if they are scattered around the tray.

To add interest, opt for objects that have varying height or place some objects on books, in a bowl, on a butcher block or other objects to create a height difference.

I really like odd numbers because I think they automatically look less contrived. So if you find three to five objects to put on your base then you will have a good foundation. They can be big or small depending on the space that you have, but always remember to think of function and not just how it will look.

If you are looking to create a large piece, opt for something that will repeat to create unity. Use all mercury glass, crystal bowls and cups, or antique candle holders but in different patterns and sizes and then sprinkle little accent pieces around them that speak to you. It also looks nice if you break it up by adding something as a base or elevation, such as a tray or a butcher block, for a resting place for some of your display items.

Let's look at my dining room centerpiece:

I used a lot of black, but these little birds-- they are salt and pepper shakers from Pier 1 imports-- really lighten it up! I love them! The fruit and flowers bring in the color to wrap it all together and the butcher block brings the eye to the lighter objects--- birds, flowers, and one candle (with a slightly higher elevation than it's twin).

Celeste gave me a great tip when working with a large space (like a dining room table).  To create balance, place your tallest object at once side and then casually create a cascading effect by gradually going from tallest to shortest. If done well, this won't be obvious unless your guests are really admiring your set up.

You can also use different set ups like putting a taller object (flowers in vase) on both ends and smaller object (bowl of fruit) in the middle. Or the opposite-- two shorter objects on the edges and a taller, more dramatic piece in the middle. This often looks best when you sprinkle smaller objects (think voltive candles or mini lanterns) around the base.

Also, always remember function-- that center bowl in the above picture is filled with rocks, but it's for our keys, important business cards, and other items that we need to remember where they are at.

Another great option is a circular piece using three objects. I just love everything in this picture from Pottery Barn! They used a big dramatic display of hydrangeas, a large antique bowl in which they place the white vase. Doesn't it just scream cottage charm? ::sigh::

Another appealing option for those looking for a more classic look is to opt to repeat the same item in a set of three, but these usually create the best effect with large items, like lanterns, large candles, or vases like this image I found on Pinterest:

 The idea is that you should either want to make it look like you did this display on purpose (keeping things even and more traditional) or you should follow some basic rules to make your display look more organic, but also pleasing so they only appear to be randomly selected.

Most people view the organic look as just setting somethings together on a table, but it's not that easy. If anything, it's much harder than the traditional look because it takes a lot more strategy but personally, I love it!

Here are some other pictures that I love:

Pottery Barn

unknown source (pinterest)


  1. Hi! I have been devouring everything on your website for the past couple of weeks, and I love that you have some posts on interior design and such. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a centerpiece for our dining room table. It is a round, glass table with a large glass lazy susan. We have tried multiple different centerpieces already, but they are all too large or simply awkward. The rest of the room is filled with a variety of browns and pops of red. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Rachel! Thanks for checking out my blog :)

      Oh, yeah! Round tables can be difficult to decorate (especially with your lazy susan). I had one before I bought this monster size table that I have now! I can suggest a few things for you to think about which may make it a little easier.

      First, I kind of like the lazy susan-- it's basically a built in "decorate me"! area!

      1) Embrace the circle! I really like to use things that have a circle-like shape when decorating round tables-- candles, flowers in low set round bowls, spheres, plates, cake stand, teacup, volitive candles, decorative bottles. It's fun to use different sizes and intensities of the circle (and oval)-- you remember don't want them all the same size! You don't want someone to look at it and think about circles. But for interest, if you have something that you love (cow, bird, owls) then repeat that here with a figurine that really speaks to you. It will really make it pop!


      2) With round tables it's usually best to do something with either 1 large object (like a big round bowl full of fruit) or a cluster of 3 or 5. It's always best to use odd numbers!

      Ex: OR (Both have different size lazy susans)

      3) If you pick more than one item, it's best to have them in a variety of heights to create interest. You could do one med chunky candle holder, a small round arrangement of flowers, and a salt and pepper shaker that makes a statement. If you wanted to do five, you could had some thin candles or volitive candles in the same finish as the chunky candle holder to create unity. Most people will find the table looks too busy with 5 completely different items-- repeat textures or colors/finishes in some of your items and it will flow together.

      ex: (this is technically a 5 piecer-- 3 candles, group of pinecones, and the berries, but they kept the theme going with the wood look so it doesn't look like too much and notice how everything is technically round/oval).

      4) My dining room is also brown and red with cream!! Excellent choice! ;) It's nice to bring some of that color into your centerpiece, but my personal preference is to be subtle about it. I really like using neutrals for centerpieces and allowing about ⅓ of the items to have some color. I would suggest using 3 colors in your centerpiece and using one of your main colors within that (ex: white, black and red) which will prevent that matchy-matchy look yet it will look united.

      But always make sure that you find something that speaks to you and is true to who you are. What I've done in the past is go to several stores after I found my "Me Piece". I'd buy whatever items that I thought would go well with my "Me Piece" (knowing that I wouldn't use all of them). I would bring them home to play mix and match on my table until I found the right size and look. Then I'd just return the rest ;)

      If you do a google search of just "round table decoration" and look at some of the ideas they have you may find something that really speaks to you. Granted, a lot of them are wedding decorations, but they can still inspire you! And once you find your inspiration picture, then you can use some of the principles here to be able to find the PERFECT centerpiece that really represents you!

      I hope this helped!!

    2. Wow, thank you very much! I am excited to go searching for the perfect pieces now. You have helped a lot!

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