In the world of table linens, there are few pieces more versatile than a table runner. You might ask, “What is a table runner, and how can it be used?” The What is simple, but the How offers a lot of options.


A table runner is a narrow piece of material, usually cloth, that can be used to define, divide or decorate a space. People often ask how wide is a table runner. Most table runners are 14 to 17 inches wide, but their length can vary.


How to Use a Table Runner


The classic use of a table runner is down the center length of a table. It can be used as a base for a colorful centerpiece, protect the table from candle wax or define place settings. Below you’ll find answers to popular questions about table runners and multiple uses for them both in your dining room and other places around the home. 


Table Runner Sizes


The length of the table runner can be purchased to fit a table of any size or shape. You can choose to let the table runner hang over the ends of the table or fit completely on the table, allowing a place setting at each end. If you choose to let the table runner hang over the ends the edge should have 6 to 15 inches of drop from the table. If you choose to center the table runner completely on the tabletop to allow a place setting on each end, the space needed for those place settings is about 12 inches.

Purple Table Runner: Drop Should Be 6-15 inches Over Table Edge


A table runner that is much shorter than the length of your table serves as a great base layer for a centerpiece. Choose a striking color from your flowers or tablecloth and build from there. A light-weight fabric for this runner would not add any bulk to the centerpiece and could blend into the overall centerpiece design better than something heavier.


Using a Table Runner on a Round Table 


A table runner for use on a round table is the same as for a square or rectangle table. You can follow the same guidelines for use on a round table as rectangular, placing it down the center with a drop over the edges. However, another use is to have two table runners that cross in the center of the table. These can be used to define place settings on a table for four instead of placemats.


Table Runners as Placemats for Two


As mentioned above, a round table for four can be set using a table runner as placemats for two place settings. The same crisscrossed table runners can be used on a square table for four to serve as placemats for each diner. You could also use table runners placed to provide placemats for more than four diners on a rectangular or oval table by lining them up width-wise, instead of lengthwise, at each place setting, providing a placemat for both sides of the table.


Table Runners as Placemats for Two Trend, Covered by Popsugar Lifestyle Blogger Julia Millay Walsh


Table Runners and Tablecloths


A table runner can be used with or without a tablecloth. Generally, when using a table runner with a tablecloth, you’d want to have one with a pattern and the other in a matching or complementing solid color. You can get really creative and mix patterns, but do so carefully to keep your table décor from looking too busy and distract from the centerpiece and the individual place settings.


Using a table runner on a bare table allows you to accent the beauty of a tabletop. This is particularly effective when the tabletop is made of beautiful wood. The use of a burlap table runner on a rustic wood table elevates its style, whether in your own home or at a larger gathering, like a wedding reception. (Click here for more table décor ideas.)

Using a Burlap Table Runner is just one of many ideas offered in the blog post “Using Burlap in Décor” from the Stone Gable Blog


Non-Dining Uses for Table Runners


Though the vast majority of the time the use of a table runner is confined to decorating for a dining experience, there are other uses for them around the home and other places. The easiest use for a table runner outside of the dining room is to protect the surface of other pieces of furniture. From a coffee table to the top of a dresser, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful table runner as protection against scratches or water stains.


Other uses of table runners around the home vary from narrow rugs for tight spaces to adding a splash of color or pattern at the end of a made bed. Blogger Chelsea from Style Mutt Home offers “5 Ways to Use a Table Runner.” The fan-favorite is this white chair covered with a tribal-print table runner.

White Chair with Table Runner from Style Mutt Home


Chelsea also discusses using a table runner as a wall hanging. One of her users mentioned covering the exposed side of a refrigerator with a colorful table runner to break up a large space of one color. This is a simple way to decorate what can be an unwelcome eyesore in the kitchen.


Table Runner: The Underappreciated Table Linen


As you’ve learned by now, the simple table runner offers a wide variety of décor opportunities at your event and around your home. Whether you need one table runner or hundreds, iQ Linens has a large selection in a rainbow of colors and fabrics from which to choose. Check out today!