While it may seem that tabletop has taken a turn for the more casual side, home entertainers are still looking for ways to create beautiful and one-of-a-kind tablescapes when hosting in-home gatherings. One of these ways is to mix vintage pieces — like family heirlooms or even ones collected from second-hand stores or garage sales — with fresh, modern tableware.
However, in order for goods to shine on the table, there are a few tips and tricks that should be taken into consideration when developing tablescapes.
GOURMET INSIDER® recently spoke to Jaclyn Steudtner-Colabraro, an event stylist who has worked with Rachael Ray and is also the creative director of NJ-based The Proppy Shoppe, about some of the best practices for making the table a conversation piece as well as a gathering place.
GI: Are there any rules when it comes to patterns/colors/materials that you should abide by?
JC: An easy rule is to focus on one main color as the common thread that weaves a table together. This looks especially great when you do mix patterns within that palate. Inherently, clear glass pieces pair well with anything. Hobnail glass, pressed glass and cut crystal pieces can all add a great old texture to any china pattern, even a modern one.
GI: What are some of the challenges with using old and new pieces together?
JC: Some old pieces can’t or shouldn’t be used for their original purpose – they may be too delicate or outdated technology. So, just change the function. For example, we had an antique chafing piece that didn’t heat food well, so we filled it with ice and colorful mini bottled gazpacho hors d’oeuvres! Similarly, toast racks and letter openers aren’t exactly necessities today, but they do make great napkin holders.
Most often, the challenge of mixing pieces is simply trusting that they do work together. Follow the main color rule, then keep one pattern as the anchor and one as the accent and it will work.
GI: What are some of the benefits of setting a table with a mix of old and new pieces?
JC: Apart from the way it adds incredible charm and patina to a tabletop, layering in vintage pieces also continues traditions and brings back memories — especially when they are family heirlooms.
Another benefit is that old pieces can be great talking points. For example, The Victorian era produced a wide variety of unbelievable tools for every function; from forks designed just for Lemons to marrow bone scoops to silver handles specifically for the leg of a lamb. Putting these pieces back in action makes for some educational cocktail party conversations — well, for some of us, anyway.
GI: What advice would you give to a retailer seeking to stock modern goods that can blend well?
JC: Stock pieces that that are easy to layer. Vintage plates are generally smaller than their new counterparts, so a dinner-sized plate can work as a charger and then for service of a main course. Many families inherited or registered for the specialty whiskey glasses and champagne coups, so offer multi-purpose glassware and versatile serving pieces that bridge the gap between collections and decades.
And, new tabletop goods should add a benefit that the vintage pieces just can’t. They should be easy to clean and easy to use. Microwave-friendly is a great, but also consider oven-to-table or even temperature-maintaining pieces as a bonus.