When it comes to designing a dinner party, the food may be the star of the show but setting an attractive stage makes it an even more memorable event.

With a collection of affordable and versatile entertaining wares and a few basic rules of dining design, you have a foundation to build upon for any occasion, saving you precious time and money that can be put to more delicious use in the kitchen.


White linens and dinnerware and a simple set of stainless steel flatware allow the colors and presentation of your food to stand out. Hotel-quality linens are one of the most durable options and very easy to clean. Look for porcelain dinnerware, rather than earthenware, as it is stronger while being lighter-weight.

○ Hotel tablecloth 70"x120", $19.99; Target, multiple locations, target.com

○ Set of 6 white buffet napkins, $9.99; World Market, multiple locations, worldmarket.com

○ Set of 12 dinner plates, $24.99, and set of 12 salad plates, $19.99; World Market

○ Eldon stainless steel flatware service for 12, $11.99; Target


Clear wine glasses and water tumblers in a basic shape will carry over flawlessly from party to party. Choose something with slightly thicker glass to hold their own against the revelry. However, if something does get broken, their everyday design will make them easy to replace.

○ Set of 4 Room Essentials all-purpose wine glasses, $5.70, and set of 4 Room Essentials glass tumblers, $3.14; Target


Burlap and mason jars are usually associated with kitschy country crafts. However, juxtaposed with the white porcelain and linens, they become chic. Be sure to buy enough yardage of burlap to run the length of your tablecloth. Simply cut the length of burlap to be at least 4 inches from either side of your table. No need to hem the edges either; the frayed edges contribute to the rustic aesthetic.

○ Utility burlap natural fabric, $3.99 per yard; Hancock Fabrics, multiple locations, hancockfabrics.com

○ Set of 12 Ball 32-oz wide mouth mason jars, $12.49; Ace Hardware, multiple locations, acehardware.com


Candles and flowers add a touch of elegance, but make sure these items are well-edited or they could become clutter. Mildly scented or fragrance-free flowers and candles allow the aromas of the food and wine take center stage. Choose flowers the day of the party that have not achieved a full bloom, have plenty of unopened buds and healthy, green leaves devoid of damage or yellowing. Always work in odd numbers; for round or square tables a singular arrangement in the center works best and for rectangular tables place three or five arrangements down the center. Don’t complicate the table with tall arrangements, as they’ll obstruct everyone’s view. Keep it slightly higher than the wine glasses, and place decorative elements at varying heights. And rather than meticulously placing the candles down the center of the table, scatter them in groups for a casual feel.

○ Pot glass votive holders, $0.99 each; World Market

○ Set of 20 white unscented votive candles $6.79; Target


Got the basics down? Incorporate a few of these step-up pieces to elevate your dining design.

Crystal ice bucket, $145; Tiffany & Co., Plaza Frontenac, Frontenac, tiffany.com (pictured left)

Supper Exhibit swirled and speckled tumblers, $58 each; Anthropologie, St. Louis Galleria, Richmond Heights, anthropologie.com (pictured left)

Bubbled Beverage Dispenser, $298; Anthropologie

Cradle Serveware, $225-$275; Neiman Marcus, Plaza Frontenac, Frontenac, neimanmarcus.com (pictured left)

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