Dinnerware Dinnerware

If you looked at your holiday table and wondered how you'd manage to match the blue-rimmed plates you got in college with the white basket-weave plates you received as a wedding gift, it may be time to take in consideration the importance of dinnerware in your decorating plans.

A well-set table is a thing of simple beauty that you can easily achieve - and perhaps more affordably than you'd thought possible. Every year new patterns, new designs, and entirely new ways of seeing dinnerware are coming out - and there are also some innovative china designers whose work is now available online.

One designer we've re-discovered in our search for great table settings is the British designer Susie Cooper, who was instrumental during the Art Deco period, working in bright colors and geometric patterns in the 1920s and 1930s. She perfected the use of graffito, in which the design is etched into the clay.

Sometimes having plates that don't match precisely can work better than having a perfectly matched set.

Consider the Piero Fornasetti plates now available at many online shopping sites. These plates, cups, and other table accessories feature Fornasetti's distinctive style of etching realistic yet magical portraits and scenes. Born in 1935, Piero Fornasetti quickly developed his style, which incorporates architectural motifs, illusionism, and portraiture.

Because each plate, cup, saucer has a different picture on it, the cumulative effect on a table will be stunning, and will fascinate your guests. The designs will match in that they're all created by the same artist in one style, even though each is distinctly different from the others.

Used as tableware, Fornasetti's work will amuse, delight, and sometimes even shock your dinner guests. Of course, depending on your budget, you may also be shocked, as a single plate often costs around $70.

  • Tip: But if you're working on a low budget, you can still play with matching mismatched dinnerware. In fact, there is no better way to achieve a look of elegant-yet-casual disarray than by collecting single pieces of gorgeous antiques. And this doesn't have to be fine (or expensive) china. Stopping at a few yard sales, rummage sales and flea markets will quickly yield an assortment of china that can then be mixed and matched for a sophisticated "shabby chic" look.

To make this work, have a theme to your collection, and stick with it - stripes or geometric patterns, 1950s only, or floral designs, for example. And to further help the matching part of the "mix and match," aim for similar colors. It won't be hard to find pretty floral patterns in one color theme, and the color will tie everything together.

To further this look, use table linens in white, or in a solid color that matches the color theme of the china; any patterned linens will only draw the eye away from the collection you've worked so hard to put together. Then, add old-fashioned, country-look accessories: a bouquet of daisies in an earthenware pitcher, a cut-glass butter dish, simple wooden chairs with woven seats. The result will be a table set with dishes that will look as good as the food you've cooked.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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