How to Curate a One-of-a-Kind Cottagecore Tablescape, According to the Pros

Home decor experts share their tips for creating a sophisticated, whimsical atmosphere at your own table this entertaining season.

Cottagecore tablescape design with red plaid tablecloth, floral plates, pumpkin decor, etc.
Photo:

The Six Bells

The cottagecore aesthetic took over during the height of the 2020 lockdown, popping up everywhere from TikTok for you pages to the runways of major fashion brands. Everyone was suddenly making their own sourdough and buying linens and secondhand quilts. The cottagecore obsession has calmed slightly since then, but the trend isn’t going anywhere—in fact, it’s arguably become a decor staple. And with the holidays approaching at full speed, we asked home decor experts who specialize in vintage and handmade pieces for advice on incorporating cottagecore elements into a dreamy tablescape for your next dinner party.

Designing a Cottagecore Table Spread

“A cottagecore tablescape should feel bright, happy, warm, and a touch eccentric,” says Noel Fahden Briceno, vice president of merchandising at interior vintage furniture shop Chairish. “You’ll want to include mixed and matched floral china, scalloped placemats and napkins, rattan cutlery and ice buckets, colorful chintz linens, and whimsical vintage tureens and accessories.”

When searching for pieces, go for anything quilted, checkered and floral patterned, and try to find handmade glazed and ceramic dinnerware. Don’t just focus on the look, but also the feel of it in your hand, says Marie Joh, executive director of marketing at idyllic country home boutique The Six Bells in Brooklyn. She references a line of products the store carries designed by Heather Taylor Home: “Every single one of her textiles is incredible,” she says. “When people pick up a set of four napkins and feel the weight of it, they're like, ‘I get it.’ It’s this beautiful woven fabric.”

Anything that’s perfectly imperfect fits into the cottagecore aesthetic, making vintage and secondhand goods ideal for creating that atmosphere. Remember: It’s not a fine dining design style; your guests should feel cozy and comfortable. Find more tips on designing your own cottagecore tablescape below.

Place setting with name on leaf
Trevor Dixon LLC

Start with what you have.

You don’t have to rush out to buy all new dinnerware and cutlery to design a cottagecore tablescape—the beauty of the style is that it’s about playing with the old and new. 

“[Start] with one to two accent pieces that you really love and are planning on using,” Joh says. “Maybe it's a really special serving platter that you got from your grandmother or using a special vase to hold flowers. Start there, and build outward.”

If you do decide to grab a few new items, Joh recommends getting a tablecloth and napkins because they’re the easiest to design with (and can look the messiest if you’ve gotten a few uses out of them). If you feel like you have the linens covered, a really nice dinner plate “makes all the difference,” she says, and it’s something you can use daily.

muted colored honeycomb paper pumpkin table centerpiece
Greg Scheidemann

Create a color palette.

“No matter how colorful or bold you plan to go, I always suggest starting with the palette to help create cohesion throughout,”  Briceno says. “A mood board is never a bad idea.” Doing so is as easy as scrolling through Pinterest and saving photos you like. Stick with natural shades and add pops of red, orange, or green to increase visual interest. 

Mix and match prints and textures.

While a color palette helps create a flow, don’t be afraid to play around with different patterns and fabrics. You can add texture with your tablecloth (or a table runner if you have limited space), layering placemats, then working with your plates and napkins, Joh suggests. 

“Changing up the textures and [using] different brands and all of that clashing I think makes it a little bit more memorable and interesting,” she says. “We try not to be too matchy-matchy at The Six Bells because I don't think that's the cottagecore way.” For example: Pair woven placemats with a checkered tablecloth and ceramic dinner plates that have fun motifs, like wildflowers or fruit.

“Always start with more and don’t be afraid to edit as you go to get the right balance of playfulness and sophistication,” Briceno says. 

Focus on height.

If you don’t have much room on your table, don’t stress! You can build your decor vertically rather than spreading it out. Start with whatever your tallest piece is and build off of it. “When it comes to height, you want to start with what your accent is going to be,” Joh says. “So if your height is a bunch of beautiful mismatched candlesticks, then start there and work around that, and maybe add flowers or a branch in a vase.”

tabletop garland
Adam Albright

Include a candle (or 12).

Cottagecore design is all about creating a feeling, so including sensory items like candles helps add to the ambiance. Tapered candles are a great staple to have, but be sure they’re not so tall that they’re blocking someone’s line of sight, Briceno says. 

It’s more than just the look of the candles themselves: “Food looks better by candlelight,” Joh points out. Just make sure the scent isn’t too overpowering if you’re serving dinner. 

Next Level Cottagecore Tablescape Ideas

For more seasoned tablescape designers, go beyond the basics to make yours extra memorable. This is where the details come in—incorporate decorative accents like candle holders, pinch bowls, and seasonal objects, as they add “wonderful layered and playful elements to a tablescape,” Briceno says.

Joh suggests looking up YouTube videos on different napkin folding styles or getting napkin rings. You can also carry your decorative elements into the kitchen with serving platters, dessert trays, and any finishing touches that complete a meal. As long as you’re layering your linens and keeping everything light and playful, the next time you host will have everyone feeling like they’re right at home.

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