20 Alternative Table Runners

Tired of ordinary, basic, and monochromatic table runners? Yeah, I am too. So I decided to nix buying any table runners from the tablecloth aisle and buy other items to spruce up my dining room table. And when you think about it, there are quite a few different ways to dress the area without being boring, generic, and by adding a lot more style and surprise. Let’s take a look at some alternative table runners for the breakfast nook, your dinner table, or even the dining room!!

20 Ideas to Decorate Your Tables Without Table Runners

1. Rustic Wooden Boards

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Whether it goes the entire length of the table or just a slab, using wooden boards to dress up the casual is a great way to add a bit of casual elegance. Place candles atop or even some of the side dishes to make it easier to serve. Wooden boards can even be used to serve family-style appetizers for large gatherings by laying out antipasto or charcuterie boards with food displayed across the top of them. Be sure to choose a wooden board that matches the tone of other wood in your furniture for a unified look. 

2. Vintage Book Sheets

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For a reader and writer, this one is obviously my favorite choice. For a casual everyday look at all your tables, create a little table runner using some sheets from an old book. Try adding a little design to the edges using a paper punch and glue them together to make the final product wider. These paper runners look good on a long dining room table, but they can also be a sophisticated accent in a library too. 

3. Playful Scarves

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Dress up the table for winter with some wool or dress it down for spring with something sheer. Use different scarves with different looks and seasons to play up the season! Scarves are an unexpected way for you to display your favorite team’s colors, show off your favorite fashion accessory, or otherwise add some cheer to your fall spaces indoors. Try adding some additional accents like pine cones or bowls of fallen leaves to give the space an even more autumn vibe. Scarves are also easy to switch out in a hurry if you want to rotate through different color palettes in your interior design.  

4. Adorable Doilies

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Use all your doilies to create the table runner essence. Design them the way you’d like and you’ve got an instantly more feminine and flirty place for brunch. If you don’t have enough, try going to the flea market or thrifting for some great finds. Since doilies are no longer one of the most popular decorating accents, you can often find tons of vintage doilies for a very reasonable price if you buy them secondhand. 

5. Whimsy Cheesecloth

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Cheesecloth works well for a light, airy feel. It’s relaxed but still pretty enough to use on the table, especially if you used an over sized piece for a smaller table. Cheesecloth is a good decorating option for interior designs with a more relaxed and rustic feel, such as farmhouse style design. Its affordable price means that you can easily make a set of matching cheesecloth runners for every table in your house if you want. It also looks great in older renovated historical homes with antique architectural features. 

6. Boyish Burlap

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You can always grab some burlap and cut a piece that is long enough for every table. It’s the perfect idea to use for an outdoor breakfast or evening lunch. Just add a few fresh flowers to girl it up a bit! Even though burlap is a tough fabric compared to other runner fabrics, adding feminine touches such as a few sprigs of baby’s breath or some lacy place settings can make burlap fancy enough for a wedding reception. 

7. Simple Place Mats

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If you have enough place mats, set them up in a way that gives the illusion of a table runner. It’s a bit more interesting than a generic table runner and you can add a little bit design by setting up the pieces like so. Place mats are also affordable and come in many different designs so you can mix and match them for the perfect centerpiece. Use light-colored mats to set off a dark table or darker mats to stand out on lighter furniture. Fabric place mats are best for decorating formal occasions, but you can use plastic ones for a more durable everyday runner.  

8. Dual-Purpose Rug

Dual-Purpose Rug Alternative table runner

Rugs are close enough in shape and size that they can take the same place as a table runner as long as you choose a rug that is relatively thin. Braided cotton rugs work great as an alternative table runner and can be found in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The advantage of using a rug as a table runner is that you can always put it back down on the floor later after the need for a table runner is over. (via Etsy

9. Wrapping Paper

Wrapping Paper alternative wrapping paper

If you want a more striking table runner but you don’t want to buy one and don’t have the holiday fabric to sew one, folded wrapping paper can give you a beautiful center table runner in almost any color or pattern you like for just a few dollars. Folding the wrapping paper under on the edges can help give it a thicker and more professional look. Be sure to measure your wrapping paper out carefully before cutting so that it’s long enough to run your table. (via This Is Our Bliss)

10. Balloon Table Runner

Balloon Table Runner alternative table runner

Table runners are often used for formal occasions, but if you’re celebrating a party, why not go for something a little more festive? Balloons are perfect for a DIY table runner alternative that can be thrown together quickly before a party and dismantled afterward without much trouble. Balloons come designed for all different kinds of occasions. Use multi-hued balloons for a dash of bright rainbow color or stick with neutrals like metallics for a classier look. (via Love the Day)

11. Kraft Paper

kraft paper alternative table runner

Kraft paper table runners are a great choice for Thanksgiving since they give off an earthy, rustic vibe that is perfect for a feast affair. Kraft paper can help keep spills off the table and you can even write right on it, which makes it easy to mark everyone’s place with their name. Even though this type of table runner alternative costs less than ten dollars to throw together, it can still make your dinner table look put together and beautiful. (via Dawn Nicole)

12. Coffee Sacks

coffee sacks alternative table runner

For an alternative to solid burlap table runners, sewn-together coffee sacks are great to add some bohemian appeal to your kitchen or living room space. There are many different coffee types available so you can get any combination of patterns you want for your final design. This table runner idea is also perfect for anyone who never wants to be separated from their favorite cup of coffee, or for anyone who is a coffee connoisseur. (via Black and White and Loved All Over)

13. Quilted Blanket

Quilted Blanket alternatvie table runner

If you’re crafty and want a table runner alternative that is a bit thicker and longer-lasting than most commercial table runners you can find in a department, sewing a quilted blanket runner can be a great alternative. There are so many free do-it-yourself quilting patterns to create table centerpieces online if you want to pick up a sewing machine and do it yourself. If you’re not so crafty, you can always break down and buy a quilted runner from an online artisan. (via Home Esthetics)

14. Vintage Lace

vintage lace alternative table runner

You can get a lighter or Victorian vibe to your place settings by adding a runner of lace to the table as an alternative to traditional cloth table runners. Since lace comes in mostly neutral colors, it acts as a good grounding element to your interior design that you can add other brighter accent colors on top of in the form of candles or other decor. Lace looks especially sophisticated for decorating the table during weddings or Christmas gatherings. (via Etsy)

15. Succulents

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If you want a centerpiece to run down the middle of your long table but you don’t want to fuss with everyday table runners, an arrangement of succulents in a long planter can make a dramatic centerpiece for your table instead. Fake succulents can be used if you’re afraid of maintaining real plants or you don’t have enough indirect sunlight to sustain them, but succulents are a very easy species of houseplant to care for if you want to spring for the real thing. (via My Tasteful Space)

16. Branch Centerpiece

Branch Centerpiece alternative table runner

Another option for a rustic centerpiece that isn’t a standard cloth table runner is a branch arrangement which you can make extra long to run right down the center of your table. You can use many different types of wood to create one, and they can also be decorated with other accents such as candles or ribbons. Painting the branches in a metallic color or hot-gluing faux flowers and greenery to the branches are two ways of making them more vibrant. It’s also a means of adding a color palette if you choose to add flowers of a certain shade to set off other colors in the room’s design. (via Afloral)

17. Terrarium Table Runner

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Adding greenery to your interior design as a natural element is a great way to bring in some life and richness to the space. Terrariums can take the place of table runners in the center of a table as a brilliant focal point where you can display any kind of houseplants you like. Choose low-light houseplants if you don’t have much direct sunlight in the room or use a full spectrum tabletop lamp to help give the terrariums a little extra help. (via Bless’er House)

18. Greenery Leaf Table Runner

Leaf Alternative Table Runner

For a truly different alternative to a traditional table runner, how about using a leaf table runner instead? A display of fresh branches and leaves can add the same level of visual interest as a table runner but with a much more natural look. This type of table runner is perfect for romantic-themed summer gatherings, or you could use clean fallen leaves for an autumn design. Different types of leaves give such a unique vibe you’ll never have to use a boring old table runner again. You can even recycle this table runner in the compost afterward!
(via Lia Griffith)

19. Flower Vases

Flower Vases alternative table runner

Flower vases placed down the center of a table instead of a table runner can add a sophisticated and feminine look to any table setting. One of the biggest advantages of using flower vases as a table centerpiece is that you can choose different vases or flower selections to make the table either fancier or more simple. Choose formal flowers such as roses for a classy aesthetic or make things more homey with daisies or even dandelions from the yard. (via Julie Blanner)

20. DIY Tie-Dye Table Runner

DIY Tie-Dye alternative Table Runner

For something a little more funky and fun, you can put an alternative twist on the classic table runner by creating a DIY tie-dye version. Table runners can be tie-dyed with funky primary colors, with traditional indigo dyes, or you can even do a more subdued monochromatic version for a grown-up take on the look. Tie-dye is a simple enough crafting technique that even complete beginners can pull it off and end up with a great-looking piece for the table.
(via Rebekah Lowin)

When it comes to throwing a fantastic dinner party or another social gathering, it’s the little details that can truly make the event magical for everyone invited. Table runners are great for dressing up your bare tables for company, especially if you’re serving guests you want to impress. However, there are plenty of alternative methods for adding centerpieces and other decor to the length of the table that can add even more intrigue and style. The alternative table runner ideas in the list above should give you plenty of inspiration for coming up with your own special concept for a table runner for your next household get-together.