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How to Use Table Runners

Floral quilted placemats and table runners on round wood table

How to decorate with table runners.

Think of a table runner as an accessory for a table. It does for your table what a scarf can do for an outfit. You can use it to highlight a centerpiece, create a dramatic effect or add color and texture. Here we answer the most common questions about using a table runner in your home, from your dining room to your entryway and more!

Scalloped Table Runner and Placemats
Scalloped Table Runner and Placemats

What is a table runner?

Originally created centuries ago to help protect tablecloths, capture spills and prevent damage from serving dishes, today’s table runners offer the same practicality with an added decorative touch.

What is the standard size for table runners?

The standard size for a table runner is anywhere from 10 to 14 inches wide to lengths from 36 to 108 inches long. Often the length you choose will depend on the table you want to use it on and how much you want it to hang off the end of the table, which can be as little 2 inches to as much as 6 inches. Select a table runner with a width about one-third of the width of your table. So visually, it covers the middle third your table.

How do I use a table runner?

Traditionally, a table runner is placed down the center of your dining room table. It can lie directly on top of the table or be layered on top of a tablecloth. Choose a table runner in a short length that can be placed at the center of the table; this look is a nice way to bring focus to your centerpiece. Long draping table runners can give a dramatic flair, especially ones with fringe or tassels.

Kitchen & Dining Table Runner
Jocelyn Runner

Are table runners only for dining tables?

Absolutely not! Use a table runner across a sideboard or buffet. Throw one over a side table in your living room, a console in the hallway or a table in your foyer to help add a seasonal flair when guests arrive. If your fireplace mantel is wide enough, try using one there; choose a table runner in a light chiffon that can be decoratively “crumpled” to accent the space well.

How do I choose the right fabric?

Just like tablecloths, there are a variety of styles of table runners. Casual, everyday table runners are often in easy-to-care-for cotton and twill. Lacy table runners look more traditional. Runners in luxurious fabrics such as velvet or silk provide an upscale look. Let your occasion help you decide which table runner to choose. It is not uncommon to have several different table runners to fit multiple occasions.

How do I decorate with table runners?

Use table runners to dress up your table or accent it for every day. Try laying two table runners across a round table in the shape of an X, leaving space for a table setting in each quadrant. When you want to decorate your table even when it is not part of your entertaining plans, try draping one long table runner across the table, then accent with 3 shorter table runners across the width of the table. Finish with a centerpiece in the middle.

2 thoughts on “How to Use Table Runners

  1. I cannot find a table runner or what I really want are table cloths to fit my kitchen nook. It’s a rectangle shape, 43 x 271/2, and impossible to fit. Even table mats are cumbersome. Thank You

    1. Pamela, thank you for your comment. With a table that is 43” x 27 ½”, a perfect fitting tablecloth would be 55” x 39” which includes a 6-inch drop. The drop length is the length a tablecloth hangs below the surface of the table and is no further than the diner’s lap.

      You may want to consider either purchasing a standard 52” square tablecloth and having it altered or buying fabric and having a tablecloth made to fit your table.

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