Creative Alternatives To A Traditional Table Runner

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Are you all about creating the perfect tablescape during the holidays? You layer decorative chargers, candles, greenery, and more atop a festive table runner to ramp up the festive flair. Depending on your design style, you might enjoy a decked-out table any time of year. Consider trying a few creative twists on the traditional table runner to keep things interesting.

Instead of a table runner, choose something that plays to your personality. Some examples are decorative scarves, sheet music, pages from old books, or wrapping paper. Other options are your favorite fabric, vintage wallpaper, layered doilies, cheesecloth, or wooden planks. Or recreate the illusion of a table runner with a row of greenery, placemats, candles, vases, or a painted stencil.

You’ll find all different sizes of table runners in many styles, colors, and patterns. But if you want to make your tablescape stand out, mix things up with one of these table runner alternatives.

14 Things To Use Instead Of A Table Runner

You don’t have to wait until the holidays to decorate your dining table. A table runner is an easy way to dress things up a bit. Then, add extra touches based on your preferred design.

A basic table runner should hang roughly 6 inches over each end of the table and be approximately one-third the table’s width. If you place the table runner over a tablecloth it shouldn’t go past the edge.

When opting for an alternative to a traditional table runner, use these same size guidelines. If you choose something that doesn’t hang over the side, extend it to the end of the table to achieve a similar effect.

Ready to try something new? Get inspired by these non-traditional table runner ideas.

1. Try Some Vintage Wallpaper

Cut long strips of pretty vintage wallpaper to size and drape across your table. Vintage wallpaper comes in tons of colors and patterns, so it’s easy to find a design that complements your style. Check out home stores or online sites like Etsy.

But you don’t have to stick with vintage if another style is more your cup of tea. If you visit brick-and-mortar retailers, you can even see if they have any sample scraps for sale. No reason to buy the whole roll if you only need a small amount.

2. Use Book Pages

Are you a self-proclaimed bookworm? If you adore reading, creating a table runner out of book pages is a fun idea. Purchase an old book at your local thrift store. Although it doesn’t necessarily matter what the book’s about, finding a story you enjoy or relate to will add more meaning to the finished product.

However, regardless of the genre or plot, do pay attention to the size of the book. Determine how wide your runner should be and look for a book with pages that will accommodate. In some cases, you might need to glue two or three pages side by side to achieve the correct width for your table. Then, simply create as many rows as necessary to get the proper length.

3. Layer Several Doilies

Place several doilies along the center of the table to create a runner. Have fun by mixing and matching different sizes and overlapping the edges. You can place them straight or create a more fluid pattern.

If you wish, once you find the placement you prefer, use a needle and thread to stitch the pieces together. This extra step prevents pieces from shifting or moving out of place.

4. Use A Colorful Scarf As A Table Runner

Festive scarves are another easy way to create a table runner. Depending on the size, one might do the trick, or you can overlap two or three across the middle of the table. For added fun, choose a scarf with fringed edges to add a playful touch.

5. Line Up Sheet Music

Music lovers won’t want to pass up this idea for a table runner that hits all the right notes. Find old sheet music at thrift stores or flea markets and connect them together with tape or glue. Bonus points if you use your favorite song or music that goes with the holiday.

6. Go Delicate With Lace

If you want a more elegant look for your tablescape, use a swath of lace. Lace also works well for shabby chic, vintage, or regal design styles. You can purchase lace online or from a local fabric store.

You can also find smaller scrap pieces at vintage and antique shops. For a sentimental touch, repurpose your grandmother’s old lace tablecloth or their lace wedding veil.

7. Wooden Planks Create A Rustic Table Runner

To fashion a more rustic-inspired look for your dining table, place a few reclaimed wooden planks down the center of he table. Use them to show off candle holders, flower vases, or to place various side dishes.

Leave them natural for a full-blown rustic design, or paint them to create different looks. Whitewashed planks deliver a more shabby chic look, while brighter colors offer just the right accents for a Nordic design scheme.

8. Lay Out Festive Fabric

If you can’t find a table runner that suits your desired design look, find fabric in the color and style you want. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can simply make a runner. Or, fold the fabric lengthwise edge to middle and flip to hide the unfinished edges.

Use hem tape to finish off the ends or hem with a simple stitch. Depending on the fabric you choose, you might not need to worry about raw edges, such as with burlap, fleece, or leather.

9. Use Greenery Instead Of A Runner

To make a big statement, lay some beautiful, lush greenery down the center of the table. Afloral has some great, high-quality pieces if you decide to use artificial foliage. Pepper a few candles, vases, or similar decor pieces throughout the greenery to create your desired look.

10. Turn Cheesecloth Into Table Decor

Basic cheesecloth is an inexpensive way to create a tablescape perfect for a farmhouse or cottage core look. It’s also a good pick for a boho style or even a traditional design. It creates a simple foundation that you can build on with other pieces.

11. Line Up Several Similar Objects

Sometimes, the best choice for a table runner alternative is to not use a runner at all. Instead, create the illusion of a runner using various objects.

Choose similar or matching items and strategically place them down the center of the table. Some ideas are bud vases, candles and candle holders with varying heights, miniature topiaries, and vintage glasses.

To add a little more interest, choose two or three items that reflects the season and alternate them. For example, pine cones, candles, and poinsettias come together to create a festive holiday tablescape.

12. Use Wrapping Paper

For another budget-friendly option for a festive table runner, use wrapping paper. Gift wrap comes in pretty much any color you can imagine and features lots of different patterns.

13. Paint A Stencil On The Table

If you’re looking for a more permanent, low-maintenance table runner option, use paint. Create or buy a stencil to paint a repeating pattern down the table’s center. Use a clear topcoat to protect the finish.

You’ll always have a table that's ready to go when it comes to developing your tablescape. If you ever want to try something new, you can cover it up with a tablecloth or different runner to create various looks.

14. Mix And Match Placemats

Gather various placemats and stitch them together or lay them across the table in an interesting pattern. Find mats in fun shapes and materials to add a whimsical touch to your table.

Finishing Touches For Table Runners

To help protect paper from spills and help it last the holiday season, seal it with an acrylic spray or similar finishing product. This step is helpful if you’re using book pages, sheet music, wrapping paper, wallpaper, or similar items as a table runner.

You can also use a product like Scotchgard to add a protective layer to fabric runners, like scarves, doilies, and cheesecloth. This will make clean-up a lot easier and extend the lifespan of your runner.

A Creative Spin On The Traditional Tablescape

If you love the look of a traditional table runner, then by all means, stick with it. But if you want to try a little something different, these ideas are a great place to start. Whether you decide on a playful scarf, festive fabric, patterned paper, or pages from your favorite book or music, the options are endless.

If you don’t plan to put anything on top of your out-of-the-box runner, line up small vases, candles, or sprigs of greenery. These objects provide a similar effect to a runner when you place them down the center of the table. Want a more permanent look? Paint a stencil on the table.

When it comes to creative design choices, your only limit is your imagination. No matter how you style your tablescape, use something that reflects your style to keep it personal and meaningful.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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