Turn Your Next Dinner Party into a Dining Experience with Creative Centerpiece Ideas

With centerpieces having morphed into tablescapes, the decoration of the dining table has been elevated to a whole new level. While those who are naturally creative may take to the task joyfully, others might feel more than a little dread and anxiety when it’s time to set the table.

At the 2019 Dining by Design in New York, we found lots of ideas — from complex and over the top to simple but dramatic — for upping your dining table game. The displays are created by designers highlighting a particular theme, many associated with the evolution of the AIDS crisis. All the proceeds benefit Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, better known as DIFFA. See which of these inspires you most.

Bright and Bold

White vessels and giant paper flowers make for a whimsical table.View in gallery
White vessels and giant paper flowers make for a whimsical table.
Small details around the vases add interest.View in gallery
Small details around the vases add interest.

This dining space, designed by Patrick Miele for Benjamin Moore, projects a very happy feeling. The designer says it is a “celebration of old-world glamour executed with contemporary verve and panache.”  The candy-colored palette makes it ideal for a celebration.  What we love the most is how it demonstrates the use of items other than fresh flowers. The giant paper flowers are fun and whimsical, while the white vases can be easily recreated with vessels you already have. Even if your dining room isn’t pink, this type of tablescape would be loads of fun.

A New Twist on Traditional

Traditional centerpieces can be more relaxed with the right flower choices.View in gallery
Traditional centerpieces can be more relaxed with the right flower choices.

The focus of this design bu the Black Artists + Designers Guild is the image on the wall and the theme is meant to represent “the silent hope binding us together. If she is diminished the whole is compromised.” Turning to the table itself, a trio of more traditional flower arrangments line the center of the table. The feeling is kept fresh by featuring a varied array of more casual blooms and the seating is a mix of modern wing-back chairs at the ends and stools along the sides.

Escaping Reality

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Flowers can be inserted in vessels in different ways. Try transporting your guests to an unexpected place at your next dinner party as David Scott Interiors and Roche Bobois have done in this space. It is meant to evoke a dinner aboard a luxury liner cruising the Atlantic. The screen images provide the mood and the predominantly glass table and settings reflect the blue ocean colors. The flowers and other elements in the center of the table are meant to remind diners of the warm yellow sunshine. Note that the use of fresh flowers is casual and the stems are arranged to fit the vessels used.  this is definitely something that can be repeated with all sorts of vases and containers.

A Stellar Theme

Small details, like themed linens, can add to the flair of a design.View in gallery
Small details, like themed linens, can add to the flair of a design.

This table by Felderman Keatinge + Associates is called “No Dream Is Too High” and is meant to commemorate astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. It’s a great example of how any anniversary can be used to drive the decor theme of a dinner table. Custom drawings are on the walls and the table itself sticks to a simple color palette. The napkins have a lunar-like abstract pattern and the centerpiece features glass rounds and simple sprays of silver balls.

Centerpieces can include many types of elements.View in gallery
Centerpieces can include many types of elements.

Herman Miller, Studios Architecture and WB Wood collaborated on this setting that they call “An obsessive examination of what makes dining experiences authentic.” They look at everything from the gaze/dining as voyeurism to experimenting with materials as tangible and emotional design elements and a study of the ideal table shape to foster communications. The free-flowing centerpiece is a combination of food and decorative objects as well as flowers. Study this tablescape and then let your imagination go wild for your next party.

Elemental Repetition

A single element can be used in various ways.View in gallery
A single element can be used in various ways.

A single element can be used to create an entire environment as this dining space by the School of Visual Arts does. It was inspired by the flower itself and the individual elements within: The flower pistil represents hope, and the petals represent us — they are a unified entity that needs each individual. Using the same flower or decorative element in a simple centerpiece that is then repeated in different areas of the room ties the space together and puts the focus on the element, in this case, the flower.

Full of Meaning

The table and the wall space can be decorated for a dramatic environment.View in gallery
The table and the wall space can be decorated for a dramatic environment.

The dining space designed by IA Interior Architects called “Past + Present + Future” marks the 35 years since the discovery of the AIDS virus in 1984. The two sides of the room celebrate how far we have come and examine how much more there is to do. The use of a reflective surface on the table and the centerpiece elements reflects the stark difference of the decor on the walls. It’s yet another great example of how topics can be treated as a theme for a dinner.

Vibrant and Colorful

Color and lighting help create a stunning space.View in gallery
Color and lighting help create a stunning space.

INC Architecture & Design used imperfect patches of color to create this playful atmosphere in their design called “Us is more.” The environment is made of simple forms and materials. the designers say that alone, they are rather unremarkable but together they are unforgettable. At this table, and life’s core, us is always more. Here the centerpiece is literally elevated to become a suspended element.  Not only does this create a more dramatic space, but it opens up the table and facilitates the connection between diners.

Meal with a Message

Balloons can be used for many types of dinner events.View in gallery
Balloons can be used for many types of dinner events.
Repetition of boldly colored elements makes a big statement.View in gallery
Repetition of boldly colored elements makes a big statement.

In a celebration of the beauty both inside and out that is present in those living with HIV/AIDS, Gensler, Knoll and EvensonBest created “You Are Beautiful.” The space creatively uses the graphic message and then includes a fun balloon installation to define the dining area.  The table itself is set simply, relying on the message and the repetition of bright and sunny tableware to complete the look. The concept can be transferred easily to other types of themes.

Soft and Gentle

Using a suspended arrangement and a second on the table is striking.View in gallery
Using a suspended arrangement and a second on the table is striking.
Black and white textiles help highlight the centerpiece.View in gallery
Black and white textiles help highlight the centerpiece.

For occasions that call for a softer touch, this dining space designed by Stacy Garcia in collaboration with Crypton Home Fabric and Calico is very inspirational. Her use of soft, subdued tones combined with more colorful elements is meant to recall winter colliding with the explosion of color that is spring. Designed by Stacy Garcia in collaboration with Crypton Home Fabric & Calico. The flower arrangements —  in cooperation with Sahola Flower Fashion Boutique — are the ideal counterpoint to the black and white graphic textiles used on the wall and the table. The suspended arrangement used in combination with the centerpiece creates a feeling of heightened drama.

A Modern Mobile

A custom piece suspended above the table means little else is required.View in gallery
A custom piece suspended above the table means little else is required.

This monochrome dining space features Ultrafabrics designed by Stonehill Taylor. “Journey” highlights nearly four decades of research and human achievement in the fight against AIDS. The hanging layered centerpiece is meant to represent hope and optimism thanks to ceaseless scientific and technological advancements. The setting is full of inspiration because of the all-white table settings that only serve to put the focus on the hanging element.

Lush and Luxe

Bountiful use of one design can create a very luxurious space.View in gallery
Bountiful use of one design can create a very luxurious space.

Inspired by The Peacock Room, James McNeill Whistler’s masterpiece of interior decorative art, the Rockwell Group’s created this space that uses the peacock feather design on the wall covering, the handmade peacock-feather tablecloth, and the light fixture. It’s a grand example of layering a single element in multiple ways to create a luxurious and opulent dining space. The glassware used for the place settings adds to the ambiance as well.

A Starlit Space

Layers of lighting create a warm and enchanting ambiance.View in gallery
Layers of lighting create a warm and enchanting ambiance.

Inspired by the beauty of pearls and the creatures that create them, jewelry maker McKenzie Liautaud and Robert Verdi designed this space that seems surrounded by stars and glows from the center with a slew of candles. The seats resemble pears and the tableware echoes the concept. Using types of candles and special lighting can really ramp up the ambiance of a dinner party setting.

The Power of Reading

A theme like reading can help facilitate dinner table conversation.View in gallery
A theme like reading can help facilitate dinner table conversation.

Novitá Communications created an installation that focuses on the power of reading with the feeling in empathy. “In a time when information is consumed at lightning speed, it is important to remember the influence and role of reading in helping us all to step into shoes of others.” While the entire room features books, the table settings are especially creative. A book-shaped light serves as the centerpiece and open volumes are placed at each setting. This would be a fabulous and very creative setting for launching the discussion of a topic or topics at a dinner party.

A Striking Backdrop

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An imposing backdrop requires a minimalist table setting.

Students at Pratt Institute designed their space called “Stronger Together” using the Japanese concept of kinstugi. This is a ceramic technique used to repair broken pottery with a gold or silver creating a more beautiful whole. With the surrounding space being so dramatic, the table settings are appropriately minimalist, and the irregular color division of the table echoes the gold seam across the walls.

Moody Minimalism

This spectacular tablescape demonstrates that less can definitely be more!View in gallery
This spectacular tablescape demonstrates that less can definitely be more!

A simple moody backdrop is the perfect scene-setting element for a dramatic minimalist table. Created by Teknion Studio TK LUUM and Tarkett and Huntsman, the long smooth table is set with dark tableware. The centerpiece consists of various driftwood type branches in various shades, which helps elevate the dramatic feeling.  This is another setting full of inspiration.

Every year, Homedit finds lots of ideas, techniques and concepts to inspire a year full of creative dinner tablescapes. From simple to complex, there are ideas for every comfort level. Pick a couple and try them out!