Tablescape: Indoor Tropical Luau Tablesetting

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Ever since Hawaii became the fiftieth state in 1959, the rest of the continental United States has had an utter fascination with the only all-island state–a state in the tropics with sugar and pineapple plantations, beaches, mountains and volcanoes, a native people with many interesting traditions and a large Asian population with its own fascinating customs. In the years since the introduction of Hawaiian luaus to the rest of the states, they have become as much a part of an American summer as hamburger-and-hot-dog-cookouts.

So if you are planning a luau celebration this summer, even if you choose to have it in your house because of the heat, you can still create an indoor tropical luau tablesetting that will get your guests in the mood!


We have two oblong tables that can be pushed together to form one long table for our large family. I decided to use place-mats on the bare table, instead of using a tablecloth as a base, because the brown wood tones blended well with the natural greenery look of my decorations.

My large fern leaf place-mats are vinyl and I found them years ago at Big Lots on clearance for 25 cents each. They were a bargain in every sense of the word because they look nice on the table, easily wipe clean, and also serve well on  luau buffet tables under food items that might spill on the cloth or straw matting!

I used my white 10 Strawberry Street china–I love its versatility for so many occasions and added bamboo disposable dessert plates for tropical forest look.The white cloth napkins–another versatile item to have on hand–are rolled up from each side to create a channel in the center for a bird of paradise flower to sit. They are each tied with a few strands of raffia. The bird of paradise adds the bright touch of color as an accent for the greens and wood tones.

I love to use this long table for tablescapes with a repetitive centerpiece.  You can create great runners and looks that just don’t look as terrific on a shorter table.

For this indoor tropical luau tablesetting,  I used six tabletop tiki lamps in the center–these were more incredible bargains from Michaels one year at the end of the season for seven cents each–I never believed they would reduce them that much! These lamps made of bamboo echo the bamboo of the plates. I did not light the lamps in the house, because it was still daylight when we ate dinner, but I could have. The atmosphere provided by the lamps was what I was after.

The greenery down the center of the table around the lamps are silk versions of real ferns and palms. I have collected these for years to use for tropical and summer decorations. I usually buy a few stems at the end of the season in my local craft stores and add them to my collection.

Here I have simply laid them down and used other pieces to cover the stems. I don’t like to trim the stems off in case I want to use these greens in vases or in another way–I prefer to hide them so I can reuse the greenery pieces over and over.

This is one of my favorite tablescapes because the two-color look for this luau meal is unusual. You normally see a multi-color scheme for other luaus. I like those, too, but this color scheme really made me feel like we are on a tropical adventure (without the bugs and heat).



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