5 Secret (and Free!) Weapons for Setting a Beautiful Table

Add decorative elements to your dinner table without spending a dime.

Candle and china plate

Hosting a gathering and in need of quick yet captivating table decorations? Have no fear; you've got everything you need. All it takes is a bit of creativity and a few materials most have lying around the house.


1. Bottles & Jars

Dive into your recycling bin and hunt for glass bottles and jars. Look for interesting shapes, peel off all the labels and sticky goo (Goo Gone works well for stubborn labels), and you've got some table-ready elements.

∙ Use varying heights of bottles and jars as a centerpiece grouping and fill some of the jars with fresh flowers.

∙ Line up similar height jars in a row down the center of the table and fill with votive candles.

∙ Fill small jars with interesting natural objects like shells, rocks, and leaves and create a still life on the table.

∙ Put a small jar or bottle at each place setting and create a message in a bottle for each guest by adding a quick handwritten note rolled up inside.

∙ Place a plate on top of a jar with a flat wide top and secure with a tacky wax. Voila! You’ve got an instant cake stand.


2. Paper

Think of paper as the ultimate shape shifter. Whether it’s construction paper, wrapping paper, or even newspaper, this powerhouse can become an asset to any table.

∙ Cut out paper place mats from wrapping paper or use sheets of square scrapbooking paper for instant mats, coasters, or place cards.

∙ Create a runner for the center of your table by cutting a long strip of wrapping paper, or assembling pieces of overlapping paper, and running it down the middle.

∙ Make paper flowers for your centerpiece. Type "paper flowers" in a search engine and you'll find numerous types and styles.

∙ Cut out strips of paper in varying widths and wrap them around glasses, vases, or napkins for a touch of color or pattern in an unexpected place.


∙ Use paper as a tablecloth and draw a design at each place (writing guest names at each setting can be fun, too) or leave out crayons for guests to doodle with over dinner.