I didn't realize it before, but I love tablescaping. 
So much of the process reminds me of designing a room, except it's a much faster turnaround & you can get away with some more adventurous choices that might not normally fly in a client's interior space.
Here's the background on this table:
Friday Erika and I had an opportunity to speak at AmericasMart presenting a seminar entitled, "Decorate & Celebrate". Late last year we were asked to present during the 2013 Gift & Home Furnishings market which, as you should know, attracts thousands of retailers, Interior Designers, & manufacturers to Atlanta every year (twice a year, in fact) to preview the latest goods, accessories & trends coming to mass market in the next 6-12 months.
As part of our seminar, we each created a tablescape showing how retailers could entertain their top clients/customers in store, for special events during the upcoming holiday season (yes, they're already prepping for the UPCOMING holidays!). For my table (above), I stayed true to my design aesthetic and whipped up a mix of vintage & modern (what else would you expect?!). 
Here are my Tablescape 101 tips:
(long post ahead)

one: Start with a pattern. I am all about mixing patterns, so a patterned tablecloth is a must for me (rarely will you see me reach for a solid, unless a client demands it). It will be hard to find a ready-made tablecloth that extends to the floor no matter the size of your table, so you may have to splurge on a custom number--but it will be worth it. For the seminar I had a basic waterfall tablecloth made with trim piping, but there are so many ways to do this! Pleating & box piping are great ways to up the ante on a custom-made tablecloth & while I love the number I had made, it sucks that I don't actually own a 72" table which means that I'll most likely never use it again. If you're going to have a tablecloth made for your dining table, consider making it reversable and use a pattern on one side and a great solid on the other to give you several options. 
two: Use chargers. I get that they don't really serve a function, but chargers can add a great layer to a table (they're like earrings). Since I knew I was keeping my color palette tight, I wanted to make sure there was a mix of textures, so this driftwood option provided great texture and the neutral color didn't scream "look at me!" either--perfect for the aesthetic I wanted to create. 
three: Salad plates are kind of important. If you want to do something interesting and/or cool, use salad plates with graphic details. I selected a classic set of black-rimmed salad plates (the Fusion set from West Elm) to add visual interest to each place setting for a clean, simple, + modern look. If you're looking for something with a pop, check out Z Gallerie or West Elm
four: White dinner plates are your friends. I used to be anti-white plates but I've made a shift over the last few years and now I love them. I find that food looks more appetizing on a simple white plate, and I think they make a great backdrop for a gorgeous tablescape. If you're going to purchase new pieces, buy things you'll continue to use on an everyday basis. So while black plates might sound might not want to be stuck with those unless you plan to use them everyday (and I would suggest you don't--they show everything.). Remember--you don't have to go all out to create something memorable! One of my favorite basic sets is from Ikea (I prefer rimmed plates) and you can't beat $40 for like, a 30 piece set. 
five: Don't overlook flowers. I love, love, love fresh flowers, and it's always my preference to use them, in someway, in the centerpiece to add texture, color, & energy.  For me they're always worth the splurge because if you know how to keep them fresh, they can last for weeks! For tablescaping & styling, my flower of choice is either a hydrangea or peony, but both can get expensive since you'll need a few bunches to create a fuller look. If you want to use fresh flowers (NEVER use fakers) but need to save some dough, hit your local supermarket and pick from the selection there but whatever you do, do not use a pre-made bouquet (unless it's coming from a floral shop). When shopping the grocery store, stick to one color unless you're a master floral arranger--keeping the color palette monochromatic makes it easy to mix & match different varieties and still keep your bouquet looking chic.
six: Flatware shouldn't be an afterthought.  I'm a sucker for almost anything faux bamboo and since I couldn't find a vintage set of brass-plated flatware, this Marcelle Twig set from Ballard Designs was my first retail choice. I love the laquered enamel coating on the stems and the vintage Palm Beach feel. If you don't own a complete set of flatware, don't be afraid to mix and match--use what you have! It might not seem as "put together" but the personality is really what makes the table, not the perfection. If you're in the market for new flatware, think about going vintage--Ebay and local flea markets are your best bets.
seven: Consider adding candles for height. In addition to layering textures & patterns, varying the height on your table also creates additional interest. Candles not only create height, but when lit they give off a great glow that makes everyone look their best. My first choice will always be to reach for vintage candlesticks (because that's falls in line with how I decorate my home) but feel free to use whatever strikes your fancy. Keep in mind that Hobby Lobby also sells taper candles in a huge variety of colors and sizes, so these 16" black tapers only cost me $1.77/ea. Now that's a deal (and I LOVE black taper candles). 
eight: Add a wow. You should always have a show stopper at the center of the table, but that could be a gorgeous array of flowers in simple vases, a bunch of candles (different heights!), or an eclectic mix of accessories. I love the graphic print on these Nate Berkus Chevron Urns (now sold out from Target) and knew I needed something bold for the center of the table so this pair did double duty. As long as they'll hold water, don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to repurposing household items as vases. 
nine: Use vintage salt & pepper shakers. There are SO many cool ones out there, so don't buy retail! I found a great pair of ceramic & gold S&P shakers at a flea market for $2 and even though there are some cracks on the top, the imperfection is actually perfect and they made for a great complement to my AmericasMart scheme. You can readily find brass, ceramic, silver, or enamel S&P shakers online or at your favorite second-hand shops.
ten: Have fun with your napkins. If you see something you like--even if you're not planning a party just yet--buy them now because beautiful napkins can be one of the hardest things to find when you need them! They're also a great way to add color, texture & pattern to your table if you're short in other areas. I have a set from Dwell Studio that I love--a white & black geometric--but I was missing a few napkins so I went with my second choice which was a solid black. These still did the trick, but having a bold & graphic geometric napkin would've totally set my table off. This place always has interesting napkins, too.
eleven: Go bold with your napkin rings. Make sure that your selection makes sense with your overall scheme, but have fun with your napkin rings. These feather options from World Market are my favorite and I used them because I knew they'd bring textural interest and height to the table (and anything that makes you want to reach out and touch it is a plus in my book). Find other great options here
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make your table an extension of your personal style. In general, things get weird & confusing when you try to be someone you're not, so although you may appreciate a really beautiful table you once saw with burlap & gingham, if that doesn't feel organic to how you decorate your home,  don't do it!!