10 Ideas to Transform Your Place Setting from Boring to Brilliant

By now most of us have had enough of our wedding pattern.

And who can stand another predictable table set with all the precious plates and matching stemware?

It’s time to mix it up. For inspiration, we asked two local experts (both in the business of making beautiful tables for almost three decades) Lucy Callahan, owner of Peachtree Place in Northfield, and Kathy Hahn, owner of Adesso in Highland Park, to share their secrets—along with a few delightful examples—to setting a fantastically fresh table.

1.    Think of your table like your wardrobe and reflect the season. And don’t be constrained by the décor in your home, stresses Callahan. Your table is a separate entity and doesn’t have to match the room.

2.    Use what you have, but mix it up. Fine china doesn’t appreciate on the shelf, reminds Hahn. Don’t be afraid to mix pieces from multiple vendors; for example, pairing an elaborate china pattern with an Annieglass bowl or white porcelain with recycled green glass.

3.    Exercise the high/low approach. As Hahn deftly illustrates, don’t be afraid to set fine china on a straw placemat, or a gold goblet next to plastic handled flatware. By adding one precious piece, you keep it approachable while at the same time elevating your style.

4.    Add some shine. Metallics are a terrific neutral that go with anything. Ramp it up by mixing textures: platinum-rimmed porcelain with raw linen napkins, bamboo napkin rings with gold stemware.

5.    Invest in a quality set of white dinner plates. Once you’ve got your foundation, add in seasonal flair with salad plates, table linens, napkin rings and more. Callahan’s personal favorite: adding a water goblet in a richly hued, complimentary shade.

6.    Add some whimsy. Whether it’s frogs for Passover or Peeps for Easter, Hahn stresses the importance of keeping your table fun and festive. Small details like salt and pepper shakers or place card holders are easy ways to introduce personality.

7.    Get creative and recycle from elsewhere in your home. Whether it’s the porcelain birds on your mantle, a colorful combination of ginger jars and canisters, terra cotta pots from the shed, or (Callahan’s personal favorite) azaleas in a footbath, find new ways to add interest and variety.

8.    Throw in an unexpected seasonal splash of color. Try a butterfly alighting on each napkin, hot pink candles with a white and silver place setting, or a brightly hued recycled glass goblet—both Hahn and Callahan advocate color for affect.

9.    Don’t underestimate the impact of a simple floral arrangement. What could be prettier than an inexpensive bunch of tulips from the grocery store in an antique biscuit box or roses fresh from the garden? Single buds in small vases or even saltcellars affirm that less is more.

10.    Lastly and most importantly, don’t wait for your guests. Whether it’s changing out placemats and napkins for the season, or placing a potted plant in a precious porcelain soup tureen, take the time to treat your family table too.

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