I thought it might be fun to set a table for six, limiting myself to items that cost a total of around $100. That total would include china, crystal, flatware, table linens, fresh flowers, candles, and candle holders. The courses to be served would include soup, salad, main course, and dessert. Stemware would be for wine and water (or iced tea, the "house wine" of the South).
The plan was not to actually go out shopping for new items. I decided to use mostly things I'd purchased previously, but hadn't yet used for a table post. I'm fairly certain only the placemats, water glasses, and chargers are being repeated.
I arranged the flowers and set the table the night before. The first photograph below was taken mid-morning.
The cream soup bowls with underplates are vintage Theodore Haviland (made in America). I found a set of eight on eBay. The minimum bid was $10. I bid the $10, and there were no other takers. Since I'm using only six of them today, I'll list the cost at $7.50.
I often buy vintage table linens at estate sales. Usually the damask napkins are luncheon size, but these are the larger ones. They'd been starched and ironed with nice crisp folds. The best part is that a set of six had been reduced to only $3 on the second day of the sale.
I mixed and matched vintage silverplated flatware. The dinner forks, knives, teaspoons, and soup/place spoons are all the same pattern. I added iced tea spoons, salad forks, and butter spreaders in other patterns. The service for six came from an estate sale. It was stored in a wonderful old leatherette case. The silverware itself was blackened with tarnish, but appeared unused (I didn't find a scratch on it anywhere). I polished it gently, leaving some of the tarnish here and there to highlight details of the design. Most of the odd pieces were dug from $1 boxes at local antique malls. They have a softer look, a patina of tiny, fine scratches from years of use and frequent polishing. It often gives old silver a look similar to that of pewter.
A closer view of the dinner and salad forks. You can see the clear salad plate here, between the soup bowl's underplate and the dinner plate. It has a stylized, etched laurel design. I frequently purchase clear glass plates at estate sales and thrift stores. I pay less attention to the design than to the clarity of the glass and their overall condition. They're great for buffets and parties, (so much nicer than using plastic I think) and, when they're purchased inexpensively, I don't hesitate to put them in the dishwasher.
A few months ago, I was a guest at a dinner party where the hostess served crème de menthe parfaits. I hadn't thought of that particular dessert in years, but I used to love ordering it in a favorite restaurant. They were so pretty, and so refreshing at the end of a meal. Since then I've kept an eye out for vintage parfait glasses. I found these at Goodwill for only forty-nine cents apiece. The underplates were also from GW. A stack of 8 was bundled together and priced at only $2.99. They were probably intended for use with matching cups, but I thought they worked well with the parfait glasses. Iced tea spoons are "parfait" for getting every little bit of goodness all the way to the very bottom of the glass.
I found a dozen or so of these tall crystal candleholders at Goodwill one day. They were only ninety-nine cents each, but the red price stickers were the featured color that week, so they cost half that. Most still had their original manufacturer's stickers as well, made by International Silver Company.
A better view of the candleholders. The candles came from Walgreen's after-Christmas sale. They were regularly 2 for $1 ... but they were 80% off!
Don't you love free flowers? I took a walk through the garden with secateurs in hand. I learned the word, secateurs, from Coty of Styling by Coty Farquhar and Styling Gardens by Coty Farquhar. Sounds so much nicer than plain ol' garden shears, doesn't it? I returned with redbud, dogwood, forsythia, cherry blossoms, daffodils, yellow rose of Texas, hellebores, fern fronds, a white hyacinth for fragrance, and a tulip or two for an extra touch of color. There are also some small white flowers in the arrangement that remind me of lily of the valley, except that they're taller and the foliage is similar to daffodils'. Perhaps some of you can help me identify it.
The placemats came from Dollar Tree. The gold-rimmed plates with the pink and yellow roses are by Homer Laughlin. I bought six dinner plates, six bread plates, a platter, and assorted other pieces for $2 at a local charity thrift shop. The lady who runs the shop said a woman had donated them earlier that day. She said she'd set up housekeeping with them in the 1940s, and now it was time for someone else to enjoy them.
The afternoon sun is providing a rosy glow ...
A closer view of the dogwood and hellebores.
I tried it first without the silverplated chargers, but the extra layer seemed necessary somehow. I like the way the mirror-like shine reflects the flowers and other colors surrounding them.
The taller glasses came from Goodwill, regularly ninety-nine cents each (but purchased for 50% off). I've used the Fostoria Puritan water glasses on previous tables. I found eight of them, some with original Fostoria stickers attached, at an indoor flea market. The set was priced at $20, with an extra 20% off. Puritan is a clean-lined, mid-century design that mixes well with almost any type of stemware and china.
Later afternoon now ...
The soup bowls and dinner plates have in common gold rims and pink roses. Obviously they're far from being a perfect match, but I find that interesting. What about you? Do you like mixing patterns within a place setting?
Time for a disclaimer. I would NEVER use such a large centerpiece for an actual dinner party. This is for fun ... and for drama. But it's too high, too wide, and the container is inappropriate. This arrangement would work well in an entry hall or on a sideboard. If this table were intended for a meal with friends, I'd also remove at least half the candles, particularly the ones between the place settings and near the corners of the table.
On second thought, if the guests disliked one another intensely .... ;) Never mind, who would want to host (or attend) a dinner party under those circumstances?
View from above. Usually I line up the flatware approximately 1-1.5 inches from the edge of the table. Since this table has curved edges and the placemats have angled corners, I arranged the flatware more informally. Which do you prefer: handles lined up like little soldiers or arranged in a graceful curve?
Below, two views from the kitchen pass through window.
I purchased the candleholder on the right (a pair actually) at an "upscale resale" shop for $2 the day the table was set. I couldn't resist adding them (along with $2 toward going over budget for this challenge!).
I could hardly wait to light the candles and see if I liked the overall look.
Sometime, if you're really bored, try keeping this many candles straight while you're taking photographs! I NEED some candle "stick em," but it's not in the budget for today!
I like the way all the flickering flames are reflected in the china and glassware.
I'm ready for my parfait now!
Additional views of the table by candlelight ... as evening approaches ...
There's still time for an early evening stroll through the garden.
Homer Laughlin plates (dinner, bread, platter), $2, charity thrift store
Theodore Haviland cream soup bowls/underplates, $7.50, eBay
Placemats, $6, Dollar Tree
Damask Napkins, $3, estate sale
Silverplated flatware, service for six (original box), $20, estate sale
Mix-and-match vintage silverplated flatware, $18, antique mall
Fostoria “Puritan” iced beverage glasses, $16, indoor flea market
Wine glasses, $3, Goodwill
Vintage glass salad plates, $3, Goodwill
Vintage glass saucers, $3, Goodwill
Vintage parfait glasses, $3, Goodwill
International Silver glass candleholders, $5.00, Goodwill
Candles, Walgreens (after Christmas sale), $1 (ten cents ea.)
Metal urn, $5, antique mall
2 additional candleholders, resale shop, $2
2 candles $0.10
Garden flowers, free
6 silverplated chargers, estate sale, $8
Mikasa salt and pepper shakers, junk store, $2
Grand total, $107.60
OK, I went over budget, but not by much. I could have left off the chargers and the new candleholders ... or the salt an pepper shakers. But why? My primary goal was to set an attractive table for you today. I hope I accomplished that.
I like the fact that this "challenge" table includes names like Theodore Haviland, Homer Laughlin, Fostoria, and International Silver. It demonstrates that good quality vintage tabletop items can be acquired without spending a great deal of money. If I can do it, YOU can do it!
A few suggestions:
1. Decide what you like, and learn all you can about it. Research manufacturers and patterns online and in books. You don't even have to buy the books. Most libraries have reference books on vintage/antique china, crystal, and silver.
2. Shop often to get the best prices (and not necessarily when you're looking for something in particular).
3. Go to estate sales if you have them in your area. Get to know the staff members. Go (or go back) on the second to get the very best prices. Having said that, if you see it, love it, and the price is at all reasonable, buy it the first day! The worst kind of buyer's remorse is "the one that got away." Years of enjoyment vs. saving a few dollars on an item ....
4. Be friendly when you visit thrift stores and resale shops. It costs nothing to be pleasant. Staff members tend to remember the really nice customers and the really NOT nice ones. It goes without saying which of those customers will be provided with the friendliest service, the best advice, and the best prices on negotiable items.
5. Be creative; ignore the rules; have fun; mix old and new, elegant and simple, heirlooms and thrifted items. USE the good stuff. Otherwise, why have it? Celebrate life, love, and friendship ... as often as possible!