GOODNESS GRACIOUS

Table settings have changed during the past five centuries, transforming over the years from simple wood or earthenware plates, few utensils, and rare metallic serving or drinking vessels used for basic dining to highly decorated porcelain services, multiple crystal glasses, and specialized flatware for elaborate entertaining. It is only natural that as dining rituals shift, tableware adapts to changes in foods and fashions.

Today, there are thousands of tableware choices. Plates, flatware, crystal, and silver often depict motifs reminiscent of earlier times. Whether these objects copy an older pattern’s decoration or merely allude to a stylistic period, they provide inspiration for creative table settings that buttress gracious entertaining. By mixing antiques with modern patterns and reinterpreting the hallmarks of certain styles, the table settings shown here explore new levels of playful sophistication.

Old World style recalls late Italian Renaissance majolica; but ducal fortunes are not a purchase requirement, thanks to clever modern plates and accessories. Adding metallic flatware or linens enhances the mood. In our Gilded Age table setting, lavish 19th-century formal dinners are recalled. The progression through time continues via 20th-Century Classic plates with colored rims and an emphasis on white decoration.

Our Scenic Patterns present 18th-century toile dress fabric designs on the surface of porcelain plates. They are mixed with 19th-century English ceramics and monochromatic modern patterns. Today, the rule of matching all tableware items is often abandoned in favor of individual creativity.

Late 18th-century and 19th-century Neoclassical shockwaves continue to ripple in plate and flatware designs. From black and white to metallic platinum, nighttime Neoclassical dining has never been easier to achieve. Clean lines and restrained patterns are adapted to create additions to tableware’s repertoire. Combine these elegant pieces with precious objects and sculpture to create visual delight.

Chinoiserie, the European interpretation of Chinese style, is as popular today as it was in the 18th century Pomegranates–instead of floral centerpieces–and pagoda forms celebrate a Western take on Chinese imagery. Like the chinoiserie stylistic period, the look reinterprets decoration and form without regard to its original meaning.

Clearly, all periods and styles are potential subjects for fine table design. What has changed in recent years is a movement toward more creative and confident settings. How different elements of the past are combined and presented remains the choice of each host or hostess. New options include adding personal touches to the table, such as homemade napkin rings or placecard holders. Styles may come and go, but entertaining table settings always remain in fashion.

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