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How to Use Table Runners

by Shelly McRae

Table runners complement your table settings by adding color, texture and a unifying element to your tablescape. Table runners add a touch of elegance, bringing a sense of tradition to an occasion. The rules regarding the use of table runners and other kitchen linens are fluid and are better described as guidelines. When it comes to kitchen linens and the design of your dining room table, you can be as formal or as casual as you like.

Using Table Runners:

How to Use Table Runners

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  1. Measure the width and length of your table.

    Place your tablecloth on the table and adjust it so that all sides hang evenly. Your tablecloth should hang six inches past the table edge all around.

  2. Use a table runner that is one-third the width of the table.

    The length should be 12 inches longer than the length of the table, allowing each end to hang six inches past the table edge on each end.

  3. Place the table runner on top of the tablecloth directly down the center of the table.

    The edges of the table runner should meet the edges of the tablecloth. You can adjust these lengths according to your table size, allowing for a drop of up to 15 inches.

  4. Place your centerpiece in the center of the table directly onto the table runner.

    If you're using two or more centerpieces, place them at equal distances on the table runner at equal distances from the center of the table.

  5. Use two or three table runners and place them across the width of the table to create a more contemporary appeal.

    The widths of these runners should be narrower than the one used for the length of the table. A rule of thumb would be one-fourth the width of the table. The lengths of the runners should be 12 inches longer than the width of the table, so the edges still have a six-inch drop. This look works well on longer tables. Allow at least two feet between runners when turning them sideways. Otherwise, the table looks overcrowded.

  6. Use a shorter table runner to highlight a centerpiece in an informal table setting.

    Use a table runner that is one-third the length of the table and place it in the center. Place the centerpiece on the runner, which then acts as a textural element to the centerpiece.

  7. Use a table runner without a tablecloth to highlight the table itself.

    Lay a solid-colored table runner along the center of the table. Use a densely woven linen or cotton material to match the texture of a solid wood table. For a glass top, use a runner made from a lightweight silk or cotton fabric.

  8. Lay two table runners in an "X" formation across a round table that seats eight.

    Allow enough space so that there are two people in each "section." This setting creates intimate areas within a large tablescape.


Use table runners on your buffet or credenza for extra color in your dining room.