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5 Ways to Decorate
a Table with a Runner

Sprucing up your home is as easy as changing out the table decorations season to season. Whether you’re looking to create a seasonal display to grace your dining room table or just want to create an extra focal point in your entry way, table runners are table linen all-stars. These simple table decorations come in a variety of sizes, colors and textiles to suit just about everyone’s personal style. Best of all, they’ll look just as great on long rectangular dining tables as a smaller bistro table or coffee table.



While it’s great to know that you’ll have plenty of options when shopping for table runners, it’s important not to let them overwhelm you. Remember: creating a fun, fresh table decoration is less about following a strict set of rules and more about expressing your own creativity and design sense in a way that works with your furniture and design sensibilities. With that in mind, here’s the Pottery Barn round-up of our five favorite ways to decorate using table runners.


Long and Lengthwise

Traditionally, table runners lay lengthwise and centered across table, with enough length to leave some material hanging over the edges – about as far down as a tablecloth. Try a few looks out and see what you like. First, you'll need to know the length of your table so you can find a table runner long enough to leave 6-12 inches of material hanging over the edges. 

Once you know your ideal length, choose something in color and pattern that speaks to you. You can keep things traditional with a single table runner centered lengthwise across the table, and covering roughly one-third of the tabletop. Used this way, the table runner serves as a visual center line for the table where centerpieces align or serving dishes are placed. 

You can also mix things up by laying a pair of table runners lengthwise across the tables with one on either side- set about as far away from the edges as a placemat. From here, you can build a whole tabletop look with coordinating placemats, chargers, napkins and centerpieces.


Short and Sweet

Traditionally, formal table runners should span the full length of a dining table, but shorter table runners can also add contrast to a more casual, everyday table setting. A shorter runner will have all the impact of a longer one, but you’ll get to show off the gorgeous surface of your dining room table. In this case, choose a table runner significantly shorter than the table length. This is a great design style to use with candles, as the short table runner catches wax and keeps it off of the table itself.

Short Table Runners


Go Wide

A less formal arrangement for a table runner places shorter runners widthwise across the table. This creates a sense of visual unity across the dining table and if you use enough of them, you can skip the placemats all together and just use a fun charger. If your dining table is really long, table runners placed widthwise can serve as a visual and physical divider between place settings.


Don’t Forget the Tablecloth

For a more minimal look, use both a runner and coordinating tablecloth with just a few decorations. To keep things interesting, it is important to choose a table runner in a contrasting color or pattern than the table cloth itself, so that it stands out. Ideally, the length of the table runner and the table cloth should align exactly so that the overhang is equal.


Try Something Totally New

Explore your personal style and try something a little out there. If the length of your dining table is flush against the wall, try designing your table decorations asymmetrically, with the runner laying flush with the wall. 

You can also place matching table runners in an “X” shape across the table, which works well on circular tables. The “X” not only stands out, but creates a visual center of the space at the place where the runners cross. This can serve as a centerpiece unto itself or as a podium of sorts for a larger centerpiece,  like a floral arrangement.

Choosing the Right Table Runner

Like any table setting piece, table runners can be simple and informal or ornate and elegant. Whether you’re looking to create a traditional table for a special occasion or something better suited for everyday entertaining, be sure to read the fabric care suggestions so your linens will last you for years to come.