How to Get a Beach Cottage Vintage Coastal Style Table On A Budget

Thu 12th, May, 2011

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Aloha!  How you going?

Do you want to know how to dress up a table all beachy and coastal and chic and white on a budget?

Well you are in the right place…

I recently had an email from one of my lovely readers, (hello Kylee) who was in dire straits…she had agreed in a mad moment to hold a celebratory dinner at her house for some friends…there would be about 16 or so adults sitting down in the evening to eat celebrating a special moment in their lives…she had the catering covered but was really worried about the decor…

She had a few tables to dress and one serious problem…as a stay at home mummy with a couple of little ones she was on a tight budget and didn’t have much scope for decoration….though she was in the process of painting things white, loved the coastal theme and had plenty of nautical things…

So she asked if I could give her some ideas…





First off I asked what she had to work with

…what she could shop the house for….’cos that is what I always do


So she sent me a list

it went something like this

♥  rattan chargers

♥  white china

♥  a small collection of large-ish shells

♥  white pitchers/jugs

♥ some white linen/tablecloths

this is what she was worried about

♥ not having enough matching napkins

♥ her lack of napkin rings

♥ the ambiance & lighting

♥ not having enough cutlery

♥ lack of budget to go out and ‘buy’ the look she wanted

♥ no tablemats

♥ being time poor on the day because of the catering


So here’s where I came in…and this is what I came up with

First of all the top ten things to get the Beach Cottage look for a coastal-beachy-vintage table without spending a shed-load of dollars

  1. shells
  2. string/rope/ribbon
  3. vintage bottles
  4. pitchers/jugs/mason jars
  5. layering
  6. vintage linen
  7. candles
  8. flowers
  9. vintage cutlery & china
  10. white plain china/dishes

armed with these you have the basis for a quick and easy tablesetting




Second of all…most tables can be set well in advance…with the exception of the flower part…this is the best bit too ‘cos that means you can still foof with it and enjoy it…making the event much more stress free…

So this is what I came up with….

I told her to ditch the idea of a ‘bought’ look and those perfect magazine style settings…that a mis-matched cobbling together of vintage, crisp white, shells, texture and flowers was key…and I told her to keep in mind that vintage linen and cutlery/china are far superior to anything you can buy today…(the vintage napkins here are to die-for-in quality and cost me oh about 50cents each..)

Here’s what I recommended


use flea market white tablecloths for vintage beachy chic …easily found when thrifting (at a push & if you want table to floor skirting use vintage sheets)

keep an eye open for neighbours with flowers/bushes & assess your own stock of free blooms

scour thrift stores for old cutlery and mis-match it for a unique look…this is dirt cheap & readily available, & rocks a table setting

hunt out vintage napkins in neutral colours…regularly found in sets of 4 or more in charity shops

use string, ribbon, strips of ripped fabric and twine instead of napkin ‘rings’ …buy from dollar/garden shops

gather white china from budget stores (Iqkea/Target)

compare drugstore flower prices…check out supermarkets, greengrocers, discount stores for the cheapest flowers & ask them if they can get the colour you want in for you (surprisingly if you ask most will do this if you give them enough notice)

source white candles from dollar shops…very cheap with stunning results in the evening

purchase vintage china from thrift stores & mis-match

collect shell, twigs, driftwood or wood, cones, and things from nature (you can often find these too in dollar shops)


♥  how to table dress without bursting a blood vessel

start with the tablecloth

add a runner….I don’t always like a runner, especially if I want vintagey casual…but for an occasion they add instant depth to your table if you need this quick and easy…if you are not using one use an imaginary runner that you will place things on (this will centre your table)

keep it simple…this is not the time to try your hand at hand-painting vintage plates

this below is simple & structured without too much fussing for a quick result *you need this if you are doing more than one!


now in the centre place your main piece (for a Beach Cottage look that will be a white jug/pitcher, a big old mason jar or a shell)

now the place setting…start with chargers or large plates and layer up


add the glasses (I left these off here for clarity in the photos)

add the napkins…for laid-back coastal style loosely gather your napkin (no intricate folding required) and tie off with string, rope, twine etc

place the cutlery alongside or on top of the china….don’t go formal with the cutlery placement…offset is good


start to layer up the middle centre of the table….


using shells or flowers or both intersperse these with candles


stand back and enjoy…

and that is it you are done….

simple, quick, easy

beachy, coastal, vintageon a budget

you can find lots more BC table dressings here

including using vintage bottles, garden flowers, mason jars,

oh and of course, how could I have forgotten using tissue paper pom-poms


see you next time then

and if you are after Coastal DIY ideas, check out my new page on just that here

blogged for Tablescape Thursday at Susan’s


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36 Responses to “How to Get a Beach Cottage Vintage Coastal Style Table On A Budget”

  1. Kirsty says:

    Completely gorgeous Sarah! :D Nicely done.

  2. Simple Daisy says:

    Wow!!! So very beautiful! Thank you for the fabulous tips too:)

  3. kalanicut says:

    Wow, that was awesome. Great idea, great presentation. Makes me wish I was having a dinner party tonight!

  4. Beautiful white table, Sarah!

  5. marlis says:

    So very beautiful. I love your ideas. Me to do: a table in white! Great great table.

  6. Kelley says:



  7. Tonja says:

    Oh, that table is beautiful! I would love to have a table look that lovely. But my boys would have it covered in mud in 5 minutes :)

  8. Stacey says:

    Great tips!! Just a quick question, does the jug of flowers obscure the view of the person sitting opposite you or do you just take it away when you all sit down at the table? That’s the one annoying thing I find when I put anything biggish in the centre.

  9. What wonderful advice! As a novice tablescaper, I welcome every single bit of information that I can get my grubby hands on!

    I adore the simplicity and serenity of this table. Invite me anytime. Just give me enough notice so that I can buy tickets in advance! : )

  10. Dayamis says:

    this was really fabulously done!!! I love all the ideas. Just beautiful!!

  11. Angie says:

    Love it…you have helped me so much with my tablescapes !!! Ive learned “less is more”!

  12. Suzanne says:

    Very pretty Sarah !! Your dining room is looking FAB!!

  13. Melinda says:

    Sarah, what a great deconstruction ! I do love a good ‘foof’ and ‘play’ with the table, but as I finally sit here with a minute to spare ( having run around like a crazy woman for 3 days straight) my immediate thought was that I’d actually just like to sink into one of your chairs at that most lovely of tables, with some charming company and have one of your roast chicken dinners and a glass of something refreshing! That is to say it looks VERY INVITING and totally soothing – great table!!

  14. Susan says:

    Nice nice nice nice nice……. :)

    Now I have a story…… I love linen. Natural linen. I have a gorgeous linen tablecloth but guess what I saw in my local hardware store just before Christmas last year? Yep, you guessed it, a beautifully set table, showcasing wares from the shop. They do a lot of the white Maxwell Williams range, great glassware, shells, starfish etc.. Because it’s a ‘hardware’ store it’s very competitively priced if you compare to local Homewares stores. ANYWAY… The tablecloth, which I saw and immediately fell in love with….. Was a painters drop sheet. I kid you not! They had written a note & pinned it to the cloth. It’s natural in colour & slightly textured in the weave. I love it! Doesn’t bother me if things get spilled…. I bought one, washed it, hemmed it to fit my table& ironed it. Gorgeous!

    Goes to show thinking outside the box can be rather nifty xx

  15. Purnima says:

    Gorgeous tablescape!! lovely flowers and love the tips !!!

  16. Trine Jarman says:

    Fantastic advice Sarah. Love your blog, enjoy it so much more than looking a pictures of celebrities and rich people in their houses! As the old saying goes – money can’t buy you everything……..

  17. Alima says:

    This is one of my favorite posts of your yet! You broke it down into simple steps that anyone could follow! My husband is building me a farmhouse table this summer and I can’t wait to start tablescaping it!! Plus going thrifting this Sat with a girlfriend. Can’t wait to find some vintage linens! :)

    As usual, you rock Sarah!

  18. Eileen says:

    Love this post Sarah, I have a passion for vintage linens, everyone of them thrifted over many years of super fun hunts. I Just posted about them the other day! And like Susan up above, while I was renovating my kitchen, I accidently discovered how wonderful a dropcloth looks on a table. I Love your lesson in layering. As always a great read.

  19. lisaroy says:

    so pretty! and just goes to show how much more charming a table can be when you source out some vintage pieces and various bit and bobs from dollar stores and such. no need for expensive pieces and this is so much more welcoming to guest too since nothing feels too “precious”. :)

  20. Robin says:

    Thanks for the great tips Sarah. I learned so much. Your table looks amamzing!

  21. Tracey says:

    love, Love, LOVE YOUR STYLE!!! And not just your decorating style … I love that you are willing, even eager to help the rest of us achieve “the look”. You are the best … I wish you lived just around the corner, better yet, I wish I lived just down the beach!!! ;-) Have a lovely weekend Sarah!

  22. Barefoot Liz says:

    Twine, white flowers, white dinnerware, and tan (or tan and white stripe) place mats work well in a pinch. I buy flowers that have a bunch of branches per stem. You only need a few of those and then break them up into bud vases.
    I won’t skimp on candles, though. I only buy unscented beeswax or soy candles with 100% cotton wicks.

  23. Tammi says:

    You always make it look so effortless and after this step by step I can see it is :)

    We’re having friends over for dinner tomorrow and I reckon with your advice my table will be rocking it!!


  24. Katherine says:

    Your new (old) dresser looks wonderful at then end of your dining table.

    That is a lovely table setting. Really simple and serene – beachy and rustic – all at once! Lovely!

    Good one ; )

  25. marylou says:

    Love the simplicity yet there is an element of elegance;-)

    For me the mixing of elements does that, different and interesting textures….just what you have done~~

    As always a pleasure to visit your blog sweet Sarah~~


  26. Alice says:

    This is divine. Very inviting indeed. Just never invite the grandmas (as my daughter calls them). I tried my hand at tablescaping on mothers day. Needless to say the grandmas didn’t appreciate all the “mess” (flowers). ‘Get it out as far from here…’ they said, ‘the table is for food. All this just gets in the way of good food and conversation!’ Sighhh…. Not even in my own home do I get to be a grown up woman and mother and do what I like in my own quirky way…. Never mind, I’m just glad there are other people out there that appreciate simple beauty as this! Thank goodness for Sarah and people like you hon!

  27. Travel Guide says:

    I want to try one of this tips for this summer season. I love this topic. Nice traveling to this blog :)

  28. jojo3b says:

    Thanks for sharing your cleverness once again. :)

  29. You have some great ideas in here! It must be so good to have a dinner party in that kind of dining.

  30. denise says:

    wow! what a gorgeous, cozy setting. where did you find that ladder??? I’ve been looking for one and can’t figure out where to source it. thank you and keep up the beautiful work.

  31. Loved your tutorial on Table Decorating, love how you layer things, I did something similar at Christmas time but not so beachy, more Christmassy! I must remember to take photos next time I set the table in a special way. Sometimes I forget the cloth and just put the runner down the middle with flowers in big old glass vase or a tarnished silver tea pot, candles and pine cones (for Autumn or Christmas). Sometimes I add those old cork placemats for each place…..

  32. …really nice and simply elegant!

  33. power kite says:

    An insightful post there mate ! Thank you for the post !