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How to Use Table Runners

How to Use Table Runners

When it comes to using table runners and other table linens, the rules aren't set in stone - they're guidelines. As far as table runners go, think of them as a tool to visually anchor your table and bring your other table linens and the centerpiece together for a cohesive look. Peruse our handy guide to see why, when, and how a table runner could work for you.

Why Do You Need a Table Runner?

Festive country tabletop with lightly patterned table runner

A table runner adds color, texture, and interest to your table and is the foundation for your table decor. Table runners also protect your table from spills and damage that can be caused by hot pans and dripping candle wax.

When Could You Use a Table Runner?

Christmas themed table runner

Table runners are practical for everyday use and appropriate for special occasions when you need a refined touch. A table runner enhances your tablescape in subtle or dramatic ways depending on the color and texture you choose. If you want to create a festive feel during the holidays, consider a holiday or seasonally themed table runner. And if you simply want to change the mood of your room, a new table runner may be just the thing to mix things up.

What Kind of Table Runner is Best?

Coastal table runner with blue/white/pink stripes

Certain fabrics and textures are associated with specific moods. For formal occasions like weddings and special events, consider table runners made of silk, satin, organza, or polyester for their shiny, smooth surfaces. For casual use, natural fabrics like cotton, twill, and bamboo work well. A burlap table runner is a popular choice because it evokes a rustic, charming feel.

How to Choose the Right Size Table Runner

Assortment of thick table runners in different colors

Table runners come in standard widths from 10 to 15 inches wide and standard lengths from 36 to 108 inches long. The width of your table runner should be approximately one-third the width of your table and allow for 6 inches to hang over each end. Your table runner can hang over each end; it just shouldn’t hang lower than your tablecloth if you’re layering linens.

How to Use a Table Runner

Dining table with white tablecloth and white table runner laid horizontally

Traditionally, a table runner is placed down the center of the table on its own or layered on top of a tablecloth, but there is a myriad of ways to use a table runner. Here are some of our favorites:


  • Position table runners across the width of a table, connecting guests sitting across from each other and creating a placemat-type effect for each person.
  • Place two table runners in an “X” formation across a round table.
  • In an informal table setting, use a shorter table runner down the center of the table to highlight a centerpiece.
  • Use a lace table runner on top of a credenza or dresser for a vintage, shabby-chic look.

Now that your table is set, round out your look. Browse our Dining Room Decorating Ideas for a stylish finish to add to your decor.