DIY: A Summery Table Setting

a summery table centerpiece

decorating with lemon leaves

When we were in Napa a few weekends ago, we had a couple different sets of friends come in over the weekend to hang out, grill up some goodies, and enjoy the sunshine. The house we were staying in had a beautiful garden, with plenty of options for outdoor seating and entertaining. I rummaged around the cabinets in the house and found lots of candles and placemats, which would’ve looked pretty good on their own. But, the garden had a large lemon tree, and after remembering Ina Garten’s tips on using them to entertain, I decided I’d make dinners a little special with a simple, rustic centerpiece featuring leaves and branches, lemons, and lots of candlelight (because everyone looks good in candlelight once the sun goes down!).

This was so easy to put together, and if you’re planning on doing any outdoor dining this spring or summer, you could easily re-create the look. Here’s what I did: 

ingredients for a pretty summer table centerpiece

Gathering the supplies

To create the look, you’ll need your favorite votive holders, pillar candles, a few lemons, placemats and place settings, and a pair of scissors to trim branches as needed.  You’ll also need a big bunch of tree leaves — I used lemon leaves since the tree was there (plus lemon branches have great angles), but you could also try magnolia leaves too, or even big cuttings of rosemary bushes (bonus: that would smell amazing!).

lemon leaves set at right angles

Step one:

Arrange the branches in a zig zag or right angle patter by placing the cut ends of each branch end to end. Lemon branches are great for this because they naturally have some gnarly angles if you clip the branches in the right place, which makes arranging very easy. But there’s no right or wrong here — you want it to look really rustic and effortless.

lemon leaves as a table centerpiece

You can arrange the branches as far down the table as you’d like, based on how big your table is, and if you have guests seated at the ends of the table.

candles in between lemon leaves for a decorative table

Step Two:

Next, begin arranging the pillar candles and the votive holders in the inside angles of the branches. The house had these funky brass and star votive holders; if you had mercury glass votives, this would be the perfect place to use them (they’re my personal fave!). Don’t worry if you have some sparse looking spots with the branches — we’ll fill those in later.

setting a summery table

Step Three:

Then, lay out the placemats and place settings. I also used some cloth napkins, though when I recreated the look to shoot photographs, they were all in the wash! I loved the look of these simple woven straw placemats. It just felt super earthy and elegant.

a lemon leaf table runner

Step Four:

Now, grab the lemons and nestle them in between the branches. You can use them to help balance out any sparse spots.

decorating with lemon leaves and candles

Step Five:

Be sure to check the table from different angles to make sure you don’t have any big, gaping holes in candle placement or the branches. For me, there were still some sparse spots after placing everything, so I grabbed a few more lemon branches from the tree and clipped trimmings of leaves to tuck into the naked spots, like at the end of this candle:

decorating with lemon leaves

And there you have it! A very easy, warm, and elegant look for any outdoor fête. What do you think? If you end up re-creating the look at any time this summer, be sure to send me a photograph or Instagram!!

DIY outdoor entertaining centerpiece


  1. 4.23.13
    Megan said:

    This looks so lovely and rustic. Just the other day I was at a restaurant that had large glass containers and vases full of bell peppers in every colour. It was so simple and colourful. I love using food and nature for table settings.

  2. 4.23.13

    Super cute and pretty simple to achieve. Love how it looks rustic but modern all at once.

    Can’t wait for the weather to get nicer in NYC to actually be outside on a patio and eat.

    xo Quinn

    Quinn Cooper Style

  3. 4.23.13
    Chelsea said:

    I love how simple this look is but it completely makes the table! Great DIY

    Haute Child in the City

  4. 4.23.13

    So simple & so pretty! Now I just need an outdoor table so I can use this!

  5. 4.23.13

    Lovely! As always!

  6. 4.23.13
    Chelsea said:

    Your trip sounds so fabulous, I just can’t get over it. We are headed to Napa in the fall and I need suggestions!
    Also, those star votive holders always charm me. My mom used them growing up and they are just so sweet. xo

    • 4.23.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      Email me! I have so many places to tell you about!

  7. 4.23.13
    kelsey said:

    beautiful! love the gold accents with the citrus fruit!
    kw, ladies in navy

    Zara giveaway

    Gap/Old Navy Giveaway

  8. 4.23.13
    Emily said:

    So, so pretty! I love the rustic additions that you made.
    Isn’t That Charming.

  9. 4.23.13
    Meg said:

    Very pretty and so easy!

  10. 4.23.13

    OMG I love this!!! Thank you! I am going to go attack a lemon tree and do this this summer!

  11. 4.23.13
    Kayla said:

    Love this Victoria! Super easy and super pretty! : )


  12. 4.23.13

    well done, yo! looks like a fabulous place to spend some time with friends. i have several of those same votive holders :)

  13. 4.23.13

    I love this set-up! And you make it seem so easy!


  14. 4.23.13
    Meghan said:

    So easy yet so pretty.

    Meghan Silva’s Blog

  15. 4.23.13
    Alyssa said:

    Taking a couple extra minutes to set a table (especially for company) makes ALL the difference…it really makes it feel special. This is gorgeous!

  16. 4.23.13

    Lemons are one of my favorite go to decorating accents. Adoring this combo of yellow, green and gold. Lovely!

  17. 4.23.13

    Love this! Great Ideas for my next dinner party set up!

  18. 4.23.13

    I love that you just worked with what you had available but still managed to achieve such a clean-cut, rustic look even while away from home – a lovely look for a summer cookout!

  19. 4.23.13
    Alexa said:

    I love the simple + natural look. Just gorgeous!

  20. 4.23.13

    So, so pretty! I love how simple, yet elegant it is. Lovely photos, too!

  21. 4.23.13

    That is perfect! I’m always on the hunt for easy centerpiece ideas.

  22. 4.23.13

    So fresh and pretty !

  23. 4.23.13

    So simple and pretty. I’m sure you had an amazing meal as well!

  24. 4.23.13
    sarah said:

    So pretty! A great centerpiece definitely starts any meal off on the right note. Now, if only my baby lemon tree would grow a few feet taller..

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