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Glamorous DIY vintage tablescape

A few simple pieces will elevate your next dinner party

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Photos by Heather Fegan

Brigid Milway up-cycled her love of vintage into two retail shops: What, These Old Things, a webstore shipping across the country, and ReFound Shop in Dartmouth, N.S. The beauty of vintage pieces, she says, is you can find them anywhere from yard sales to antique stores.

East Coast Living asked Milway to help us create a fall tablescape using all vintage finds. Here’s how you can achieve the look at home.

Step 1: Gather your pieces

  • plates
  • water glasses
  • wine goblets
  • cutlery
  • linens
  • platters/serving trays
  • candles
  • brass candlesticks
  • small glass jars or vases
  • fresh flowers
  • a long narrow base such as an empty picture frame or piece of wood.

People often don’t use family heirlooms for fear of losing or breaking pieces. But you can’t enjoy them deep in a cupboard. Take the pressure off and select one or two pieces to work into your style in a meaningful way.

Step 2: Centre stage

The centrepiece for this tablescape starts with an old picture frame used at a table runner. The gold edge ties in with the tableware and the ornate detailing pulls it all together with the rest of the pieces. Milway says you could also put wallpaper in the frame for added colour and pattern.

Step 3: Get Set

Set and stack the dinner and side plates, place linens, and cutlery.
“The thing about vintage dish sets, there’s never eight,” says Milway. “So look for similarity among different pieces. All these plates have a gold rim. There are three different styles of plates to make six place settings. Create a line of uniformity, and it all comes together.”

Here she uses six amber plates to add depth to the dinner plates by stacking them.

Milway say cutlery is more difficult to find, so a mismatched set is the way to go.

She collected 36 pieces, to make six place settings. You can mix family heirlooms in with your own set. As long as you have a running theme, such as the floral pattern on these pieces, you can mix them.

Step 4: Be toast-ready

The water glasses are a fun, smoked glass set in playful colours that pop. If one breaks, you can easily swap a new one in to replace it.

As Milway says, it’s nice to have some uniformity. This is achieved with six amber glass goblets. Here the amber plates, goblets, and linen napkins are the only matching sets of the tablescape.

Step 5: Create drama

Milway says brass candlesticks are really fun to thrift. Find them at yard sales and antique or thrift stores. In thrift stores you often find brass items clustered rather than in specific homewares sections.

Look for variations in height to add interest to the table. Fill the centrepiece frame with them

Step 6: Flower power

Milway collects little glass jars to use as vases for centrepieces. One is an old Listerine bottle from the late 1800s, the rest likely date back to the early 1900s. They are all different heights and shapes and add character.

Fill the jars with fresh flowers. A mix of deep purple and shades of green, yellow, and orange will add a punch of fall colour to the table and play well with the amber. Add these to your centre piece and arrange. Adjust until you are happy with the look.

Step 7: Fill it in

Add foliage and greenery along the base of the centrepiece to fill in the space, and add colour and depth. Don’t hold back; more is more.

Step 8: Finishing touch

Milway used two serving platters on this tablescape. They couldn’t be more different but still work together. The bigger platter, which Milway calls hauntingly beautiful is an antique made in Glasgow, Scotland. The second platter with gold trim and roses has a 1950s feel.

Fill the serving platters with an assortment of charcuterie and adorn it with flowers and fresh sprigs. Add your platters, along with vintage serving ware, to the table and your scene is set.

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