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Tablescapes: Budget Table Settings that Look Expensive

Can You Set a Beautiful Table on a Budget?

If you’re a home decorating fan like me, you no doubt love looking at home and decorating magazines to get new ideas and inspiration.  Browsing through all the gorgeous photos is great, especially looking for beautiful table settings and tablescapes

However, you may think that you can’t create the same kinds of looks in your house because you don’t have an enormous decorating budget like the magazines.   Decorating can be luxurious on any budget, as long as you know the right tips and strategies.  Today, we’re going to teach you how to create beautiful tablescapes and table settings on a budget.

Start with Inexpensive Supplies that Look Expensive

The key to pulling off fabulous tablescapes without a lot of money is to use inexpensive supplies that look expensive.  What looks rich?  Pull out your favorite decorating magazine, such as Martha Stewart Living or Better Homes and Gardens, and cut out several photos of tablescapes that you like.  What do you notice about the table setting?  Do they use china, or antique tea cups, or gold-rimmed plates?  The elements you are drawn to will be the things you want to keep an eye out for when shopping for your “rich looking” supplies.

There are many ways to find your luxurious looking tablescape items on a dime.  Here are some frugal methods you can use:

1.  Plan ahead and buy on clearance.  A good storage and labeling system and a closet to store tablescaping supplies in will save you huge amounts of money.  Make purchases of holiday and seasonal table setting items once they go on clearance.  Pack carefully into storage containers and label so that you’ll be able to find them when you need them for the next year.

2.  Shop at discount retailers instead of home decorating stores.  Don’t get me wrong, I love IKEA as much as the next homemaker, but in reality it’s much cheaper to get great home decor elsewhere.  Try craft stores, such as Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabrics, and mass retailers such as Target and Walmart.  Their great selections of home decor items and table setting materials are much more affordable and will allow you to get a wide variety on a small budget.

3.  Buy dishes in pieces instead of boxed sets.  As a mom, I’m into tablescapes which use unbreakable Corelle dishes, because it means they’ll last longer around my children!  A great benefit of shopping at Walmart is that they offer dishes (including Corelle) in both boxed sets and individual dishes.

So if you only want to buy enough dishes for 2 place settings for a romantic date night tablescape, or just to try something different, you can purchase just the plates, bowls, etc. that you need.  This can amount to huge savings over buying an entire set, especially when you may not want certain pieces.

4.  Buy dishes, centerpieces and table linens at thrift stores or garage sales.  Always be on the lookout for great pieces you can incorporate into your tablescapes at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. 

You’ll frequently be able to pick up whole or partial dish sets at rock bottom prices, including wedding china received as gifts that the couple never used.  You can often find ceramics, knick knacks, vases and more at thrift stores and garage sales that will work into a perfect centerpiece for your table setting.

5.  Opt for dark table linens, prints, and vinyl table cloths to minimize staining.  Stains can ruin the investment in nice linens, so opt for darker colors when possible or small prints which can camouflage any food or drink spots.  There are also nice looking vinyl tablecloths available now with flocked cloth backings.  They’re durable and wipe clean while still looking nice (perfect if you have children prone to spills).

6.  Use flowers from your garden as centerpieces instead of buying bouquets.  Fresh cut flowers from your garden are a free alternative to buying bouquets of cut flowers from a florist or floral department.  If you don’t have a flower garden, send your children out to pick some choke cherry sprays from the yard, dandelions, or other wild flowers that you can dress up.

7.  Invest in silk flowers for centerpieces that can be used over and over.  Some silk flowers are incredibly lifelike but will not wilt or die like their living counterparts.  Invest in flowers of different sizes, colors and varieties that you’ll be able to mix and match to get the most for your money.  Remember that silk flowers should be stored in covered containers when not in use, and can usually be washed in the dishwasher to freshen up and remove dust.

8.  Shop on eBay for used or deeply-discounted new tablescape supplies. eBay is a frugal decorator’s heaven for finding the luxurious bits and pieces you need to set your table at bargain prices. 

In the next part of Tablescapes: Budget Table Settings that Look Expensive, you’ll learn how to put together all the cheap supplies that you bought to form table settings pretty enough to be in a magazine. 

This article is linked to our bloggy friends:

Table setting tablescape photo by tracyhunter.

Danelle Ice is an entrepreneur in Los Angeles and mom of 3. She is the creator of and Danelle is also known as internet personality SimDanelle, the first virtual person. Danelle is a beauty guru on YouTube, vlogger, blogger, and new media darling. She is a current brand ambassador for for Keurig and previous AMD Tech Mom, Kraft Foods Delicious Byte brand ambassador, and Purex Insider.


  1. Christi at A Southern Life
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 18:30:43

    Love great ideas for cutting corners and keeping beauty. Thanks for the ideas!


  2. Amanda
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 03:49:41

    Fabulous ideas Barbi! Target and Walmart are definitely more affordable I agree. Who doesn’t love poking through thrift stores and antique shops. Some of the coolest tablescapes are the ones with lots of antique and mismatches dishes! :) Thanks for joining in on Thrifty Thursday!


  3. Chandy
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 04:19:07

    Good morning! I love the table you showed. And your tips are exactly what I do except the sets part as I entertain a lot. I wait out my purchases. I also look for stain-resistant tablecloths if I need a light colored one. Great tips for families with little children.


  4. Lori (All That Splatters)
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 07:23:13

    Great ideas! You can’t beat the discount and close-out housewares stores for tablescape bargains. :)


  5. Nola @ The Bloom Girls
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 08:45:14

    Thank you for the very informative cost-saving ideas.
    Nola @ The Bloom Girls


  6. Home Ever After
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 08:49:57

    @Amanda Absolutely. Often you can get antique dishes at thrift stores for next to nothing (compared to an antique store) because the pricers don’t know what it is and its value!



  7. Kim
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 14:51:46

    Thanks for sharing all your information. I love finding bargains, especially when doing tablescapes. Looking forward to the next installment of info.


  8. Bridget
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 15:27:34

    This was a great post. I have to start keeping my eyes open for these goodies. Happy TT!


  9. niki
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 21:44:43

    I love the look of tablescapes I see in mags all the time. But they would be so lost on my family. Maybe someday……



  10. Home Ever After
    May 01, 2009 @ 09:06:43

    @Kim- Sure thing, thanks for coming by!



  11. Home Ever After
    May 01, 2009 @ 09:08:56

    @Niki – lol When my daughter, London, walks in and sees the table done up, she says, “Wow, how come the table’s all fancy?!?” I guess that means I need to keep it set a little more often! Get your kids to pretend it’s “restaurant night”, then they’ll start loving your tablescapes ;)



  12. Cheri Sicard
    May 01, 2009 @ 09:17:45

    Wonderful tips. Thank you for sharing your insights.


  13. Susan
    May 02, 2009 @ 13:19:28

    Lots of great tips! :-) Susan


  14. Kara-Noel
    May 03, 2009 @ 13:20:02

    There is nothing more inviting than a great table!


  15. Pages tagged "his dark materials boxed set"
    May 28, 2009 @ 08:00:15

    [...] bookmarks tagged his dark materials boxed set Tablescapes: Budget Table Settings that Look Expen… saved by 1 others     mcjuju bookmarked on 05/28/09 | [...]


  16. CyberGwen
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 14:40:42

    I love decorating the table. There is no way to do it wrong and I really let myself go.


  17. Home Ever After
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 08:50:50

    @Chandy – Thank you so much for coming by! I am envious of you and your entertaining; I wish I entertained more (and not just my children)! lol



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