As the days get longer and the outdoors beckons, what will you bring to the table? For entertaining, "classic white dishes are always a must," says Beverly Hills party planner Mindy Weiss, "but spring is a great time to really mix up the tabletop with pastel options and darker colors."
Manufacturers from around the world seem to agree, taking a range of Easter egg shades and darker pastels to the market. The look can be seen at local home décor stores including Huset, A + R and the Los Angeles-based online retailer Fitzsu. What makes it so appealing?
"The light in Los Angeles is very warm, almost yellowish, and lends itself well to more subdued tones. New York can have red, and save bright yellow for London. Celadon is a perfect color for L.A.," says interior designer Oliver M. Furth, who recently commissioned a set of Muriel Grateau porcelain in celadon for a local client. "While I'm usually strictly a white tablecloth and white napkin kind of guy, in spring I love to see a total immersion in color — sky blue plates, amethyst glasses, pale pink tablecloth."
This pale, pretty palette is "a step back from formality and speaks to warm weather and the more relaxed Southern California style," says Ross Sveback, a Minneapolis-based lifestyle expert seen on Fox TV nationwide. In addition to the Russel Wright American Modern collection from 1939, now produced by Bauer, he also prizes vintage midcentury LuRay Pastels dinnerware.
Today's offerings come in sleek modern shapes and more ornate forms at many prices. CB2's Intermix dinnerware collection runs from $3.50 for a bread plate to $14.95 for a platter. For more expensive tastes, Villeroy & Boch offers a pale blue textured crystal goblet for $15.95, and the Danish firm Hay has an architecturally sleek red wine glass with a patch of pink for $30. Even venerable porcelain firms, such as the 275-year-old Richard Ginori, which was purchased by Gucci in 2014, have embraced the trend, issuing the ornately floral Oriente Italiano pattern in an array of candy-store colors, available at Inheritance in L.A., with prices from $55 for a tea saucer.
Accessories designers are mixing it up as well. Kim Seybert, who creates intricate placemats and napkin rings, is offering pieces in vivid turquoise and pale greens and pinks. A reissued collection of tabletop pieces with whimsical animal illustrations by the midcentury ceramist Waylande Gregory features bright yellows and oranges. And Parisian designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have just launched a collection of diamond-shaped hand-blown glass vases for the Finnish firm Iittala in pale salmon pink and soft moss green.
When it comes to setting the table, designers recommend that we throw out the rulebook. "Mixing and matching is more personal, specific and interesting," says Furth, who gravitates to solid dishes in different colors that have the same tone. Weiss freely mixes pastels with burgundy and charcoal plates and textured table runners. San Francisco designer Dan Zelen keeps the focus on the feast by using washed Italian linen napkins from the Los Angeles store Garde that are paler than the plates. Sveback, who has designed a collection of faux bois bone china plates, mixes in patterned china and old-fashioned transferware to make a bolder statement.
Alongside the crockery, the experts recommend flatware with a cutting edge. "Silver feels very cold to me and also a little preppy against these lovely tones," says Furth, who likes the clean lines and modern forms of the Adam matte gold flatware collection sold at L.A.'s Table Art. Sveback agrees that gold and brass finishes complement pastel table settings but also suggests flatware with enameled or Bakelite handles and adds that hammered finishes, faux ivory and olivewood handles bring "a sense of the outdoors" to your table.