06 January 2012

January 2012 Top 10 | Dinnerware

Three times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, we sit down with our dinnerware, but how often do we take a moment to admire or appreciate it?  Beyond the strictly utilitarian approach to plates and bowls which, I think we can all agree, is at the heart of any dishware choice, what does your choice in pattern and material say about you?

Some might say it's vain or shallow to worry about how a salad plate represents you as a person and to them I say,
pish-posh.  Seriously, if it didn't matter what sort of serving platter you scraped your mashed potatoes and roast beef off of, why would so many brides in so many countries and across so many eras spend so much time agonizing over their china pattern?  And why, again if it didn't matter, would that same china set be passed down from generation to generation in many families as a cherished heirloom?  My point exactly.

But outside of a wedding (and for me, not even then ... we had a toddler to contend with and a new mortgage when we took our vows, so we were more worried about daycare and lawn care than dinnerware), how often do we really give a first thought to our plates and bowls, let alone a second or third?  Once you jump into the daily grind of three meals a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year ... well, you get the idea.  After that many meals, do you even notice your plates any more?

Then along come special occasions (like Christmas) when the china gets pulled out of storage and dusted off, then shown off to friends and family during festive get-togethers.  We have an inherited set from Daryn's aunt that is pretty and simple ~ plain white china with a gold rim ~ that Daryn absolutely loves.  It makes him happy to set the table at every special event and I love that it pleases him so much.  Our everyday dishes are not all that dissimilar from the "good" china, being plain white minus the gold rim, and square instead of round.  It would seem that we're fairly simple in our tastes, except for one thing: they're not really our taste at all.

The everyday dishes were a discount purchase: we needed plates and they were sturdy, neutral and on sale.  I didn't buy them for beauty or because I loved them and couldn't live without them, though I don't NOT like them.  I'm pretty neutral about them, which suits them.  They're pretty neutral themselves.  As for the china, it's very pretty but not what I would have chosen if I had been that bride who glowed with wedding fever rather than an actual fever (courtesy of a toddler in daycare who shared his germs with

All of which got me to thinking: if I was to choose my own china or dishware pattern, now, today, which would I pick?  With so much diversity and selection in the market, how could I narrow it down to a first choice?  And before I knew it, the list was born.  Welcome to the first
TOP 10 of 2012:

#10 -

ARV Series in "White" by IKEA ~ $ pieces priced individually
It wouldn't be a TOP 10 list without including something from IKEA, given that the Swedish juggernaut is a mecca of good design+good price if you're willing to invest time looking for the best pieces, and this dinnerware set is so pretty and practical it easily nabbed the tenth spot.  I love the mix-and-match quality and its sister series, "Brollop," which are surprisingly sophisticated for the giant of pragmatic design.  I would be happy to set my table with this pattern any day.

#9 -
"Olina" by Oneida ~ C$191.30 (on sale now for $63.76) + shipping for 16-piece service for 4
This pattern is a bit out of the ordinary from my usual tastes but I love its sunny, happy vibe.  On one hand it's fresh and vibrant and on the other, it's feminine and classic.  Best of all it's microwave and dishwasher safe, which means it's perfect for making every day a special occasion.

#8 -
"Prova Prima" by Richard Ginori via Tableware UK ~ $ pieces priced individually
Prova Prima (which translates to "test before") is the newest pattern by Richard Ginori, available at retailers across Canada and internationally.  The pattern itself is a brushstroke design in a wide range of Pantone colours: perfect for the of-the-moment decorista.  The painterly effect is delicate but also youthful, and with the variety of colour in each piece, you never have to worry about coordinating your tableware with your decor!

#7 -
Monsoon Home "Cosmic" by Denby ~ US$49.99 per 4-piece place setting
I've had a bit of a heart-on for Denby since my early days in university, when one of my best friends at the time had herself a full set of her Denby pattern (she had committed to the dishware years before she committed to the groom!)  The entire collection has a solid feel to it and will easily stand up to daily use, while remaining pretty as a picture.  For my tastes, the colourful and playful Cosmic pattern hits all the right notes.  I don't know that I could be married to it for a lifetime, but it's good for at least a decade-long affair and at that price, a new partner every ten years is entirely doable.

#6 -
"Chain Bracelet" by Ralph Lauren, available at The Bay ~ US$124.99 per 5-piece place setting
Originally inspired by by fine jewelry, this gorgeous Ralph Lauren series is elegant and beautiful with a distinctly masculine edge; a nice reprieve from the traditionally more feminine styles that dominate the market.  Beyond the jewelry connection, the design is also reminiscent to me of snakeskin, which makes it more than a little bit bad-ass, in my opinion.  This dinnerware would be equally comfortable on a table set with white linens, candles and pink peonies as it would complimenting dark woods, cut crystal and palm leaves.  Either way, the end result is sophisticated, glamorous and just a wee bit edgy.

#5 -
"Raynaud Cristobal" in Turquoise, Williams-Sonoma ~ US$419 per 5-piece place setting (internet only)
Fun, fresh, lively, pretty and organic, this tableware (which is also available in a coral colourway) checks all my boxes except one: the price!  Not being in a tax bracket anywhere close to being able to afford this pattern, I can still admire its good looks and charm from very, very afar ....

#4 -
"Shima" by Spode, at Neiman Marcus ~ US$379 (on sale now for $100) per 20-piece service
Spode's ultra-gorgeous "Shima" pattern is an updated adaptation of one of their prized 19th Century designs, and it's easy to understand why they revived it for today's discerning hostess.  The pattern has a classic chinoiserie vibe while the vibrant colourway brings it bang up to date, and while I ordinarily don't support the reinvention of the classics ~ if it ain't broke, don't fix it! ~ this version is perfect for the elegant, modern home. 

#3 -
"New Cottage" by Villeroy & Boch ~ $ pieces priced individually
You can't go wrong with classic white tableware and this elegant Villeroy & Boch pattern, introduced in 2010, is one of the best in a deep pool.  White dishes always look fantastic: they're clean, simple and allow the beauty of the food to take center stage.  What makes this particular pattern unique is its flexibility: the basic pattern is round with beautiful but structured lines, while a complimentary sister line is fluid and organic, with graceful pieces whose shapeliness is almost poetic.  As well, and best yet, the collection is entirely mix and match so you can customize your set according to your needs, wants and whims.  Beautiful in every sense of the word.

#2 -
"Happy Chic" in orange by Jonathan Adler, via HSN ~ US$30 + shipping per 32-piece service
It's hard not to love Jonathan Adler and his infectious and happy designs, and his line of tableware is no exception.  Available in orange or a fresh turquoise blue, these dishes make me smile just looking at them: you couldn't help but enjoy eating off them and every guest would feel uber-welcomed at your table.  Though currently out of stock through HSN, these are an absolute steal at $30 for a 4-person service, so get yours ASAP when stock replenishes!

#1 -
"Chirp" by Lenox ~ US$143 (on sale for $99.95) online
I think it's safe to safe that I have a bit of a thriving avian obsession; I clearly love birds.  As soon as I set my eyes on this gorgeous painterly pattern by Lenox, my heart literally went pitty-pat in my chest.  In my own home, not only would it compliment the beautiful hummingbird wallpaper in the front foyer (which leads directly into the dining room) but it would also coordinate nicely with the magnolia branch curtain fabric and the colours with our modern art piece.  I would never get bored of these plates, ever, and I would just be as pleased to serve them to guests as I would to eat from them every day.  Best of all, the series also includes complimentary dishware in scarlet, allowing you to swap out colourways on a seasonal or per-whim basis (I'd do turquoise in spring/summer and scarlet for fall/winter, but I'm pretty conventional like that).  This is the perfect dinnerware pattern for me, and the perfect capper to this month's TOP 10!

Honorable Mention ~

"Psychoplates" by Isabelle Foirest for La Tete au Cube, available through Fitzsu ~ US$180 per set
This adorable set of four designs is a youthful uptake on the famous psychoanalytical Rorschach test, with a definite tilt towards biodiversity (figure 3 [top, right] is definitely a giraffe face and the other three look like a cat/raccoon, a squished frog and a fancy insect amalgamation to these eyes).  While technically this isn't a full dinnerware set ~ there being no bowls, salad plates or mugs/saucers to fill it out ~ and therefore couldn't be counted in the actual TOP 10, I had to include it just for the mere fun of it.  These would definitely be a conversation starter at your next dinner party!