Turn Leftover Cardboard Into a Tiered Buffet

Create a buffet with appeal that goes beyond the meal. Using cardboard boxes and gift wrap, you can add dimension and height to your buffet, giving it an upscale, catered look.

Photo by: Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

A well-planned buffet is a combination of form and function. By varying the height of dishes you not only create a more pleasing presentation, but you also make it easier for multiple guests to serve themselves at the same time. Cardboard boxes are a great way to create the elevation and dimension you want. They can be cut and manipulated into all types of sizes and shapes. The quick projects here will give you some ideas for how to create them and how to ensure they're sturdy enough for heavy dishes. Covered in leftover gift wrap, the sturdy DIY bases lend a custom look that costs next to nothing.

Materials Needed

  • leftover cardboard boxes
  • ruler / tape measure
  • pencil
  • utility knife
  • wrapping paper
  • scissors
  • transparent tape
  • packing tape
  • poster putty
  • canned goods for weight (optional)

Create a Wide Base

Measure the box diagonally (Image 1). Cut two pieces of cardboard that are the diagonal length of the box and the height of the inside of the box (Image 2). The corrugated channels should run vertically for better support. Determine the center of the short edges of the pieces and draw a line between them. Determine the center of one long edge on each piece and draw a line just to the first line. Use a ruler and craft knife to cut a notch around the line that is approximately 1/2 inch wide (Image 3). Remove the cardboard from the notch. Connect the two pieces by joining them at the notches, then place them into the box (Image 4). Wrap the box in leftover wrapping paper with the flaps on the top and bottom of the box so they will not be seen (Image 5).

Design Tip: Color is a personal choice, but your buffet bases should not steal the attention from the meal. A good idea is darker hues and subtle patterns that nearly fade away with menu items served on white plates and platters to make the food stand out.

Photo by: Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

Create a Round Base

Determine the height needed for the round base. Cut long strips of cardboard with a width to match the height needed. The number of strips will vary based on the diameter needed. The corrugated channels should run parallel to the shorter edges (Image 1). Hold the strips firmly with one hand on a sturdy, flat surface, such as a table or counter. Use the other hand to pull the strips over the edge to make them more more flexible and slightly curved (Image 2). Create a roll with the long strips, adding more strips as needed with tape to obtain the desired diameter for the base (Image 3). Create a band of leftover wrapping paper with the long edges folded in to match the height of the base. It should be long enough to wrap all the way around the base with about 1/2 inch extra to fold inward for a clean finish. Cover the base with the wrapping paper band and secure with tape (Image 4). Add four small balls of poster putty to one side of the base. Center the base on the bottom of a plate and press firmly in place (Image 5).

Design Tip: To avoid spills or overcrowding as guests serve themselves, consider what you will serve and where it will be placed on the buffet. Reserve taller bases with platters for things that can be taken by hand or with tongs. Dishes that must be served with a spoon or ladle should be kept as low as possible.

Photo by: Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

Create a Taller, Narrow Base

Seal up a short, wide box with packing tape. Cut the box in half lengthwise using a craft knife and scissors (Image 1). Secure the loose box flaps on the inside of the two halves with packing tape (Image 2). To ensure the stability of the base, consider filling it with canned goods or bags of flour, sugar, etc. (Image 3). Place one of the box halves over the other and press down (Image 4). Wrap the base in leftover wrapping paper as you would a gift, but with the flaps on the top and bottom so they won’t be seen (Image 5).

Design Tip: Keep your guests' height in mind, including kids or anyone in a wheelchair. Create visual interest with bases of varying heights, but don’t make bases so tall that menu items can't be reached easily by everyone.

Photo by: Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

Serve In Style

Fill platters, bowls and plates with menu items and let guests help themselves. The beauty of a well-planned buffet is that the host can relax and enjoy the party, too.

Photo by: Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

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