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Tips & Tricks for a Chic, Sexy & Affordable Setting for Entertaining At Home. {Look 1}

I was known for being the flamboyant entertainer all through college and my early years as a paralegal. I loved to throw elaborate cocktail parties for friends and colleagues, always leaving them with a calendar date requesst for the next one. The food was robust, the wine and concoctions were bottomless and the decor was uber chic. Even the fellas admired the time I put into hosting a fabulous party… no matter the occasion.

Part of the excitement in entertaining was choosing a theme and finding all the right pieces. Everything had to match. Everything had to be perfectly centered and the symmetry could not be off by even an inch.

Those were the days when OCD behavior defined me. So I thought! Now that my full-time work involves a lot of entertaining on many different levels and for different swanky events, I spend a ridiculous amount of time planning that perfect evening. The difference these days is how my time is spent. I’ve  streamlined and completely mastered maximizing my time and resources. After years of toying around with looks, settings, hunting for great steals and even borrowing certain pieces, I’ve locked down the perfect way to host a lavish fiesta without expending endless hours dressing up my home…. when I really could have been shopping for the most fabulous ensemble!

I recently popped a few bottles of bubbly with my lawyer to celebrate a deal I’d been working on (more on that way later). While that tryst didn’t require the fancy stuff, I did have the essentials at arm’s reach. But, an unexpected meeting with some of his business partners did call for a show stopper setting that let those guys know I was about my business!

I’m still kind of underpaid for what I do, so my pockets aren’t as deep as they probably think; or any of my guests for that matter. Well, that’s because I created a presentation that said “chic, sexy, fabulous, simple and practical” all at the same time.

Based on a party of 4, here is a clean and elegant setting that is guaranteed to save you time, money and create a chatter box of envying friends that will want to pull off the same effect! I’ve done 2 other chic and totally different looks which I’ll share in a blog post next week.


This look was inspired by my love affair with all things vintage and sassy.  I wanted the aesthetic to be classy and sophisticated but not so wedding or banquet-esque, so I offset it with personal touches like monogrammed vintage napkin holders and pastel colored silk napkins. I also wanted to add texture, so it was a no brainer to pull out pearl necklaces from my mom’s jewelry line. That just adds some romantic fun and can be a conversation piece or better yet result in a sale! But, that’s a sidebar bonus!

To start, a crisp, high thread count table linen is key. This sets the base for your building your look.

Serve with petite dishes, assuming you’re doing gourmet or small plates, go for 8-10″ round plates in solid white or alternating colors that compliment one other element. In this case, I went with two clear plates with two gold leaf brushing and two clear plates with green underly foil. I intentionally played off the colors in the floral arrangements, which I’ll get to next. If you use alternating colors, go with a clear salad or dessert plate that sits on top the main plate to serve a delectable sweet {insert your fave here, like Earl Grey & thyme flan!}. I also set mini plates to the left of the place setting for either an entremet or to hold inedible foods.

Use all white serving platters. They don’t have to be the same size or design. Just use all white. It keeps it clean and uniform but adds a lot of character and avoids that banquet look. Use good crystal glasses for cocktails and vintage ones for cordials. Light the table with crystal votive holders. I used my favorite “snowballs” by a Swedish designer. They’re actually a seasonal design but they’re so pretty, I use them year-round.

Finally, incorporate two medium-sized floral arrangements with dramatic flowers like hydrangeas and lovely white lillies, paired with exotic and funky greens. Stagger them on the table so they’re not aligned. I always use my local florist when I need flowers. She knows my style, is always stocked with beautiful and affordable flowers. Make friends with a local florist and have her/him design you an arrangement that compliments your style. Kara, from Village Green Flowers & Gifts, down the street from me, did a phenomenal job nailing the look I was going for in all 3 settings. This happened to be my favorite, especially since the callalily’s emit a yummy fragrance.

I didn’t put out the flatware, but I would have done a seamless matte or shiny stainless steel (18/18) to go off the Tiffany-like vases Kara used. A matter gold would have worked, to play with the gold leaf plates.



1. Thrift shopping (and Estate sales). Watch your pocket! Buy sets of crystal tumblers, cognac glasses, aperitif glasses, matching dishes, pitchers, etc.. at thrift stores. Get to you know your local ones’ sale days and buy on those days. You’re sure to find some great bargains. And, most times, serveware is in tact and in excellent condition. Much more cost-effective than going to the major department stores and buying there. Like major savings!

2. Bargain Buying: Hit up stores like TJ MaxxMarhsall’s and even World Market for super cute single entertaining pieces and full sets at a fraction of the cost. Most TJ Maxx’s are coupled with a HomeGoods department where they offer designer and brand name items at deep discounts. No reason to ever pay full-price. Be okay with buying one season behind. Who’s really going to know anyway!?

3. Mix & Match: Don’t be afraid to mix up your look. Not everything has to be match-y match-y. Have fun with different patterns and textures; mix up old and new. Give your guests different glasses. If you go that route, DO have some commonality. No more than 3 different patterns at one time is the rule. You can start getting messy and too convoluted otherwise.

4. Repurpose: Find things in your kitchen, storage, etc… to reuse. Ball or glass jars (think pasta sauce) and wine bottles are fantastic to use for dinner parties. Glass jars have different uses you couldn’t even imagine. One example is filling each jar with sand and sticking a tea light candle in it. That’s perfect (and cheap) for a beach theme! Empty wine bottles are a clean and sexy way of serving water or other chilled drinks. Genius!

5. Fabric Store Trick: Yes, this is a great trick… or tip, really. Ask for remnants or leftover scraps of pretty fabrics that you can use to for tying utensils, hanging décor from ceiling (or whatever your anchor is). It’s way cheaper than buying full yards of material or even set packs of linens, napkins, etc… trust me on this one. Consider it my secret gift to you!

These are a few basic starter points to get you started on creating a sexy look on a super budget but still evokes elegance and class.

Total Time Buying and Staging: 2 hours buying; 30 minutes staging.

Total Cost:

Table linen: Williams Sonoma. $25 at TJ Maxx  (a super steal!)

4 salad plates used as dinner plates: $5 each at Crate & Barrel (gold ones are 8 seasons old; green ones are from last year)

Square dessert plates: Set of 4 – $6 at TJ Maxx

Round little plates: Set of 4 – $3 at TJ Maxx

Ombre crystal glasses: 4/$3 each at TJ Maxx

Diamond cut  crystal Port or cordial glasses: Vintage, $1/each at DC  thrift store

All platters in different sizes: $5-$10 at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s

Silk napkins: $2/each at Pier 1 Imports

Monogrammed napkin holders: Family heirloom

Crystal votive holders: Set of 3 by Kosta Boda, $10 on eBay ($40 at Macy’s)

Flowers: 2 arrangements c/o Village Green Flowers; Estimated at $25/each

Flatware (not pictured): 12-piece set for $25-$30 at TJ Maxx

$180 total! That’s a one time expense for timeless entertaining! 

Extra savings tips: Substitute napkin holders with pretty grossgrain ribbon or burlap strips. Use glass jars as  votive holders instead of fancy crystal ones. You can also use jars to arrange fresh-cute flowers clipped from your own garden or a friend’s to save from ordering –this could be your biggest money-saver.  Use remnant fabrics instead of set napkin sets. 


If in Atlanta, visit Village Green Flowers  to order fabulous arrangements for any occasion. 770.435.9393


Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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46 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks for a Chic, Sexy & Affordable Setting for Entertaining At Home. {Look 1}

  1. Multiple bottles, four people… I approve. 😉

    My issue with white is that sloppy eaters end up feeling guilty. (Or should. I suppose that’s an interesting personality test.) Designs that hide some mess can be helpful and still can be found in remnant bins. Nathan keeps a stash of remnants so she can turn out napkins when we wear ours out.

    And the napkin holder is exquisite.

  2. Rosa: Thanks woman…. I can’t wait to share the other looks.

    Joan Nova: Graicas, friend. I spend way too much time at TJ Maxx. Mine is amazing and it’s doubly housed with a Home Goods. Looove.

    Patsy: Me, too. You should see this place.

    Comiendo en LA: Economic. That’s so key.

    Mercedes: Thanks! and Thanks!

    Jason: Yup! You bring up a good point!! That linen is soooo sensitive and is probably a 3-time use if I have messy eaters or food that stains. Love that you thought about that. The other two settings are more appropriate for all kinds of spills. As for the napkins, lots of material is so useful. I love have remnants for styling purposes, too. And thanks on the holder. I love them. My mom gave them to me years ago.

  3. great and lovely table setting. i love it. the starch white is so classy. though I’m with Jason–what about messy eaters! I couldn’t have my child sitting there! And yea, places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls are so ideal for cheap buying. Can’t wait to see your other settings.

  4. Wish you were my neighbor and we could borrow dishes. Your table setting looks gorgeous!!! LOVE it! I’m all about bargains and always shop at TJ Maxx, thrift stores, and estate sales. I call it treasure hunting 🙂

  5. Titi i like the table you made. But why isn’t there any food on it? i dont understand! its still so pretty. i want to show mami. love you.

  6. BREN ,esa mesa esta muy bonita y elegante .a mi en lo personal me gusta mucho lo blanco y eso quedo muy delicado muy bello esperemos los otros . gracias por las ideas

  7. Michele R: Thanks! the starchy white is a bit too much, but it’s the way I edited the pictures. Don’t get me wrong though, everything was in fact really, really white! I loved it, too and look forward to entertaining friends with the same setting!

    Uchi: gracias, amiga!

    Vianney: Thanks!

    Yvette: Girl, I’m always tickled and thrilled to entertain and put lovely things together. It makes me giddy and gets my creative juices going. And, I switch things up over and over again before I finally decide on something. Sooo many options.

    Missy: Gracias, mama… I like that you like it. And lol. no food because it was just for pretty and to show my friends how can they do something at home.

    Mami: gracias, mima… sabia que te hiba gustar… pero muy blanco para lo comida que cocinamos! jajaja. Imaginate el mess que hicieramos.

  8. Great tips – I need to do more shopping for classic essentials like this to spice up our entertaining. I tend to use what we have around the house, but I love the idea of thrift stores and discount stores to pick up new things to add to the mix. I love the napkin holders, classic and gorgeous – need to find something like that at a thrift store for myself! We have a mint julep set that is similar that I love.

  9. Wow…this is absolutely beautiful Bren! You definitely got a great deal for all those items and the table looks great! Would have LOVED this set up for my wedding or one of our upcoming anniversaries! Very elegant and creative. Thanks for sharing with us how you put this all together…it’s seems a lot less intimidating now. 😉

  10. i love entertaining too, Bren! it must be something in our latin blood that we just love people and food around us! Thanks for all the tips – sometimes entertain can seem to be so expensive, but not when your thrifty!

  11. Hello Chica…love your tips…and sure you made simple very chic…love it, and the pictures are awesome.
    Again, thanks for the tips and hope you are having a fantastic week Bren 🙂

  12. Heather: Thrifting is great for so many reason: budget, unique finds, etc… I hope your hunting goes well!

    Monica: Thanks! TJ’s is great. I love their inventory for all things home.

    Chantilly: Congrats on your upcoming anniversary. The setting is perfect for a dinner to celebrate it. I’m so glad you liked it.

    Emme: Totally in the Latin blood! You know we like to go all out!

    Eliana: YEs! go!

    Juliana: hey there pretty girl. Glad you liked it. It’s simple, chic, elegant and still accessible. It’s exactly what I was going for!

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