A good tablescape juxtaposes rustic
and refined, tall and short, new and old.
Do you wonder why, despite your efforts, your tabletop displays don’t look like those you see in magazines and decorator showhouses?

There are some simple steps you can take to turn those lackluster displays into pleasing, vignettes.

Why bother? Because in a staged home on the market, tabletops can help you sell a  home. They are one of the few areas where you can play with some details to make a home look newer and more interesting, where you can add another layer to capture the imagination of buyers. They can also stress the uniqueness of your locale, the pedigree of a home, or an appreciation for the current season.  

Easy as one, two, three

There are three steps I depend on for a winning tablescape. 

First is to use something from nature such as flowers, fruit, coral, plants, pine cones, acorns, shells or rocks. These things might be painted or left natural, real or artificial, large or not-so-large.     

Second is to add something refined or glamorous such as a handcrafted ceramic piece, a beautifully framed sketch, glassware, leather-bound books, or a lacquer box. 

Third is to choose something that serves as a background that ties it all together such as a tray, a large open basket or bowl, a cutting board, a table runner, or a garland.

To create a table centerpiece suitable to stage a dining room in autumn (above photo), I made a simple grapevine wreath. My other natural element is green apples. The glass bowl holding the apples is the requisite "refined piece," even though it isn’t cut crystal or hand-blown glass. The silver candlesticks also add a touch of elegance. And the checkered table runner is my background layer. As I said, easy as counting to three.

You can elaborate on these basics if the area you are staging is large. Just add more props from nature or some beautiful objet d'art. Don't think that you need to bust your budget at the home decor store, although that's a great place to go for inspiration and ideas. Often the home staging props that make sense for the style and location of your home are all around you -- hiding in closets, the supermarket, your backyard, garage, attic, store room, bookcase, or local thrift stores. 

Small items can be pilfered when a home is being shown,
so stage with props that
are too big to fit in pockets, or that don't
have much value, like these nuts in a bowl.

Decorator David Jimenez uses a simple black and white
color palette to unify all the objects on a bedside tabletop,
Some are organic, some are reflective,
and there's always some kind of tray to gather up the little things.    

Stay with the season

All of the elements in my fall centerpiece reflect the time of year in my mind. The apples and grapevines represent harvest time. Other autumnal props you might prefer are the ubiquitous pumpkins and gourds in all shapes, sizes, colors, designs and materials. Bittersweet berries, leaves, and other woodsy elements are natural fall choices. When I think of the fall I also think of sweaters, plaids, and houndstooth patterns (especially popular this year), baskets, old barn wood, corn husks, quilts, and dark leather.    

Candles are especially appropriate decor accessories for autumn. Bring on the pillars, the votives, and the tapers!  During the summer, I don’t stage with candles. They just seem too “hot.” When days shorten in September, I'm glad to re-introduce candles.

My checkered tablecloth is reminiscent of a homey country kitchen. A crisp black and white pattern is always in season and a checkerboard design is classic. Generally, autumn colors are the warm, muted, muddy colors of the season's diminished natural light and of the drying vegetation. But I like to use more urban touches as well, such as black, white, and metallics.  

More staging tips

When you are choosing props to stage a table vignette, whether it’s a simple tabletop, a mantel, bookshelf, bath vanity, or dining table, remember to choose objects of different heights, shapes, textures, uses, and colors. It sounds like it might get chaotic, but trust me. As long as you choose items that share some unifying theme such as similar color or mood, you’re good. 

If you are staging a home, I'm here to help. Order my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and you’ll learn all the big and little tricks to make a home appealing to buyers.