Above photo: Mix of high end, low end and second hand finds.
One thing I love to do is shop Estate Sales, Antique Stores and used furniture stores for interesting accessories and table ware. It started when I fell in love with the turquoise colored McCoy pottery. I found my first piece years ago, before Martha Stewart made it popular and the prices go way up !! Then I started scouring antique sales looking for more pieces. The thrill of the hunt was addicting to me!! I was so excited when I'd find a piece that was in my color range, in good condition and an interesting shape. As I was searching for my pottery, I noticed that there were a lot of other good finds in these stores. If you have a discerning eye and patience, you can find lovely things for your home. You need time to do this, because you will have to search thru a lot of junk to find the gems.
To get an elegant look with Estate Sale or Flea Market finds, you have to mix it up. The mix is the key, unless you are going for a kitchy or Shabby Chic look. The above photo is an example of a mix of higher end retail items, lower end retail items and second hand finds. I will dissect the look and tell you why it works:
Dishes: Wedgewood china dinner plate (bought retail), Haviland china scalloped salad plate and cup and saucer (Estate Sale). Got a real find with the Haviland at an Estate Sale. Had to buy a whole set, most of it was chipped. I had to throw out all the dinner plates, but ended up with a nice set of salad plates, cups and saucers, cream and sugar and dessert plates.
Stemware: Vera Wang for Wedgewood champagne flute (bought retail), cordial glass and wine glass (Estate Sale)
Vases: Waterford tall vase (bought retail), round crystal vase and curved crystal serving dish (Estate Sale), fluted vodka glass, used as a vase holding 2 roses (Pier 1)
Candle sticks: Both retail, 1 Orrefors from a department store and 1 from TJ Maxx.
Linen Napkin: Estate Sale.
Why this setting works: The dishes are all in the same color range. The dinner plate is white and the cup, saucer and salad plate are slightly cream. The dinner plate is plain and the salad plate has a scalloped edge. The patterns and color are not competing but compliment each other; the modern look of the dinner plate is a nice compliment to the vintage look of the salad plate and cup and saucer and allows it to look current, not too vintage. The vases and crystal all have a similiar cut, but have interesting shapes, some tall, some short and have the same flower in them keeping it simple and not too busy. Varying heights help with the interest.
Remember this when shopping second hand and mixing it into your table settings; look for undamaged pieces, sometimes you will have to discard some pieces of a set to have a smaller set of nice, undamaged pieces. Keep it simple, a monochromatic color scheme works well when mixing from different sets, let the shapes shine!! If using a variety of vases, simplify the flowers, one type of flower in all the vases looks formal and elegant. Don't be afraid to use something for other than it's intended use, ex. the vodka glass used as a vase. Most of all have fun, buy what you like and experiment with mixing!!