Welcome to the next installment of The ABC’s of Gathering, “D is for Dine.”
We’ve been working our way through an alphabet of vintage/thrifted/found pieces and decorating concepts (catch up on the previous letters here: A is for Art, B is for Brass, and C is for Chinoiserie) geared to educate and inspire…
Educate – because the best way I know to develop a sort of sixth sense to recognize those special pieces when you find them is to be constantly absorbing inspiration, feasting your eyes on beautiful things, and noting your likes and dislikes and what makes your heart sing.
Inspire – because once you’ve found some treasures and bought what you love, it can be challenging to pull it all together or know how to pull those finds out of the cabinet and put them to good use. Again, there is nothing like having strong visuals mentally tucked away to spark ingenious ways to decorate with your gathered pieces!
D is for Dine
Today’s post is all about using gathered pieces in a dining setting – creating beautiful tablescapes, setting up pretty drink stations, mixing and matching colors and patterns… Not only so that you can have stylish decor, but even more importantly, as a beautiful contribution to incredibly important element of fellowship with family and friends: sharing a meal!
*Today’s post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission. You can read my full disclosure here. I hope you all know by now that I do only share things I really truly love!
All About Ambiance
Of course, wonderful meals can be shared on paper plates or on fast food wrappers, or, a household favorite, on the coffee table in the living room in front of the TV.
But I just can’t deny that there’s something special about sitting down to a meal at a beautifully set table with pretty plates and pretty linens. It automatically elevates even the simplest of occasions, adding a layer of delight to everyday or holiday meals alike…
I vividly remember as a child how much better everything tasted out of my mother’s special blue stemware, and looking for any excuse to pull it out. Cloth napkins, napkin rings, fancy china, candlesticks… These were all trappings of celebrations, and thankfully she would let her children come up with just about any reason to celebrate, even when it meant extra laundry and dish washing later.
And really, who couldn’t use a little extra celebration on their life? A little extra beauty? A little extra something to spark conversation and help make a meal so much more than simply eating food?
So whether you’re looking to pull out all the stops or just find a few ideas for adding pretty touches to your table, I hope you’ll find some inspiration in this post!
Setting A Beautiful Table
I have to give insane amounts of credit to Eddie for educating and inspiring me over the years on setting a beautiful table – using interesting vintage china, pattern mixing, all sorts of textiles and glassware in bold and unexpected ways, and making me want to snatch up every beautiful piece of dinnerware I come across!
But one of the most inspiring things to me and the reason I decided to begin the post with these images is his focus on setting beautiful tables for any occasion – both the bottom left and bottom right pictures in the collage above were table settings for takeout!
So why set a beautiful table?
Why do we do anything to beautify our homes?
I think it can be boiled down to two reasons: because we enjoy it and because we want others to enjoy it.
So as I considered how best to present this post on setting a beautiful table for our own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others, I decided to break it down into four main elements – textiles, plates and pattern mixing, centerpieces, and glassware/barware – while focusing on gathered examples of those elements – pieces vintage, thrifted, found, inherited.
Table linens and textiles are one of my favorite places to start for a table setting. Think outside the box of traditional tablecloths, runners and napkins – bed sheets, blankets and quilts, curtains, scarves can all be repurposed!
For this spring succulent table setting, I laid down a vintage bed sheet (previously used as a curtain panel here) and added vintage floral napkins found at a thrift store. The dishes were all thrifted, and the little pot de creme with the adorable peach-shaped knob on top was handed down from my great great aunt (read more here).
Now for my dirty little secret… I didn’t have enough lacy white plates or little pots to set an entire table – shhh!
My friend Jennifer is another huge source of table setting inspiration to me – I just love her bold color usage and fearless pattern mixing. She used a vintage table cloth handed down from her aunt as the jumping off point for her color scheme. I love the way she was able to re-use such a distinctly retro piece in a glam and modernized way!
Lauren layered soft pastel vintage table linens for this little girl’s birthday tea party. You’ll definitely want to visit for the other vintage details she incorporated as well!
The takeaway: Your table linens don’t need to be the perfect size for your table (and vintage pieces can run on the smaller side). Feel free to layer various pieces of similar (or contrasting!) colors and patterns.
Pam found this indigo batik tablecloth at a thrift store for $3.99 and used it as the base for this beautiful spring table setting in blue, white, and yellow.
All of the fabrics Summer used to create this holiday table setting were found for $1/yard at her local Habitat for Humanity Restore and she used fabric tape to create the placemats and napkins herself!
The takeaway: Don’t forget to check out fabric yardage. It’s very simple to create your own table linens!
Another example of setting a table with a repurposed textile – Cassie used a folded Mexican blanket as a table runner for a very laid back, warm and bohemian vibe.
Plates & Pattern Mixing
Perhaps this is my favorite element of setting a table: layering plates, mixing colors, playing patterns off each other.
Vintage dishware is so accessible and easy to acquire – thrift stores and garage and estate sales are full of once-prized sets, and then there are the family heirloom pieces that often sit unappreciated behind closed cabinet doors.
I personally love buying thrifted china because, while I may have fallen in love with it, it doesn’t need to be too precious to use – chips or breaks are lamentable, but not heartbreaking.
Tip: For more emotionally-special pieces, consider layering them as accents on top of other dishware and then removing them before serving the meal.
Certainly, some of these pieces require careful handling and hand-washing, but don’t they just bring such beauty and elegance to the table?
I just can’t get enough of this pattern combo, composed of two vintage souvenir plates and an Anthropologie clearance shelf dessert plate. Souvenir plates may have fallen slightly out of favor as decor, since I spot them at thrift stores all the time, but their adorned and patterned rims make them perfect to use in a little stack like this!
Blue Willow china is a beautiful and classic pattern, but layering it with other colors and designs made Jennifer’s spring table setting anything but expected.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to mix vintage china with modern pieces and patterns!
More Blue Willow, again anything but overly formal and traditional! It’s bright and fresh here in Stephanie’s cobalt table setting, especially paired with relaxed woven chargers.
Cassie’s blue and white tablescape is such a wonderful example of pattern mixing within the same color family – the bowls, both layers of plates, and even the glassware and centerpiece are all different designs and shades of blue, but work together perfectly in her seascape-inspired dining room.
The takeaway: Sticking to one main color when collecting dinnerware can be a great way to always have a cohesive look, even when you’re mixing and matching!
How beautiful is the pairing of these floral plates with the buffalo check fabric on Jenn’s tablescape? She did such a beautiful job of blending meaningful heirlooms (the plates from her mother, the silver from her great-grandmother) with simple, modern accessories.
The takeaway: I’m challenging you to pull out that special, family china pattern! If it’s your style, wonderful, and if not, find a way to add accessories that do fit your aesthetic – there’s something so special about carrying on and connecting with family traditions!
The napkin and salad plate in Pam’s spring table setting boast strong modern designs and might seem a surprising choice to pair with vintage china, but the tea cup filled with wheat grass shares the same color palette and ends up working perfectly!
A very classic transferware pattern meets retro-with-a-modern-DIY-addition in Alice’s rustic Bohemian tablescape. Black + brown together? Absolutely!
Let’s talk centerpieces, another great way to add gathered style to your table settings! From new spins on traditional pieces to found objects turned table decor, hopefully these ideas will prompt you to have fun with the middle of your table. Room for food? Overrated!
Jennifer used a thrifted birdcage as the foundation for this elegant Easter table setting, placing candles inside and surrounding it with pretty vessels full of flowers.
The takeaway: Think big! And outside the box. What unique found objects could inspire you to set a beautiful table?
This Thanksgiving tablescape is one of my favorites I’ve ever put together. It all started with that incredible thrifted tie-dyed tablecloth, but since we’re focusing on centerpieces at the moment… I pulled out a vintage brass banana leaf tray and filled it with mini pumpkins and silk flowers and flanked it with thrifted candlesticks – easy, yet eye-catching.
Has anyone else ever carried a mental image of crystal and cut-glass candlesticks being stuffy and prim? I don’t any longer after seeing the way Rafael (@soletoshare on Instagram) clustered them together with fresh blooms and a brass candelabra for an incredibly glamorous and stylish centerpiece!
Jen paired simple brass candlesticks with fall foliage, mixed metals, vintage glassware and brass deer in this warm and nature-inspired Thanksgiving table.
The takeaway: I spy similar candlesticks all the time at local thrift stores! Their elegant and basic shape makes them perfect for grouping together or scattering down the length of a table.
I’ve swooned over Jess’s moody fall tablescape ever since she first shared it. She gathered up an ensemble of glass bottles to use as a candleholder centerpiece, corralled in a thrifted brass tray. (On a thrift store tablecloth, with thrifted plates – this is a true gathered table!)
Drinkware | Barware
Finally, we can’t forget the wonderful world of drinkware and barware, whether rounding out a table setting or creating a charming hosting area for party libations.
From my point of view, life is too short to have boring glassware. I love that my kitchen cabinet is full of unique pieces – from kitschy wheat-printed juice glasses to vintage Mount Rushmore souvenir lowball glasses with gold details. We use them daily, I run them through the dishwasher, and if and when something breaks, I find fun new pieces to bring home!
These tortoiseshell acrylic glasses were a thrift store find as a set of eight for only a few dollars. I think they absolutely made this Thanksgiving table, with the way the light shone through them!
Collect your vintage barware on a tray for an instantly classy little cocktail area, like Rafael (@soletoshare on Instagram) did here. I am dying over the humor of that little brass plaque (an estate sale find)… Whimsy always makes a good addition!
Brittany’s bar car pulls together vintage decanters, glassware with gold details, and even a fun brass pineapple into the perfect one-stop place to mix a drink.
On top of my own little bar area, I used a painted thrifted tray to hold a mix of vintage (the world map highball glasses and etched dandelion lowballs) and Target barware.
Creating a swanky bar area can be as simple as displaying some pretty glasses and liquor bottles in a tray like Kimberly did here. Seriously, how gorgeous is this? Yet it’s something you could easily pull together, perhaps even with things you already heave in your home!
The takeaway: It’s not hard to create pretty vignettes when you buy pretty things! Why not treat yourself to some beautiful gathered glassware?
Well there you have it, friends. Four elements of setting a gathered table and all sorts of different things to keep your eyes open for in your treasure seeking!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
- Take a look at the dishware/glassware/textile pieces you already have and brainstorm a fun new table setting, either for an upcoming event or just for kicks. Go ahead, pull them all out and try out some new combinations!
- Itching for some new finds? Take a trip to a local thrift store, flea market, or antique/vintage shop to add your collection!
- Then, share pictures with the rest of us on Instagram using #ABCsofGathering #DisforDine!
How do you set a gathered table?
If you enjoyed today’s post, I’d love for you to give it a pin!