Should Your Dining Table Always Be Set?

Whether or not you wish to set your dining table when it is not in use depends on many things. When we look in homeliving magazines and even on television, it can seem that the dining room table can feel like a window into the stability of the home, but ultimately, only you can decide what makes the most sense for your home and lifestyle.

Things to Keep in Mind Before You Choose How to Set Your Dining Table

  • You and your family may just not be the formal type, and you might not want to have the table set all the time.
  • You may also have pets, especially cats, who may occasionally get up on the table from time, just to prove they can.
  • You may also be sensitive even to the potential for dust that might get on your dishes while you are not using them.
  • If you have young children, you might worry about dishes breaking if you leave them on the table all the time.

Many home interior magazines will show beautiful dining table spreads that might tempt you to want to do something similar. No matter what you decide, it is important to consider your own personality and lifestyle in order to make the best choice for you.

What Does a Set Table Mean to You?

Beautiful Easter table setting with festive decor indoors. - Should Your Dining Table Always Be Set?

A set table means different things to different people. It is important to consider the priorities of your house, whether that means you are ready for a meal, having a nicely decorated center of the table, or if you want to be ready to have someone over for coffee or tea, are ready for the next holiday, or you just want to keep things as simple as possible.

The Mealtime Dining Table

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Beautiful Christmas table setting

For some, it means having the dining table look as if everything is ready to sit down to a meal at any time of day. All that is missing is the food. The plates are there with silverware wrapped in napkins. Often, beverage glasses are also on the table either right-side-up or up-side-down. Coordinating serving dishes may be in the center of the table, so the only preparation at mealtime is to fill them in the kitchen and put them back on the table. If you choose the "full service" option, make sure to take care to avoid settings that are likely to break or chip between meals.

The Center of Attention

A table at a Jewish home set for the Shabbat meal

For others, it means that the center of the table is always decorated. This may be with plants or flowers. or possibly a fruit basket. Some people like to keep unlit candles or up-side-down wine glasses for the adults in the household or regular guests. The sides of the table are kept clear until someone actually needs to grab a plate. This is a bit less formal. It gives the impression that the table is meant to look nice, but allows for a bit more functionality for instances when someone wants a quick snack or wants to do a bit of homework or paperwork at the table.

Tea (or Coffee) Time (Or Wine Time)

Many people want their table to look like they are ready for company, or as if they are ready to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, or even a glass of wine, without a lot of preparation beforehand. Have a tea or coffee serving set in the middle of the table with coordinating cups and saucers are a great way to give a welcoming touch to your dining table. This is a great option if you host book clubs or other recreation with a few friends from time to time.

Getting Into That Holiday Spirit, And Staying There

Festive table served for Christmas party with lamps hanging over meal and decorated firtree against black wall

Another possible look for your dining table is to get some inspiration from whatever holiday is coming up next and base your centerpieces on that. Some people are more relaxed than others about choosing their theme and may stick to just one season at a time, rather than pinpointing exact holidays. If you love Halloween, ghosts, witches, and zombies might grace the center of your table during October. If you are more into autumn as a season, a cornucopia centerpiece or flowers or plants that celebrate fall colors may be what you choose for the middle of the table.

In winter, you can opt for typical holiday decorations that reflect how your family celebrates December holidays, or stick to winter symbols, such as snowflakes, penguins, polar bears, icicles, garland, or snowglobes with winter scenes. If you or other family members are into crafting, some of your own creations may also be on display.

Spring can reflect on the newness of the season, flower buds, young animals, greening grass, rain gear, and more.

Summer celebrates fresh fruit and melons, blooming bouquets, and bright colors. Summer holidays, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day often take center stage, and small flags often make their way into centerpieces and into other decor throughout the house.

A Simple Style

table set in the backyard

Just because you have a dining table, doesn't mean it has to be ready and look great all of the time. Many have their table serve multiple purposes, so keeping decor to a minimum is actually preferred. For many people, the current pandemic has turned their dining room into a temporary school. Swapping out "planters" full of art supplies and writing utensils, rather than kitchen utensils can make for a smoother shift for a space that needs to serve multiple purposes.

It is also common to just allow one vase of flowers, or one basket of fruit, or whatever the piece may be in the middle of the table and not much else. Leaving placemats only on the table is also an option, and can serve as a reminder no to let the table get too cluttered with mail or other odds and ends that come into the house.

To prevent random clutter, it is important to have a good system in place so that everyone gets their mail in a spot away from the table. If there is a nearby area that is normally clear, such as a coffee table in an adjacent living room or a breakfast bar in the kitchen a single vase, planter, or basket can be moved temporarily during meal time in order to get the best use out of the table. Some even add extra cabinets in their dining room or miniature refrigerators or wine fridges in order to make sure everything needed is handy, without a lot of extr trips into the kitchen.

What if You Don't Want to Follow the Rules?



When deciding on decor, whether it is your dining room table or some other area in your house, it is important that your home continues to feel like your home. No matter how pretty that beautifully set table looked in the magazine, if it doesn't fit in with the way you and your family live your lives, then it is not going to work long term.

A lot of people don't wan to go to the trouble to have their dining room table decorated or set up all the time. At the end of the day, as well as various times in the middle of the day, it is more important for the table to be functional and the tone in the house to be inviting, even if it is a little messy or cluttered at times.

Some have a vision for their dining table that they only execute when they are expecting company, so the pretty table may only be on display for a week or so, before it just isn't practical to keep up. That's okay. If you want, you can even allow your child to set up their own tea party set, or display their latest toy masterpiece in the center of the table. If the cat has declared himself the centerpiece, just make sure the table gets sanitized before you actually have a meal.

Whether you are in an apartment with a card table outside your kitchen, or in a high end house in a fancy neighborhood, your home needs to feel like your home. As much as possible, you'll want your home to put forth a good impression, but at the same time, you'll want to make sure you are not compromising who you are.

topvew close up luxury tableware set with silver spoon and crystal glasses interior decoration background,Should Your Dining Table Always Be Set?


  1. I think keeping a table set is low class and in poor taste. Not only that, all of those place settings simply collect dust and need to be cleaned before use anyway. Just get a nice centerpiece, already!

  2. I don’t think it is tacky. I think it is old fashioned thought. On tje other hand people can do what they want. I find it tacky to see mail and junk on a table. I love pretty things. If it is a beautifully set table everyday, wonderful!

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