By Jill Brooke
Here’s some great news about table settings and fine china in the home.
A New York Times report shared that there’s a huge upswing for fine china and more creative and fancier tableware since so many have had to eat so many meals at home during the pandemic.
In order to shake things up a bit, people started bringing out their grandmother and mother’s china – and even the dusty wedding registry gifts that was stored in cupboards – to create memorable dining experiences.
As someone who considers table settings an art form and a source of great pleasure, this was news to celebrate. Especially since I have wondered what will happen to all the beautiful trinkets, dishes and table accessories I’ve collected over a lifetime to celebrate each season.
After all, people have clothes and handbags for each season – why not a different table setting? It creates memories. Furthermore, a study showed that when people eat on tables with tablecloths, they believe the food tastes better.
According to Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert at Etsy, there was a 39 percent increase in searches for fine china on the site in 2021 compared to 2020, and a 28 percent increase in searches for antique and vintage porcelain dinnerware.
The Times also interviewed Dawn Block, the vice president of collectibles, electronics and home at eBay, who said that the site has seen a similar increase. “Since this time last year, eBay has seen a significant surge in searches and sales for china and porcelain brands including Lenox, Noritake and Herend,” she said.
Plus with the pandemic waning and more entertaining likely to happen in the future, dinner parties are likely to again be popular.
“We now are selling fine china in larger quantities,” says Mary Zipkin, who owns Pound Ridge’s “The KnaCk Shoppe.”
At our house, I have a special set for Valentine’s Day using Roberto Cavalli rose dishes which seem to be inspired by Georgia O’Keefe. I even have a white set with a silver grey rose that I use with Waterford glasses for a more classic look.
Think themes and colors to help usher in each season. It really really helps psychologically and lifts your spirits.
For winter holidays I have a pine cone with evergreen set I found at Pier One while my Havilland dishes in the pattern of “Vieux Paris” which I inherited from my mother carpet the table for spring setting for Easter and Passover. In fact, the folks at Havilland said this old pattern has become trendy again as has one used by Mary Lincoln.
Summer settings include fabulous bold lily placemats purchased at the New York Botanical Garden – a great source – that plain inexpensive ivory plates look great with along with colorful embroidered napkins. It’s all about mixing and matching. There’s also a treasured butterfly floral set by the great Anna Weatherley which turns out is also super popular right now.
In fact, Weatherley, who has designed tableware for the White House, is finding that young people are buying her fabulous porcelain butterfly coffee mug as a starter to a bigger service.
“Why not start your morning with something beautiful such as a hand-painted porcelain mug vs. a paper cup” she says. “People tell me that it tastes better and makes every day more special. It cheers you up immediately.”
I have one of those as well and people really do notice when they are served coffee in a porcelain cup.
For fall, when apple season and Rosh Hashana takes place, I invite people over and we eat on Mikasa plates with a grape and apple motif. For Thanksgiving? Autumnal placemats with luminous Amen Wardy glass plates trimmed in gold with tangerine and rust-colored napkins that match the pumpkins scattered on the table. And yes, I use them ALL during the year for just my husband and I to feel as though life is a celebration.
You can easily say I am obsessed but using fine tableware makes everything more celebratory. Not using it is a waste.
The other night I had a few friends over where I ordered Chinese food but put it on pretty plates, added red flowers for a Chinese New Year theme – and voila – it felt festive and fun. I’m also having a Valentine’s Day-themed dinner as well as a lunch for friends.
A lifetime of entertaining has taught me that it’s not the food that is as memorable as the tableware and flower arrangements being artfully assembled.
As Valentino wisely said, ‘the prettier the table, the better the food tastes.”
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.