6 Zero-Cost Ways To Elevate Your Tablescape

No money, no problem.

Blue and White Table Setting with Wax Seal Place Card
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Rachael Burrow

Tablescaping has been a Southern tradition for generations. It's a simple way to any day feel a little special, but all the fixings—plates, vases, napkins, and more—add up quickly, especially when you’re buying in multiples. In case you weren’t lucky enough to inherit family china , or you’re simply trying to stick to a budget, we reached out to some of the best entertainers in the South to get their advice on how to elevate tablescapes without spending a dime.

Get Crafty

We’re all about a DIY moment and the one-of-a-kind impact it creates. For Molly Boyd , a content creator in Bradenton, Florida, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead of splurging on napkin rings, she recommends tying bows on the napkins with excess ribbon you have lying around. No ribbon? “Consider folding your napkins in a non-traditional way —I personally love tying mine in a knot,” she shares.

As an artist from Austin, Texas, Erin Donahue Tice isn’t afraid to get messy—and neither are her kids. “We use empty soup cans and spray paint them in one solid color, then use acrylic paint to brush on fun abstract designs,” she says. Let them dry, turn them over, and you’ll have custom vases with sentimental value the whole family can be proud of.

Lyndsey Zorich, founder of The Avenue in Houston, Texas, also turns to her kids for tablescaping treasures: They help her create the placecards. “This takes the pressure off me to pretend to be the calligrapher I most definitely am not,” Zorich quips. “It also creates a homemade, thoughtful touch—if you're having guests, it's guaranteed to be a conversation starter.”

Shop Your Home

There’s a lot around your house that can moonlight as part of a tablescape. Julia Amory, founder of her namesake lifestyle brand , has go-to pieces she likes to pull. “Heirloom silver is always a good idea, and candy dishes and wine coasters make for a beautifully elevated table,” she claims.

Boyd looks to the unpredictable for vases: “Pitchers make wonderful vases, and toothbrush holders become the perfect floral vessel for a small centerpiece.” Her sister, fellow content creator Sarah Tucker , “is the queen of turning her wicker and straw purses into a gorgeous container for hydrangeas in the spring.” And tablecloths, Boyd insists, don’t need to be tablecloths at all. “We’ve snuck a quilt onto a table, as well as a shower curtain! You may have some pretty patterned sheets or your grandmother’s old drapes lying around,” she finishes.

Curate In Color

“Working within a consistent color palette can make a creative cost-free tablescape less daunting,” recommends Amory. “Use favorite objets that work within your color story from around the house to add interest to the table.” Narrowing down your options can actually be helpful because then you have more guidelines as opposed to just more stuff.

Hunt And Gather

You can buy a bouquet from the grocery store, or you can make one from nature for free . “There is something so special about taking the time to pick out the perfect flower, branch, or greenery from your yard to create an eye-catching centerpiece for your guests,” Boyd swears. She often places palm fronds in a vase for height and drama, and trims bougainvillea for color and dimension. Want to get really creative? According to Boyd, one of her mom’s most famous tablescapes involved massive fiddle leaf fig leaves as placemats.

If you don’t have a yard, look indoors instead. “Use potted plants from around your house as a centerpiece. I love having fresh orchids in my home, and if I don’t have time to create a centerpiece, this is an easy and chic way to elevate the table,” shares Boyd. You’re not limited to just blooms though. “If you have a windowsill garden, grab your potted herbs and place them in the center of your table for an organic and fresh look,” she finishes.

Freshen Up

Though we love florals, they aren’t the tablescape requirement they seem to be. In fact, that’s why sometimes, Zorich purposefully leaves them out. “Weave in anything that creates interest. It might be an unexpected element,” she explains. “ Fresh produce is a simple, in-a-pinch hack that can change with the seasons.” She recommends citrus in the winter, Meyer lemons in the summer, and even asparagus bunches in the springtime (“tie a hot pink bow around them and stand them up”).

Boyd agrees with this approach, and offers more ideas: apples in the fall and pomegranates for winter. “Slice a few open for added textures. Place them in bowls, around candles, or at each person’s place setting to dress up your table,” she advises.

Take Out A Loan

What Southern woman doesn’t have—or have access to—an heirloom or two? Boyd loves to raid her mom’s stash, and also pays it forward with her own. “As a collector of tablescape items myself, many of my pieces don’t get used nearly enough,” she says. “I find joy knowing that they’re elevating a loved one’s table when I loan them out.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles