Blogs, television, and magazines have increased the exposure of beautiful, professionally-arranged table settings. Many of us pine for table settings that look just like the ones in the magazines, but when you're already spending some cash on the food for a dinner party, spending extra to buy table accessories isn't always practical. But many of the beautiful looks you see can be achieved if you have a few basic staples on hand to whip up something fabulous.
1. Canning Jars: There isn't much a canning jar can't do. It can act as a small vase, or a vessel for holding silverware. you can bake rolls or cakes into smaller versions or flip them over to hold a plate on top for a pedestal.
2. Your Garden: Having your own or access to someone else's can be a huge asset. You don't need a full bouquet to dress the table; a simple stem or even a few pieces of greenery will do just fine. You can even look to the roadside, and don't forget about the herb garden.
3. Brown Paper: Linens and great tablecloths are a fabulous thing to own, but if you have a small space and do a great deal of entertaining elsewhere (alley, rooftop, beach, park, etc.) your table size might frequently change. A roll of brown paper (look in the painting aisle at your local hardware store), applied to each table top creates a lovely neutral backdrop for your food and any style of dressing you'd like to apply.
4. Nature: We mentioned flowers and greenery above, but nature as a whole can be a great resource. Keep an eye out for acorns, moss, sticks or plain old rocks to help set the table with a natural vibe.
5. Blank Cardstock: This thick paper can provide all sorts of decor basics. You can use it to create note cards or place setting markers, or label your dishes if they're set out buffet style or a la picnic.
6. Unscented Candles: No one wants to take a whiff of your pumpkin-spice-chai-latte candle while they're trying to enjoy their food. Instead keep a supply of tea lights around, preferably unscented! You can drop them into jars and set them on the table or even hang them from a tree. Try placing them in hollowed out fruit or just let them sit out as is.
7. Raffia: In short, have something on hand that looks pretty when tied around something else. We keep raffia on hand as it works for gift giving situations and table dressings. Ribbon is a winner as well and a little can go a long way. Tie something small around a vase or if you happen to have a whole roll, wrap up your silverware and napkins as well.
8. White Dishware: Even if you aren't a fan of boring white plates for eating on, when it comes to serving, food looks the best when sitting on a bright white plate. They come in all shapes and sizes and diversifying your collection can make a table come together quickly. Look for rectangles, squares in addition to your more traditional round or oval serving platters.
9. Feathers/Pom Poms/Ribbons: Although these are just a few examples, next time you're in the craft store, check out the clearance section or swing by the accessory aisles. Even if you aren't into using these things for everyday crafts, a pack of feathers or brightly colored pom poms can cheer up any table or add something different. Try looking at stores that specifically sell such things for higher quality items that can be reused time and time again.
10. Fruit: Lets say you forget everything on the list above. Fruit when added to a table can be a centerpiece on it's own, sliced and floated in water with flowers, or even set out as is in a bowl and eaten at the end of a meal. It's a great backup to have on hand, even if you have other plans.
What are your favorite inexpensive, everyday resources for dressing up the table?
More Great Table Decor Inspiration From The Kitchn
• Year-Round Table Decorating From the Yard
• 7 Easy Ways to Decorate the Table with Burlap
• Get Crackin': 7 Ways to Decorate with Nuts
• Feathers on the Table: Yay or Nay?
• Write on Your Tablecloth! Butcher Paper Table Runners
(Images: Lucas Allen/Real Simple, Emma Christensen, Smart Bride, Flex Productions)