Secondhand Charm: Tips for Hosting a (Vintage) Dinner Party

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Secondhand Charm: Tips for Hosting a (Vintage) Dinner Party
A sea of lemons, Pink Lady apples, and cheese.

Picture it: A softened September afternoon. The one, perhaps, that’s happening as you read this. The sky, a very distinct blue. Typical for this time of year, as if we’re sitting inside of a crystal aquamarine gem, looking out. The rain has finally come, deepening the grass. The breeze is less threatening, no longer thickened with the heavy porridge of summer. It’s a perfect day for a dinner party. 

Recently, I hosted one of my own dinner parties and it was divine. Divine in every sense of the word. Sitting down with my girlfriends felt spiritual. Someone served pre-made strawberry frosé slushies from her garden. Another offered dried fruits for cocktails and plucked white dahlias on a frosted white cake. My grandmother came. And she reveled in the fact that her only task was enjoyment. This magic, beyond being surrounded by my biggest platonic crushes (my girlfriends and family), was thanks to the spread of secondhand treasures. 

I have spent a core of the pandemic and summertime searching for vintage items as a hobby. So it only seemed fitting to find a few unique pieces to host my first dinner party in my new home. We moved in May and my distant dream to create a whimsical spread, surrounded by old stories and good friends, was coming true. And I want to tell you how to recreate it!

Here’s how I became inspired, shopped for these items, and celebrated them. 

Picture it: A softened September afternoon. . . . The rain has finally come, deepening the grass. The breeze is less threatening, no longer thickened with the heavy porridge of summer. It’s a perfect day for a dinner party. 

The Setting


Let us set the scene. In envisioning the dinner party, I wanted a bit of Scandinavian with a Buenos Aires twist. I realize this doesn’t quite make sense at first, but my favorite food on earth is Boludo pizza, so for dinner, I committed to offering that instead of cooking. And I’ve been trying to embrace Scandinavian style in my own home. So, it just made sense. For fun, a girlfriend and I came up with the perfect tagline: Mi casa es su casa, dontcha know. For that, I always recommend selecting two pieces of inspiration for your dinner party (they can be literally anything) and making up your own tagline. It really sets the intention for decorating and softens the stress of sensory overload in antique stores. All you have to do is pick items that support your theme!

Candlelight: It was a little breezy, but we were able to keep tall taper candles lit throughout dinner. A variation of crystal candleholders did the trick but I love what you can find at local thrift stores. 

Music: Ideally, I should have played some tango music and Scandinavian folk tunes to really set the scene. However, I opted for a kitschy blend of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, John Prine, and Doris Day. The contrast of culture and time felt so magical. And we simply sat there and enjoyed the charming atmosphere. 

Side Table for Wine: Before you eat dinner, there needs to be a little spot to hold silverware, plates, and wine. Perhaps the dessert too! Think a cute wire plant stand, a white metal two-tier plant stand (Writer’s Note: my favorite), or some vintage wooden end tables for a unique twist. Wild Things Antiques is one of my favorite places to find tables and chairs.

Wine Holder: Chill your wine in something new to you. A lot of thrift stores sell beautiful planters. I saw a ceramic iridescent pedestal planter the other day and wished I had purchased it. They act as perfect wine chillers and hold so much personality. It can hold a small to medium plant? How about my Sauvignon Blanc?

I saw a ceramic iridescent pedestal planter the other day and wished I had purchased it. . . . It can hold a small to medium plant? How about my Sauvignon Blanc?

The Colors


Secondhand Charm: Tips for Hosting a (Vintage) Dinner Party

Scandinavian meets Buenos Aires really needed a color palette filled with pride and simplicity. And for mine, it was ethereal blues, soft red, white, and poppy yellow. I love the primary colors with a dreamy touch of white. I wanted the dinner party to feel like an emotional tango, the festivity pulled from Argentine culture but with the practical, never showy sweetness of Scandinavian culture too.

Table cloth: Oh, how I love this checkered blue tablecloth, decorated with images of windmills and farmers. It was a measly $14 at a local antique spot (psst…one of my favorites, Missouri Mouse). I was inspired by the crystal candle holders it was paired with at the store, so I bought a few of those too. 

Candles: I wanted the dinner party to feel well lived and cozy (picture: wax dripping down the tall bodies of taper candles and dancey flames). So, I bought a slender white taper set and another in soft blue. Really, you can never go wrong with either. 

Garden roses that smelt like bottled perfume.

Flowers: My incredibly gracious friend at Apricot Floral Design was the mind behind the floral. From her garden, she selected white dahlias, white garden roses, and papery ivory cosmos. The white garden roses smelt like bottled rose oil and instantly spread my home with pink scent magic. In talking with her about this piece, she said to go into decorating your space with a calm demeanor and have fun with it. Flower selection can be overwhelming, but gracing your intention with tranquility is your best bet.

Lemons: Fruit is always a perfect color brightener. I love lemons in the center of a table, sitting happily in an old Pyrex you can often find at your local antique spot.

The Eatery


Mismatched Dishes: For this dinner party, I went with simple cream dishes, but love the opportunity to add color in through mismatched glassware and plates. There is so much more opportunity to play with antique dishes. Mix and match apricot-tinted delicate glasses, midcentury Bryce El Rancho tumblers, buttery yellow-tinted textured cups, and blush-tinted glasses and serve strawberry rosé slushies in all of them. Pssst…Sunday Post Vintage is always posting lovely sets. There is such a beautiful delicacy in old glassware and it really sets the tone for a plentiful dinner party.

Floral Cake: Another Apricot Floral Design creation was the perfect, perfect cake. Vanilla on vanilla, a simple singular layer, and the heads of plucked flowers safely set on top. Another tip Genevieve offered is to make sure you know where the flowers are coming from. She doesn’t use chemicals to grow her flowers, so a lot of them are edible. When you’re decorating a cake, make sure the flowers are pesticide-free. 

There is so much more opportunity to play with antique dishes. . . . There is such a beautiful delicacy in old glassware and it really sets the tone for a plentiful dinner party.

Secondhand Charm: Tips for Hosting a (Vintage) Dinner Party
Vanilla on vanilla cake speckled with dahlias, roses, and cosmos.

Cake Trays: Display those sweets! I have a deep love for Mosser Glass cake trays. And right now, Hunt & Gather has a stack of them in the back of their store. 

Serving Trays: I am obsessed with serving trays. I’ve purchased so many of them from antique shops and they are the key to serving food with ease. We stashed all the Boludo pizzas on my red-bordered serving trays. On them, there are painted purple grapes and a soft yellow background, co-hosting the vibe of a festive feast. Really, you can find unique trays anywhere. But, I’ve seen a few lately at A Rare Bird Antiques.

Snacks: Trail mix, pretzels, or chocolate-covered almonds can really sit happily anywhere. I love the following containers for these munchies: opalescent hobnail vases, Guild candy dishes (specifically anything colorful and midcentury), Empoli midcentury candy dishes, or basically anything that is bowl-shaped and has a unique color story (e.g., antique green crackle, blue delphite, amber, sea green).

The Bittersweet Afterthought


Thank You Cards: Repeat after me: Snail mail is not dead! And there’s always an occasion to send a thank you note. Recently, I found a set of old, unused cards with painted kittens on them at an antique store. However, you can also use old never written on postcards or even send an old book with a note inside. It’s fun to get creative and I love hearing that a random note made someone’s day.

What will your dinner party theme and tagline be? Happy hosting!

BY Brittany Chaffee - September 10, 2021

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