How to Create Beautiful Table Settings on a Budget

Welcome to the 132nd Tablescape Thursday!

I’ve always been drawn to pattern and color so when I was a young bride-to-be, I chose Lenox Temperware in the pattern, Fancy Free for my everyday china. It was and is indestructible. I think it would last through a nuclear war.



For our formal china we chose Noritake, Colburn. I don’t think too many folks are choosing a “formal” pattern these days when they are getting married.  I still have the Colburn and have used it in a few tablescapes here: Winter Table with Swarovski Snowflake Centerpiece and Silver-Tiered Centerpiece for Christmas.


I used the Fancy Free, Lenox china every day for about 9 years before I said to myself, “Self, you need another everyday china!” Self agreed and that’s when Villeroy & Boch’s, Melina came into my life.


Again, Melina was very much a heavily patterned china.  I was tickled to see it in a Rachel Ray show one day.  She made a visit back to the resort/restaurant where she once worked and Melina was the china they used in their dining room there.

Around 15 years later, I had the opportunity to buy china in the Blue Willow pattern very inexpensively at a Publix supermarket.  I couldn’t resist since Blue Willow has always been one of my favorite patterns.

I collected quite a bit of the Blue Willow (12 place settings) and it and the Melina are my everyday china still today. At Christmastime, I use all my holiday patterns and when I entertain on the porch, I use china I’ve purchased inexpensively just for the porch.

White Dishes:

Amazingly, over all these years, I never bought any all white or cream china until just a few years ago. Can you believe it? Buying an all white dish pattern before always seemed a little boring but once I did, it opened up endless possibilities for creating lots of different tablescapes for very little expense. Looking back, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize how versatile an all white china pattern would be. Let me show you what I mean.

The white dishware you see below was purchased from Big Lots. Six, 6 pc place settings, which included a dinner plate, salad plate, cereal bowl, fruit bowl and cup/saucer, along with multiple serving pieces was only $29.99.  The week after I bought mine, it went on sale for $19.99!

The place mats, napkin rings and napkins are from another discount store, Old Time Pottery and were only $1 each. The flowers were cut from my perennial garden. Large, white pillar candle holders are from Colonial Candle and since they are white, they work well for almost any table setting you have in mind. (Tablescape can be viewed in full here: Summer Tablescape on the Porch)


Here’s a completely different look using the exact same dishware paired with dollar store glassware and the same napkins from the previous table setting. The centerpiece was free, snagged from a room in another area of my home. Tip: Shop the house when you’re looking for a great centerpiece for your table.


Below, you’ll find the same china and the same stemware.  The only thing that has changed are the salad plates which were very reasonable at $3.99 each from HomeGoods. The shell centerpiece consists of shells found while on vacation. The napkin rings were plain, wood rings from Kohls and I just hot-glued large shells onto the top for a more decorative look. Starfish votives were only $1 each from Marshalls. Again, I used the same large, white pillar candle holders as seen previously.


By just changing out your salad plates, your table will take on a whole new look. (Tablescape can be viewed in full here: Beach Themed Table Setting


How about a romantic dinner for two? Look how completely different this table setting feels using the same white dishware paired with a tablecloth found in a local thrift store. The flowers are just honeysuckle gathered from the yard and placed in a small, white pitcher. (Tablescape can be viewed in full here:  Romantic Table for Two


Will white china work for a winter or holiday table setting? You betcha! Pair it with dollar store snowflake glassware, colorful napkins and some fun salad plates/mugs and you’re all set. (Tablescape can be viewed in full here: Winter or Christmas Themed Table Setting)


So, don’t wait as many years as I did to buy your first set of white or cream dishware. Armed with a set of white dishes and your imagination, you’ll be able to set an endless array of tablescapes for family and friends without breaking the bank.

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  1. sarah abeahccottage says

    thanks Susan, I haven't managed to take part in this for a while…

    inspiring, I want to go do another tablescape right now

    I linked up at my blog


  2. Brandon @ Southgate says

    Ive been wanting to ask…where on Earth do you store all your beautiful dishes?

  3. Very beautiful post..if I didn't have white china, I couldn't do a table setting at all.:))

  4. Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) says

    Hi Susan, It is amazing how different a set of dishes can look with a change of centerpiece and accent color! You must have gotten married in the late 70's or early 80's–so many of my friends ( and me–married 1980) have fine china in a similar pattern–delicate blue/grayblue flowers with a silver rim! They are so pretty, still, even though styles change. Thank you for hostessing! Linda

  5. What a thoughtful post. Loved seeing your tables again. You are so right, a white set is the backbone and the other sets appendages! Thanks for hosting my fav party!

  6. Susan, white china is definitely a great choice. Our wedding china is white with a simple band of gold and chocolate brown. I love using it as much today as when we selected it 36 years ago. And I have more fun with it today because I've learned to use different chargers and salad plates to mix in with it. We also have Nantucket Basket by Wedgwood that we use everyday. It's equally as much fun because of the same reasons. And just today I found some cream dinner and salad plates on clearance at TJ Max. 😉
    ~ Srah

  7. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Hi Brandon,
    I get that a question a fair amount. 🙂
    Well, mostly in the kitchen cupboards and a few china cabinets here and there. I also carved out a little china closet from of a little used coat closet. You can read about that here:

  8. We're obviously in the same age group because my everyday wedding dishes look a lot like yours. Mine was Kilkee by Noritake. My sister has your Colburn pattern for her good china.

    And both of my sister and I regret not having a good plain pattern and are buying them now. She fell in love with the Italian Countryside. I'm just looking about in more discount areas for some like you did.

    Great post and wonderful examples of how you have used yours.

  9. It is really amazing how you change a look of a white dinnerware just by doing a slight change such as salad plates, napkins, or even just the centerpiece. You are just so ggod at this, Susan. Love all the tables!…Christine

  10. Never Enough Thyme Creations says

    I worked all through high school and college at a bridal registry. I sold TONS of Temperware!! Great stuff!! When I got married, no question in my mind… Lenox Eternal. Plain Jane! I have ever since been collecting dishes to inter mix with it.. Some 16 years now… It is sad to see that girls now don't register for china. I hope they don't regret it in 10 years!

  11. Beautiful no matter how you set the table. So smartly done too. Thanks for the fun party every week. Even when I am in a rush I don't want to skip it! LOL

  12. Lisa's Creative Home says

    I love all the featured tablescapes! Its hard to choose a favorite but I LOVE the blue and white pallette!

  13. A wonderfully instructive post, Susan! Like you, I love color and haven't owned any plain white dishes. I finally bought some white dinner plates, but wish I had some with a textured pattern on the rims. Thanks for showing us how to dress up the same plates different ways!

  14. A Hint of Home says

    I loved looking at all your beautiful tablescapes. You are so right about white dishes. They are so versatile.

  15. No one sets a table better than you….no one!! Hope this finds you well! Chrissy

  16. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Awww, thanks Chrissy! You are a sweetheart!

  17. Susan (My Place to Yours) says

    Such an informative post with great examples, Susan! This should help all "new" tablescapers to visualize the range of options opened up by all-white dishes… It was 1979 when I was selecting dishes for the first time — and back then I would NEVER have wanted "plain" white dishes. Go figure… I only bought my Italian Countryside 8-9 years ago — and the "Gollum" china much more recently than that! Can't imagine tablescaping without them!

  18. Yvonne @ StoneGable says

    Susan, Great minds think alike! I did a very similar post on how to stack and use dishes. I am amazed how many looks one can get with few basic dishes and some pretty and iteresting toppers! Great post! I just love your blue willow, it is such a pretty clasic.
    Thanks for hosting!

  19. whita china is the little black dress of the china cabinet!

  20. The Decorative Dreamer says

    I couldn't agree with you more about advising people not to wait on the white china. It goes so well with so many other pieces. I am totally enjoying my first full white set that I won this Christmas from Lenox but have enjoyed my white Gibson Fruit pattern for years. Great post and so many pretty settings!

  21. Liz@ says

    Great posting…and I agree with your thinking! You can get a lot of mileage with the white dishes, and they don't have to be expensive! I'm going to have to check out the dollar store more often…who can go wrong with glassware at that price!

  22. We were on the same wavelength this week. I am building my tablescaping collection and I rely on my white dishes to be my workhorses. What a wonderful and informative post! Hope you can stop by my blog sometime! Happy TT!

  23. We were on the same wavelength this week. I am building my tablescaping collection and I rely on my white dishes to be my workhorses. What a wonderful and informative post! Hope you can stop by my blog sometime! Happy TT!

  24. My dishes were all white up until recently. Boring. I have come a long way with some other colors and patterns.

  25. Nellie's Cozy place says

    Hi Susan,
    Loved this post, all those pretty tablescapes. I have the same whiteware that you got at Big Lots,
    except I got mine at Old Time Pottery, I think!
    I love those dishes they are so versatile. Also love your butler pantry and Melina Villeroy dishes too, so lovely together or separate.
    Adore that cute lil squirrel sitting on the back of chair on your porch, so cute!
    Very fun post…..and thanks so much for hosting as always, you always do a great job.
    Blessings for a great day tomorrow,

  26. vignette design says

    I swear Susan, I could have written this same post. When I got married many years ago, I had my formal china (Aynsley) and casual indestructible Correlle. Then I discovered Franciscan and ended up with three of their patterns. Then I discovered transferware…..on and on and on. Where to put it all is now the question!
    Just last year, I bought my first set of white dishes. Pottery Barn plain white dishes. We use them every night. It took 35 years! ~Delores

  27. My Cozy Casita says

    Thank you Susan, for all the instructive post. I agree with you
    I am enjoying my white chine 8 pcs setting from Martha Stewart.
    so many beautiful setting on your blog.

  28. Great post, Susan! I very much enjoyed seeing where your tabletop collections began. As a bonus, revisiting these beautiful tablescapes you've created for previous Tablescape Thursdays was a wonderful treat!

    Thank you for hosting and for the inspiration you share week after week.

    Warmest regards,

  29. Hello Susan,
    yes, I agree. White china is the perfect basic for every table. It gives endless possibilities to add color and patterns with additional tablecloth, placemats, nakpkins, salad plates and so on. And this is in the end much cheaper as to buy always new china sets.I really love your tables.
    Greetings, Johanna

  30. Your posts are always filled with useful information! I could not be without white dishes, I have many shapes and sizes ;o)

    Your "summer breeze" room is inviting. Do you use the room year round? I can't tell if it has windows, but I think so.

  31. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Hi Debbie, Thanks so much! It's screened in so I use it almost daily from around April through October…then just a few days a month from Nov-Feb. Some folks have said I should make it a sunroom, but I really wanted it to be a screened-in porch. 🙂

  32. Going on 41 years ago, I chose solid white for my "every day" dishes. My family and friends thought I was crazy. But, guess what? I am still using and loving those dishes every single day.

  33. On Crooked Creek says

    I adore how you mixed the decorative plates with the white for a different and whimisical look! Those snowmen with the plaid have to be my favorite! All of your dishes are beautiful! In the 80's, fruit patterns were so very popular for dinnerware! That's when I made a purchase and some lovely floral plates that have been passed around the family. ..still going! Thank you for such an inspiring post and for hosting this weekly meme.

  34. Mid-Atlantic Martha says

    I never knew how wonderful white dishes were until I started "visiting" the tables here. They're certainly the good foundation to many a lovely table — don't know why it took me so long to see that. Thanks for your wonderful inspiration week after week.

  35. Hey Susan, I'm always honored and tickled when you visit LazyonLoblolly, and your comments are soooo appreciated, I got the birdie plates at Crackle Barrell!
    See Ya Monday for MM!Have a fantastic weekend!
    Thank you!

  36. Bonnie Bee says

    Susan… my Mom has the same Lenox Temperware in the pattern, Fancy Free!
    AND… I have the Lenox Temperware in the pattern, Silhoutte.. AND YES it is indestructible. We have used our Temperware daily for over 34 years and have only broken 1 piece…
    Your posts are my favorite..You give us so much great information. I especially enjoy TTT! take care and enjoy our Georgia sunshine!

  37. The White Farmhouse says

    I have always had white dishes since they are so versatile. Although, since coming and visiting here, I find myself drawn to colors. My little dish collection is growing. Nothing as spectacular as yours though. I do enjoy your tips. I am surprised at the items you get at your dollar store though. Nothing like that here. Maybe I should look a little harder!

  38. Simone @ Doberman's by the Sea says

    All your tablescapes are gorgeous. Thanks for hosting.

  39. Judy @ Southern Style Home Decor says

    What a beautiful post. I love all the different combinations. Looks like I need to get a casual set of white dinnerware. We have Lenox Opal Innocence and I LOVE it! Love it! I think its sad too that not many of the brides today are registering for china. Its just a great tradition and its very sentimental to me.

  40. Sue (Someone's Mom) says

    I agree on the white china. I did it the way you did, formal china and a patterned every day china when I got married. The every day stuff is long gone and several other sets have come and gone as well. I've always loved dishes. I finally bought a set of all white china at Walmart a few years ago and in the past year I've added 2 other patterns of white dinner plates. I'm always looking for whites to go with the wide variety of dessert/salad plates that I'm gathering.

  41. Susan, Thanks for the tips on how you made these gorgeous tablescapes with the budget in mind. One of my favorites has been your Blue Willow tea tray, because I have the very same pattern from the grocery store. Several years ago when I started my "collection" it was $2.99 a place setting! Whoo! Hoo!

  42. I love all your choices Susan! I so agree with you about using the creamy patterns. I just got my Italian Countryside dinnerware two years ago and I have really enjoyed using it with everything. I also love that the dinner plates are large enough to use as chargers underneath older dinner plates. My grandmother bought me the Blue Willow from a grocery store, and I have just about everything in that pattern. For my first wedding I chose Wedgwood "Queen's Plain" for everyday and would give anything to get it back! I chose Lenox "Citation Gold" for formal, and I really don' miss the gold rim! Because of you, I have definitely expanded my dinnerware collection, lol!

  43. i love your blog. my favorite feature is your tablescape thursday. please don't ever stop. i especially love when you tell about your pieces and where they came from and how much you paid for them. thanks so much for sharing.

  44. A Perfect Setting says

    I think you and I are on the same wave length this week, with our white dishes! Of course, your posts are always so professional and beautiful, you got me beat!! I've always loved the fresh as a daisy post, with the blue accents. Thanks so much for hosting this every week!! How's the office coming along?? Have a great week-end!

  45. Almost 30 years ago, I chose Mikasa French Countryside (all white)for everyday dinnerware. Still using it, still love it. It is fabulous for mixing in colors and patterns. Definitely versatile.

  46. I love your story of how you started with your first sets of dishes. Isn't it fun to look back on what we once loved? Like you my first set of everyday dishes had a design. Mine had green shamrocks and were the sweetest dishes. I no longer have them because I broke 8 plates at one time! 🙁

    I am on a mission to add to my Mother's china. I would like to get 12 place settings.

    I love all of your dishes!

  47. That was such an interesting post. I've actually been thinking about getting some white china. I have the new Fiesta Ware for my every day dishes & have purchased single sets of every color, so the mixing & matching is endless. But adding some white china would create even more possibilities. I love adding salad plates from other lines of china & mixing them with the Fiesta. Creating a pretty or fun table just makes the food taste that much better. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas.

  48. Life in Rehab says

    Gorgeous. I fell for those crab plates at Home Goods, and they are rocking my china hutch. What a bargain!

  49. ~CC Catherine says

    Love the varied settings all in one post Susan. Your porch setting is always one of my favorites! 😉 I just read an article in my new edition of Romantic Homes that talked about using chipped china…it was a dream of an article. Sure hope this rain subsides soon. Johnny will be working this coming Saturday in Columbus GA – I think I'll galavant antiquing. Let me know if you're busy, maybe we could go together, or have lunch! You've got my email address! 🙂 Take care…

  50. I loved this post. I have only been married for 8 years, and didn't register for fine China because my mom will eventually give me her grandmother's Mason fine china. I'm glad I didn't buy much when we first married because I have been able to add to my every day dishes with things I like now. I can't believe you bought Blue Willow from a grocery store! That's a pattern I keep eying on eBay!

  51. I also have Fancy Free and still love it 32 years later! I would love to see some of your tablescapes using this china. Please post some pics of those. Thanks.

  52. Melissa Reneé says

    Wow, that was kind of strange to see the icon with the Fancy Free plate. That's the same pattern my mom picked out when she got married! 🙂 I agree with Bev C. I'd love to see some tablescapes using that pattern. We use those plates every day. They really are indestructible.. Seems like everything is breaking or chipping, but those never receive a scratch! =P

  53. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Bev and Melissa…Unfortunately, I don't have the Fancy Free china anymore. I gave it away several years ago when I bought the Melina for every day. Thanks so much for your comments. Nice to know folks are still using it.

  54. What a helpful post this was, Susan–great tips, especially about the white china. I have hesitated to get white for a long time, but recently started adding white to my small collection and it really works well paired with other colorful dishes. I really do enjoy your blog!

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