For most, choosing dinnerware is a necessity for setting up a first apartment or a nicety associated with getting married.
But so much about tabletop design has changed, particularly in the last decade. And its not just that so many choices have made it dizzying to narrow down, but lifestyle shifts are influencing the way we set the table. More people are cooking at home; kitchens are getting larger and often borrow space from the dining room, creating large, open spaces that foster entertaining.
Table settings are more relaxed a mix of everyday china with formal pieces, fun collectibles used as a centerpiece, said DJ Carey of Connecticut Cottages and Living magazine.
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 its more comfortable and easy to create.
This shift is consistent with what is happening in home design. Matchy-matchy is pretty much frowned upon. Mixing it up and layering is cool. And even though white and off-white remain popular, introducing color, texture and pattern is gaining momentum. These days, that might extend to glassware and flatware as well.
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 Inc.), 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.
Range of motifs
New trends in patterns cover a range of motifs that reflect those in other areas of home fashion. Florals, a mainstay of traditional, also have more modern interpretations that are stylized, more graphic and open. Animal prints and faux-bois (fake wood) patterns are presented in unexpected hues, such as Kelly Wearstlers 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 introduced a collection last fall called Tara decorated with what looks like asymmetrically placed appliqued white lace.
Mateus ceramic ware, handcrafted in Portugal, features relief work such as lacey patterns or butterflies spilling over the edges of plates, which add dimension and color that make the line a standout.
The desire for handmade looks is consistent with what is happening in tile design, as technology ramps up efforts to produce dimensional pieces that look as if theyve been crafted and glazed by hand rather than machine. Improvements in ink-jet technology also have affected the production of plates and color capabilities.
A shot of color is an easy add-on to the table, especially with wide-bordered chargers in a rainbow of hues from manufacturers including Villeroy & Boch, Mottahedeh and William Yeoward. Theyre a great way to add vibrancy and interest, said New York designer Tara Seawright.
Color-splashed flatware and glassware also are providing a lift. From resins in bright hues to wood handles, some of which are shapely as well, sculptural flatware adds still another dimension to the table.
Seawright loves doing the unorthodox like teaming high-end, ornate Christofle silver with Lucite for a kick. This goes along with grabbing fun accessories from Target or Pier I and bringing them to a glam table. Its the art of high-low, which some designers pull off brilliantly.
Its like the J. Crew equivalent, she said. Mixing ornate costume jewelry with high heels, a T-shirt, sweater and jeans.
And to dress up the table, theres always a little bling. One manufacturer, Prouna, offers a selection of dishwasher-safe dinnerware embellished with Swarovski crystals. To coordinate, theres a line of table linens decorated with crystals.
Flashes of gold and silver also can add a bit of glam. Besides banding on dishes, the metallic also can decorate the plate. Michael Wainwrights use of metal materials has become a signature.
I like the combination of handmade things with the elegance of precious metals, Wainwright said. Gold and platinum are timeless, not like a color that goes out of fashion. And this is like jewelry for the table.
One of Wainwrights most popular collections, Palio,combines 24-karat gold, platinum and rose gold in concentric stripes around the plates. Just as in furnishings, designers are no longer sticking to one metal.
Theres a mix of metals and all types of textures, said DJ Carey, and a big push to mix opposites rough with smooth, high with low, shiny with flat and all metals. These combinations add more interest to the table. I love the trend of combining textures and finishes to give your table a sophisticated look a great alternative to using color.
Matte and glossy finishes come together to add interest, especially in neutral palettes a look thats on trend in Europe. Donna Karans collections for Lenox feature some of these looks.