Luxe for Less: Set a Timeless Table That Only Looks Expensive

Take any celebration from ordinary to unforgettable with a beautifully set table. Follow our pro tips to creatively mix items you already have with budget-friendly vintage finds for a guest-impressing setting.

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Beauty on a Budget

You can set a table that looks expensive without breaking the bank. Timelessly on-trend, blue and white transferware dishes are some of the most readily available on the market, making it easy to snap up these vintage beauties at estate or garage sales and thrift stores for a fraction of the cost of new dishware.

Skip a Standard Vase

And, use beautiful old containers instead. Antique tins, teapots, pitchers and storage containers, like this pressed-glass biscuit jar, make charming stand-ins for a modern vase while adding a hand-me-down touch of family history to your table.

Make Budget-Savvy Swaps

Most often used for special occasions, chargers, also known as underplates or service plates, provide both a decorative and a functional purpose by catching errant spills and crumbs. For our budget table, we saved by using paper doilies (costing pennies each!) as a stand-in for much more costly porcelain or china chargers. Bonus: When the party's over, the paper can just be tossed — spills, crumbs and all.

Incorporate Backyard Blooms

Backyard blooms are a natural candidate for centerpieces — in addition to the cost savings of using free flowers, you can also show off your green thumb. Shown here, Veronica (AKA speedwell), dahlias, garden roses and bachelor's button are beautiful complements to the store-bought blooms: chrysanthemum, green ball dianthus and waxflower. Tip: Cut flowers early in the morning when the air and ground temps are cooler and plants are least stressed. And, be sure to place the cut blooms directly into a bucket of water to prevent any moisture loss. When arranging, re-cut the stems at a 45-degree angle before placing into a vase with added floral preservative.

Fill the Table With Flowers

When it comes to centerpieces, I'm a big believer that more is more. After all, why settle for a single arrangement when you can line the center of the table with several small bouquets? For this long and low arrangement, a vintage gravy boat filled with green ball dianthus, white hypericum berries and blue sea holly complements the table's blue and white theme while adding texture and visual interest.

Tea for One

Vintage teacups and saucers are also good candidates for mini arrangements. Tip: Green ball dianthus (available at your local grocery store or florist) makes a wonderful base for DIY flower arrangements. Just fill your container with dianthus, then slide in cut flowers, the mossy green base will anchor the blooms while lending a bright background of vibrant green.

Place Settings: Mix It Up

Mix-and-match place settings aren't just super trendy, they're also the easiest way to display your favorite hand-me-down pieces or vintage finds — especially if you only have a few dishes from a particular set. For a pleasing pairing, combine plates with a highly detailed pattern with others featuring more open, less busy designs.

But, Pair Similar Shades

While blue and white is the most reproduced (and easiest to find) transferware color combo, the blues themselves vary. For a cohesive look at each place setting, pair mismatched dishes that feature the same shade of blue.

Opt for Stylistically Similar Designs

Featuring transferware's most reproduced pattern, Blue Willow, on the dinner plate and a simliarly Asian-inspired design on the salad plate, this mismatched place setting is chinoiserie perfection. Chinoiserie, the Western European interpretation of Asian design ('Chinois' is the French word for 'Chinese'), is one of the most common design themes of blue-and-white ceramics, with roots tracing back more than 300 years as European manufacturers reproduced Asian motifs in their own dinnerware

Pass the Salt

Just remove the cap and contents and farmhouse-style vintage salt + pepper shakers make charming mini vases to place around the table.

... And the Pepper

If farmhouse-style isn't your preference, smaller antique glass and silver shakers make stunning vases for short-stemmed, delicate blooms like bachelor's button AKA cornflower.

Pretty Paper

For a pretty table runner that's just as easy on your budget as it is on the eyes, sub gift wrap or even multiple squares of patterned card stock for a standard fabric runner. Bonus: Spills aren't a worry; when the party's over, just toss the stained paper — or, if it's still in good shape, save it to use again later.

Get Cozy

Colorful knit throws are a great choice for cozying up hard surfaces, like this long wooden bench, while complementing the table's blue + white color scheme.

Send 'Em Home With a Surprise

Favors aren't just for kid's parties. Make your party even more memorable by placing a DIY favor in the center of each plate that can do double-duty as a place card.

Get the How-To: Budget-Friendly Favors: Easy Plaster-Dipped Flowers + Succulents

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