Thursday 2 February 2017

How to create a retro party table fit for an 80s kid. (Using vintage books and action figures. Srsly.)

Hello you.

When you cut up and plunder re-purpose as many vintage books as I do you end up being left with an excess of something.  And, no, thank you; it's not 'guilt'.

What you're actually left with, once you've unguiltily torn out and re-purposed the innards of many books, is a glut of book covers.

So, last year, when I was in search of inspiration for a party table-setting - particularly table mats -  my mind turned to all those colourful covers sitting in a big basket on my shelf, and suddenly I had a plan ...

Creating a retro party table fit for an 80s kid.

The table-mats.

So it started by thinking the book covers from retro storybooks and annuals would make perfectly-sized table-mats:
Retro party table setting
And I set them out on top of a bright and cheerful 1980s table cloth that I already owned (because, yes, that is just the kind of thing I already own - it was a charity shop treasure).

In fact, everything I used on the table was pulled together from the random crap we have in our house ... I didn't go out and buy anything especially for the party.
So, after sorting out the table mats, I turned to some smaller book covers to act as coasters: 
Please feel free to rest your drink on Topsy + Tim.
But before we move on, let me clarify ... this wasn't for a children's party, but why should this kind of kitschy fun end when you hit 10? Why? Why?

The place settings.

Once I had the table-mats in place I added individual place settings:
These consisted of: 
  • self-adhesive chalkboard vinyl, die-cut with various label dies;
  • mini glass bottles wrapped with the chalkboard labels;
  • a colourful paper drinking-straw;
  • a lolly or a toffee chew;
  • and a colouring-in sheet ... for after-dinner activities (I supplied the pencils and crayons) And here they are in use: 

The balloon modelling. Yes, there was balloon modelling. What? I YouTubed it.  

Someone had bought James a balloon-modelling kit  and - if ever there was an appropriate occasion to put it to good use - it was on a retro children's party themed table (for adults. Obvs.)

After some YouTube tutorials, a few bursting incidents, and a little bit of deflation (!) I managed to create a balloon flower, a heart, a few dogs:
... and some ... erm ... some ...
Swords. They're swords. Of course they're swords.  Look here they are being swordly. En garde! 

The other characters who came to tea ...

To create different levels and interesting nooks and crannies across the table I stacked up book covers and half-hollowed books and even a tiny little wooden stool to stand various different plates on. Well ... plates plus a few little friends I'd invited along to get people talking.  
I trawled drawers and shelves collecting together a cast of characters to create little scenes such as Harry Potter, practicing his flying car skills: 
Harry Potter Lego on a party table
Han Solo dangling from a crane (see the first and last photo of this post), and even Darth Vader revealing his romantic side:
Darth Vader dancing with a fairy on a party table
As I hoped, people had fun 'playing' with the dolls (sorry, should that be 'action figures? I know some people are far too serious to play with 'dolls' ... ) and creating new scenes of their own such as Darth being 'mother' and pouring the tea:
Darth Vader action figure pouring tea
And Harry testing out an alternative to the Nimbus 2000:

The finished table, complete with the really important stuff: the food! 

Proof that, in amongst the hoard of old books and a cross-over universe of characters we actually made room for food. 
And it was normal 'grown-up' food too. While the decoration may have harked back to a 1980s kid's party table there honestly wasn't a bacon flavour Frazzle or an Iced Gem in sight! 


Now, over to you ... 

  • What would your ideal childhood party style table include? Wagon Wheels? Hot dogs? Lashings of ginger beer? 
  • Which characters would you invite to the table? Or which action figures could you grab right now, from your collection, without having to leave the house?
  • What about the party music? The Kids From Fame soundtrack? (Me and my sister almost wore out our copy). Now That's What I Call Music 7?  
  • Or which books from your childhood would you love to see again (cut up or not)? Or have you kept them all? 
Drop me a line, leave me a comment, tweet, IG, or FB me your retro-inspired-responses. 

I'd love to think this post has grabbed your attention, because, seriously, don't tell me I learned how to balloon-model for nothing??!!! 

How to create a retro party table fit for an 80s kid.

If you enjoyed this post ...

  • Please consider sharing it with someone who might enjoy it too.  I bet there's a child of the 80s in your life who'd revel in the excuse to regress back to being a kid for a while! 
  • Maybe pin the title photo to Pinterest or share it on social media somewhere?:

And you might also like ...


  1. Oh my goodness, what a post full of delicious eye candy! The little figures strutting their story stuff are a quirky addition. I don't know how anyone managed to eat anything ... No Little Gem biscuits? Any pineapple creams, then? I have a (cheeky) request: next time there's a party tea in the offing, please invite me :).

  2. Strictly speaking I was a child of the 70's as I was a serious secondary schooler by the time the 80's rolled around! No iced gems? What a disappointment! Trifle or ice cream and jelly would have been on our table, maybe Angel Delight, although that was more "everyday"! And whatever your age it's not a party without cheese and pineapple on sticks!! Your table looks a real conversation piece - I didn't realize Crackerjack had an annual! Did you play dead lions or frozen statues before the meal?! A very fun post - thanks for the memories!!

  3. Now that most definitely sounds like my kind of party. I was a child of the 70'sand we weren't allowed food anywhere near books...which means now reading and eating at the same time is one of my favourite pastimes. I'd vote for iced gems too. And in the 70's we all wore long party dresses. Now I think about it, that was weird. We actually changed into down to our toes dresses with sashes and bows to go to a friend's birthday party of an afternoon. I'm sure I could find one if you were ever to have another party :)

  4. delightful is the only word i can think of, just sooo delightful! my 70's childhood party would include paper dolls, liquorice, and macaroni and cheese - and my troll dolls, which came naked and i was forever making kleenex dresses for.


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