Pro Tips on How to Dress Up Your Tables with Runners

By decorating your table with carefully chosen table linen, you can refresh their looks and underline your sense of aesthetics to impress visitors. If you are running out of ideas on using tablecloths, placemats, and napkins to make your dining table look interesting, you should take a hard look at runners. They come in a wide variety of sizes, fabrics, colors, patterns, and textures that suit everyone’s personal style.

Lengthwise Placement

Laying runners on the table lengthwise in the center is the conventional way of using runners. You need to take care that the runner hangs down on both sides by around six to eight inches. If you are using tablecloths, the runners must not be shorter than them. For best results, you need to measure the length of the table before buying a runner. When you lay them on the center, the width of the runner should be around one-third of the table’s width so that it serves as a visual clue for the centerline on which you can place the centerpiece or the serving dishes. If you want to do something different, you can use a pair of table runners on the edges of the tables, leaving the center empty.

Breadth wise Placement

If you think that the conventional lengthwise runner placement is too old-fashioned, you can think of placing them across the width of the table. If you align them to the chairs, you can avoid using placemats altogether and use a charger instead for the centerpiece. This arrangement works the best for long tables as it gives a sense of visual unity. If you have a round table, you can go with a runner that has a different design on each side.

Tablecloth as a Placement Mat for Dishes and Utensils

If you use runners as placemats between dishes and utensils without using the tablecloth underneath them, they will not provide proper protection to your table. Moreover, they might slip or move because of their light weight. You can also use runners as placemats for the tines of the forks and knives to protect them from scratches by using folded napkins underneath them.


If you like to set up your table in a unique way, instead of using the centerpiece at the center, you can place it in the front at one end of the table. You can also go with two or three centerpieces to give a symmetrical look on both sides of the centerpiece, if you want to make things more interesting.

Other Use of Runners

If you are looking for ways beyond using runners as placemats, here are a few ideas:

You can lay a runner across the food and drinks table to give it a special look. It will also help you avoid spills and stains on the table. If you like to use candles, you can place them in glass jars and put them on different runners placed at intervals along the center of the wall tables or long dinner tables. One more idea is to use a runner as a pocket for the cards placed at each setting.

Remember that if you want to place your utensils on a runner, you should put one or two folded napkins underneath them so that they do not leave any marks on the fabric. It will be even better if you can choose a runner with the same fabric as the tablecloth.

Keep It Short and Sweet

While conventionally, runners placed lengthwise hang over the edges and, in the process, hide most of the table surface, you can experiment with shorter runners that allow you to show off your gorgeous table. This style of table décor is ideally suited for more casual affairs. For the maximum impact, you must make sure that the length of the runner is much shorter than the table. You can use short runners to place a nice candle stand and be confident that the wax will not drip on the table. According to The Architecture Designs, a short runner helps in showing off the centerpiece.

Last Longer

If you are using runners on the center of your tables, then it is important for them to be long enough so that they hang over the edges. If they don’t, there’s always a risk of them getting damaged by food spills and grease falling off plates. For this reason, keep the runner at least 5 inches longer on both sides of the table.

An easy way to make sure that your runners are not too short is to measure their length before placing an order.

Another important factor in determining the length of a runner is its width. You can use standard measurements for different-sized tables depending on whether you want to place them at the center, among dishes, or at an end.

Minimize the Use of Placemats

While runners are much more elegant than placemats, if you want to save money and time, then it makes sense to use both side by side. This is because while placemats protect your tables from food stains, they do not add any charm.

Ribbons and Heirlooms

You can also use heirloom table linens on top of runners to get the desired effect. The only thing you need to remember is that the bottom edge of heirloom linens should always be at least five inches above the surface of the table. This way, they remain protected from spills and stains.

Fabrics and Patterns

You should always make sure that the fabrics and patterns of your runners do not clash with those of your tablecloths. If you are using a solid-colored runner, it must be as simple as possible to not fight for attention with more intricate decorations.

A coffee table looks incomplete without a runner on top. You can get creative with your runners by combing them with different patterns to make a stunning centerpiece. You can also use books on top of the runner to create an artful display, while the tablecloth hides the mess underneath.

Additional Tips

  • Avoid using table runners that are too long or too short for your tables.
  • Never place your runners over the edges of the table.
  • You can use runners to protect your tables from scratches, dirt, and stains.
  • Use runners to cover up air vents below the table that lead to nowhere. This way, you get an attractive accessory to enhance the look of your living room or family room.
  • You can also create runners out of your old clothes.
  • Before you lay the runner, make sure that all the dishes or cutlery are already placed on top of it. Otherwise, due to their weight, they might tear down the runner and cause a mess.

Coordinate With a Tablecloth

There is no reason not to use a tablecloth because you want to use a runner. In fact, by using a runner with a tablecloth in a contrasting color or pattern, you can create an interesting display on the dining table that your guests are sure to like Ideally, the length of the tablecloth and the runner should be the same, but in no case should the runner overhang more than the tablecloth. You can use contrasting placemats for this kind of display.

On the Edge

If you are not an admirer of typical runner placement, try to place them along the edge of your dining table. If you want to make it look intentional, align them neatly using a tape measure and make sure that there is at least one inch space between the table edge and the runner. For best results, use contrasting placemats with your runner. If you are looking for some inspiration, take a look at our Pinterest board on table runners to get some great ideas for your next dinner party!


There is no end to the style of placing runners on the table, especially if you have tables other than the conventional rectangular ones. You can place two runners across each other on square or round tables for an interesting effect. For the best impact, you should choose runners that go well with the occasion and the rest of your home décor.

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