Tablescape with Mismatched China
By Paula Kirwan

Collecting beautiful and assorted cups and saucers has been a popular hobby for many people over the years. Using them to serve coffee and tea to your guests makes for a colorful and interesting table display.

But why stop with just cups and saucers? Setting a dinner table with a variety of vintage mismatched china, crystal and flatware offers the opportunity to present fanciful tablescapes at luncheons and dinner parties, and gives you a chance to be creative and provide a distinctive and unique look for your guests (photo, above right, author's own collection).

If you’ve ever come across a partial set of china or individual pieces with an interesting design, you may have walked away thinking that there weren’t enough pieces to be useful. Instead, that should be the time to start thinking outside the box and start a collection of odd pieces that can be the basis for your own individual style!

There are several ways to approach your china collection. First, you can do it by color. If you like blue, find pieces that have shades of blue in their design. If you like flowers, find pieces that have blossoms in the pattern (photo, left; $6 per plate; Booth B-207). If you have a favorite tablecloth and napkin set in a certain color, find pieces that will complement your table linens.

You can also create an interesting table design by starting with your own china and adding vintage glass plates or plates with a contrasting but compatible pattern. You could even use the odd plates just for the dessert course, for a colorful ending to a lovely dinner!

Odd pieces of crystal are usually easy to find (photo, right; 7 wine glasses, $24.95; Booth B-210). Sparkling crystal is the “jewelry” of the table, so choose clear rather than colored stemware for maximum versatility. Although it isn’t necessary to achieve the eclectic look you are after, you can collect pieces that have relatively similar shapes if you want a more cohesive aesthetic. If the designs are different, it won’t matter.

Pretty patterns of flatware in silverplate are often found at GasLamp (photo, left; assorted flatware at various prices; Booth B-512). Here again, incomplete sets, such as service for three or five, shouldn’t be overlooked as they will help you accumulate your optimum number of place settings. Use the same pattern for the fork, knife and spoon at one place setting, and another pattern for the fork, knife and spoon at the next place setting, and so on, for an interesting look. Serving pieces don’t have to match any of the patterns, as different designs and shapes add even more variety to the table.

Think “unique and different” to create a beautiful tablescape. Keep an eye out for interesting patterns in china, crystal and flatware, even if they are only singles or partial sets, as you walk through GasLamp. Your purchases will guarantee something distinctive and special for your dinner parties. Your guests may want to copy your idea, but they can never duplicate the unique look you will create.

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