For most, choosing dinnerware is a necessity for those setting up a first apartment or a nicety associated with getting married. Bridal registries allow the dream of the fancy, as well as everyday, with all the coordinating elements for stellar entertaining.
But so much about tabletop has changed, particularly in the last decade. And it’s not just that so many choices have made it dizzying to narrow down, but lifestyle shifts are influencing the way we set the table.
“There’s a casualization,” says DJ Carey, an editorial director for Connecticut Cottages and Living. “The latest research shows there is great interest in food and health. More people are enjoying preparing food at home. Kitchens, in general, are getting larger in square footage, often taking (space) from the dining room. These large open plans include areas to entertain.
“Table settings are more relaxed — a mix of everyday china with formal pieces, fun collectibles used as a centerpiece. Glassware follows suit with crystal wine glasses sitting comfortably alongside everyday water glasses. And shapes are being mixed — square plates stacked on circular. There is more whimsy, more fun — and it’s more comfortable and easy to create. Best yet, color is everywhere on the table.”
This is a shift that is pretty consistent with what is happening in home design. Matchy-matchy is not required; in fact, it’s pretty much frowned upon. Mixing it up and layering is cool, just as the hip do with their wardrobes. And even though white and off-white remain a safe and popular go-to, introducing a little color, texture and pattern is gaining momentum. These days, that might extend to glassware and flatware as well.
“The days of matching plates are gone,” says Carey, “and people are enjoying adding fun pieces to their tables. It’s an easy way to change the personality of any table setting.”
Like home furnishings, tabletop design is getting serious impetus from couture runways as well as global and textile influences. More fashion (and interior) designers have collections that reflect their style: Isaac Mizrahi (Gibson Overseas), Kate Spade and Donna Karan (Lenox), Missoni (Richard Ginori), Charlotte Moss and Kelly Wearstler (Pickard), the house of Versace (Rosenthal). Even iconic textile designs, such as the graphic black-and-white zebra on vibrant red that graced wallpaper from Scalamandre since 1930, have been translated to dishes.
What’s new in patterns covers a range of motifs that pretty much reflect those in other areas of home fashions. Florals, a mainstay of traditional, also have more modern interpretations that are stylized, more graphic and open. Animal prints and faux-bois patterns are presented in unexpected hues, such as Kelly Wearstler’s edgy Marquetry design with a fuchsia or periwinkle ground. Nature is, of course, another perennially popular theme, with birds, butterflies, leaves and other organic motifs a favorite depiction.
Pop-arty polka dots, retro looks or graffiti-like calligraphy, especially intriguing in metallic gold or silver, add to the modern edge.
But even solids are distinguished, not just because of the wide selection of hues afforded by improved glazes, but also because of texture and surface decoration, some of which also echo fabric trends. West Coast designer Laurie Gates, for example, introduced a collection called Tara. Available in a neutral glazed taupe or citron, it’s decorated with what looks like asymmetrically placed appliqued white lace.