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christmas: cheap & cheerful table settings

December 8, 2011

It’s only two weeks (count ‘em!) to Christmas and I’ve got my sparkly silver reindeer ears at the ready.

The table has been decorated (and dismantled ready to be re-assembled come Christmas Eve Eve – otherwise known as 23 December) and a handful of simple, edible gifts are being put together and wrapped with the speed of a tavern of elves working to a deadline. Tell you what, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas round these parts.

So to help all of you out there get equally into the festive spirit (as if the decorations lining the stores since late October weren’t enough) I’ve decided to put up a non-food-but-very-festively-appropriate post up for you on how to decorate your table on the cheap.

The Brief

- Total cost: less than $20
- Time required: minimal
- Must be able to fit lots of different dishes on the table
- Must be able to withstand 8 jolly twenty-somethings spilling food / wine
- Must be easily cleaned up

And here’s what I came up with!

The “Tablecloth”

total cost: $3.00 / difficulty: low / ease of cleaning: high

All of the tablecloths I looked at were either too expensive or too small to fit my giant table. I contemplated (for a second) buying two pieces of cheap material (one would have been too narrow) and sewing them together to make an inexpensive tablecloth, but the cost alone would have blown my $20 budget. So I traded in cloth for paper. My local two dollar store sells 3 metre long rolls of wrapping paper for… $2.00.

I used one roll of white paper along the middle of the table. The gold strip is half a roll of matte gold wrapping paper that I cut in half lengthwise and joined with stickytape at the middle. Tuck the edges under the table, attach with more stickytape and voila! A table dressing that will cover eleven years of random scratches with ease.

My friends ended up being very well behaved during the course of the meal, so we’ll be able to re-use the table dressing come Christmas time (it’s been rolled up and stored in a corner for now). Had they not been quite so well behaved, it would merely have been a matter of rolling up the mess and putting it straight into the bin.

The “Placemats”

total cost: $1.00 / difficulty: low / ease of cleaning: high

I made brown paper placemats to match the theme. If you’re concerned about leaving marks on the table, you could pop these over the top of some round placemats instead.

I used a little less than half a roll of brown paper to make eight placemats – pretty good when you consider one roll only set me back $2.00.

And here’s how I did it:

click on the image to enlarge

Step One: Cut a square of paper so that it is a couple of inches bigger than the plates you intend to use. 

Step Two: Fold it in half.

Steps Three to Six: Fold it in half again.

Step Seven: Find the shortest edge of the folded paper (it may be tucked in the middle) and draw a diagonal line across the paper.

Step Eight: Cut along the dotted line.

Step Nine: Unfold your happy starry placemat! Yahoo!

Like the tablecloth, these soak up spills well and are easily recycled or thrown away after you’ve finished the meal.

The “Christmas Star”

total cost: ~$2.00 / difficulty: medium / ease of cleaning: high

I wanted to add a little bit of a wow-factor to the table as people approached it from the hallway so added the hanging “Christmas Star” from the ceiling.

It required two packets of tissue paper (one yellow and one white) at just $1.00 each and some white wool that I had lying around the house. One of my friends tipped me off to the Martha Stewart website where she used pom poms for this very purpose… except that I dubbed mine a star :)

And here’s how you do it:

click on the image to enlarge

Step One: Get five sheets of yellow tissue and five sheets of white tissue. Lay them on top of each other, alternating the colours.

Step Two: Starting at the widest end, concertina fold all the way along the pile of tissue, trying to keep the sheets in place as you go.

Step Three: Bundle up the concertina fold and tie a long piece of white wool in the middle of it. Snip off the ends so that they are pointed.

Step Four: Tip the paper back on its side and spread out the concertina folds again.

Step Five: Carefully pull the top layer of tissue paper away from the remaining layers of tissue. Work your fingers all the way to the string in the middle. The top layer should be pointing skyward now!

Step Six: Repeat with all of the layers until you have a puffy hemisphere (half sphere). Repeat Steps One to Six to form another hemisphere and tie them together using the string. It’s now ready to hang!

The Centerpiece

total cost: ~$9.00 / difficulty: easy / ease of cleaning: n/a

I don’t have a pretty set of silver candlesticks, but love the soft light candles bring to the table. I picked up three white “church candles” for between $2.00 and $4.50 depending on the size.

These were dressed to match the theme by wrapping a piece of brown paper around the middle of each and then winding white wool around the centre of each piece of paper. I popped them on an old cakestand topped with another (smaller) brown paper placemat and threw on some loose tinsel. This was then popped on any upturned bowl (later switched for an upturned ramekin) to give it some height.

the centerpiece

The Table Settings

total cost: ~$nil / difficulty: easy / ease of cleaning: n/a

One of the problems I faced with the table setting was how to fit two bowls of five different dishes (plus six sauces and dips) on the one table. We needed two servings of each as people are notoriously bad at passing dishes down the table and I would hate for anyone to miss out on a dish. I also didn’t have enough matching plates to make it look nice… or so I thought.

The solution? Ramekins and colour theming!

I grabbed all of the white, off-white, blue, green and wooden bowls I had and set them out on my kitchen table, then allocated two bowls to each dish. I then upturned four one-cup ramekins on the table, attached a hefty wad of bluetack to the top of each one and topped them with the wider bowls. This meant I could tuck the smaller bowls underneath!

Tip: use ramekins to create height

Extra bling!

total cost: ~$4.00 / difficulty: easy / ease of cleaning: super simple

Under budget! Hooray!

I used my extra dollars to pick up some loose tinsel (the gold wiry stuff you see) at $2.00 per bag and an extra couple of christmas ornaments that had been heavily discounted. It was a simple case of snipping off the string attached the the top and popping them on the table to give it a bit of pizzaz.

If you have a few more dollars to hand, getting some flowers delivered would be lovely as well.

Tip: serving bowls don’t have to match – work to a colour theme instead

So tell me – do you doll up your table for Christmas? And if so, what are your tips for making it look extra special?


Shez