I am obsessed with a beautifully set table. I am one of those people who walks around the table 9 times or so to adjust the angle of each fork and make sure that each plate is laying properly in the right spot of the charger. But what I am lacking is an unlimited budget to buy all sorts of fine China and crystal- although sometimes my Amex bill may suggest otherwise.
If I could give any advice about buying your china or plates, it would be to keep it neutral and classic. This way it could give you the freedom to play around with other table accessories over the years to come. Just like in fashion, styles are constantly changing, so try to pick foundation pieces you will always love. But my job today is to show you how to freshen up those classic pieces on a limited budget.
There is nothing better than roaming the floor of Bloomingdales and seeing their beautiful displays of the Baccarat lead crystal glasses set next to the ever so intricately patterned Versace dishes layered upon each other in different shades of oranges and reds. While this picture I am painting sounds ever so magnifique, for many of us (myself included) it may be financially out of reach. And even if once in a while it can makes sense to make a purchase like this, if you are like me and enjoy creating different looks on your table quite often, then these purchases can add up quickly.
Pan left, and watch as the big box retailer walks in to buy out some leftover stock of last season's fine linen napkins from said Bloomingdales. Or some closeout pieces of wrong color (almost amber, but not quite) wine glasses. There is no shortage of stores to chose from- whether online or brick and mortar. Homegoods, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx are great options for closeouts. IKEA, Crate and Barrel and Target also have their own inexpensive lines that offer lots of great options for less expensive trendy tabletop wear. As for online retailers, I love overstock.com, Macy's.com sale section and probably best of all,I do really do well at the sample sale website Ruelala.com. I once scored lead crystal wine and water goblets at Rue La La for so cheap I thought it was a mistake. (I got a setting for 24!)
And let me paint you another picture- I hate clothing shopping that resembles this kind of closeout operation. I hate sorting through racks and sifting through what feels like a bin through of "deals". But somehow it is less stressful when it is larger pieces like dishes and or glasses or pots and pans. When I find my wedgwood basketweave dishes at home goods for $4.99/pc I feel like a I'm on the subway platform and just found a $100 bill at my feet. Gold. True story by the way. The dishes part, not the subway platform. I am now the proud owner of a setting for 30. Maybe it's just because I'm a chef that this excites me. Not sure, you may need to be the judge.
For this article and its "research" I teamed up with a smart and professional shopper name Marlowe Dayon Klaus. She is a personal stylist (clothing not kitchen) and is always the most impeccably dressed person in the room, in the most casual way. She knows how to spot great pieces and then match them together in a way that creates a classic, but one- of-a-kind look that you never thought to do.
Our mission: go to HomeGoods together. Our goal: to create a different looks based around the same sets of dishes. If we could swap things out like lines, glasses, salad plates, napkin rings, etc. for a low price then we could show the reader how easy and realistic it is to pair your foundation pieces with new pieces to create different looks for different meals.
Follow my photos below to see how the journey played out.
We found these amazing vintage looking English dishes. They were actually made in England and had a very old fashioned feel in their blue and white and red and white colors. We were able to find accent plates and bowls. They were very easy and fun to mix into any look we tried to build. They are normally very expensive but were $1.99 and $2.99 for the salad plates and bowls and $4.99 for the serving pieces. We decided to use the blue for all of the salad bowls and plates and red for all of the servewear. There was plenty of stock and I actually saw different brands and patterns in different Homegoods locations.
We layered them onto my existing white dishes and paired them with a Guatemalan hand made table cloth that I already owned. The glasses you see were the ones purchased on Rue La La for dirt cheap (I want to say $1-2 a piece). For the centerpieces we purchased these covered vases that almost look like jars. If they have real names- I don't know them. Marlowe had the idea of filling them with lemons and limes to create a color pop against all the blues. Talk about inexpensive- the vases were $9.99 each and then you can use whatever fruit or vegetables you have on hand. I've even seen people put fresh artichokes standing straight up in a low vase- like a flower arrangement. Or how about a bowl filled with pomegranates? Gorgeous.
Below we used these amazing "English garden" salad plates as the main focus of the table. Many times my eye naturally gravitates toward white. Everything in my home is white. My dream kitchen will be white (right now it's mauve. not good) Even my dining room table is a white washed, enormous (fits 12) solid wood table. It's very earthy and rustic. So when we spotted these garden plates they felt so perfectly white but with a little earthiness. They had these amazing salad plates (not so cheap- $12.99/pc but later I saw them reduced to $6.99/pc) with each one having a different pattern on them. They also had bowls, butter dishes, olive plates, tea cups, etc. Very beautiful. I paired it with a similarly themed water pitcher for $9.99 and a Carrera marble bread plate also for $9.99 (I'm obsessed with this marble board- great for my food photos!) I pulled in these dark wicker place mats and it was done. Same napkins. Same glasses. Some fresh flowers for a few dollars.
This look brought in a very traditional paisley print to be layered upon the white basketweave dish. The white dish is sitting on a simple black IKEA charger (cost: $1.99), which is sitting on my favorite new find of all- a black and white tweed tablecloth (cost: $19.99 for 60x120 inch). The linen napkins you see are budget too. They are from IKEA and are a great economic option (cost: $1.99). They look looks pretty and are available in this great neutral color, as well as black and white. Although they do not feel as lovely as a freshly pressed linen napkin, for two bucks a seat they can add a great look to the table in an instant. The other IKEA item on this table that I love are these white glasses. They are made in France and they are extremely versatile. Again they are white. So I love them. Plus they feel old fashioned and I love that too. While they are actually from last year and IKEA doesn't carry them anymore, they are constantly carrying new pieces that have a similar vibe. Love this store.
In this look we put in my second set of dishes that I own, and paired it with a geometrical patterned aqua colored tablecloth from TARGET (cost: $19.99 60x120 inches). The dishes are Kate Spade Library Lane in Aqua. In the china set that I bought I purchased two different salad plates that I go back and forth with depending on my look. One is a fun polka dot and the other is the matching salad plate that came with the set. I got these dishes when I got married, and looking back I probably would have chosen a more neutral color like navy, gray, or platinum. I used my favorite white water glasses again and their matching wine glasses also from IKEA. (cost: $1.49). The hand painted HomeGoods vases added a soft touch (cost: $9.99) to tie it all in.
See below for some extra fun photos from our shopping trip to HomeGoods for other great finds that might inspire you to make your own looks.
Thanks to Marlowe for putting up with my antics and putting this post together with me.
Follow Marlowe Dayon Klaus on Instagram at @marlowestyling or shop her amazing finds @theshopbymarlowestyling
Also a special thanks to Susan Chubak (aka the magnificent woman who birthed me) for helping me photo shoot all of this.
Kate Spade tiffany blue plates, salad plates, bowls, mugs.
Holiday themed dessert plates
Nicole Miller Gold Chargers- also available in pewter and rose gold. (cost: $14.99/4pc)
Navy and Cream tweed table cloth. A bunch of color options avail, and different sizes.
Modern floral silver table cloth. Different sizes avail. Red too, although I'm not a fan of red. (cost: $19.99)
Gold mugs. Yes. Just pretty picture. Although would make cute vases.
Love these. Le Creuset in general is a really incredible cookware product and when you make them individuals I just can't resist. Perfect for individual desserts.