Long term blog readers will have seen it all before - I'm afraid there are no cupboards full of different china patterns in my house. As I've previously explained I was given (excellent) advice by my Aunt 15 years ago when I was registering for my wedding at David Jones. She encouraged me to choose a very nice everyday set of china that could be dressed up for formal dining, but that was dishwasher friendly and that I could also have the pleasure of using every day. Rather than splitting purchases of china between two different sets and the subsequent gaps that this would cause in complete settings, I was fortunate that family and friends combined to purchase a large and complete dinner set of Villeroy and Boch's Tipo Blue (since discontinued). It's not the most exciting China (you can see it at the end of the post, and also on the bread and butter plates above) - I wanted something with longevity, so no pattern. But the quality is lovely, it has a subtle self-dot on the rim, and the blue stripe around the edge went with a lot of the blue things that I have in my kitchen (le Creuset, kitchen aid mixer etc… I am a blue person from way back).


So, that said, after 15 years it is looking slightly worn (not bad enough to get rid of it), and of course I suffer boredom from the whole thing as I've been dining off it for so long. So, I decided to apply the same principles I apply to my wardrobe to the China. I've accessorised. Long term blog readers will also know that I'm a lover of Isis Ceramics (one of my very first blog posts was on Isis), and I was excited to see that Isis Ceramics collaborated with Juliska to produce a range called Country Estate. Isis is very expensive (hand made), so a complete dinner setting is a total luxury. The Juliska collaboration is a good alternative - the same feel of Isis, but it's less expensive, dishwasher safe and easily available via Saks in the US with free shipping. I purchased 8 chargers (there were supposed to be 10 but two were broken in transit - Saks refunded me). A charger, for Australian readers, seems to me to be an American invention (I'm not aware of it being used elsewhere in the world commonly). Essentially it is a platter sized plate, and is used instead of a place mat. You set entree and main plates directly on top of it, and then it is removed with the main plate for dessert. At any rate, I decided it was a relatively inexpensive way of breathing interest and new life into my existing and aged V & B set without purchasing a whole other set of china.


So, two weekends ago we had 7 friends over for dinner, and I set the table with all the nice things - white linen tablecloth and napkins with a simple hemstitch detail, the antique sterling silver cutlery, the new Juliska "Country Estate" chargers, Blue (also ancient wedding gift) Villery & Boch water glasses, and all the Waterford Crystal I purchased very cheaply at a couple of local estate Auctions last year. I put out some candles and scattered a few olive branch prunings down the middle and it was done - there is no room for a flower arrangement as the table is too narrow.


I also decided to buy a set of place card holders recently. This does seem very formal, but I find that the moment where you ask everyone to come to the table, and there is a crowd - they all freeze and wait for you to tell them where to sit which holds things up unnecessarily… I'm usually trying to get plates out at that point, and Mr AV is pouring wine. People like being told where to sit rather than shuffling around awkwardly trying to work it out themselves so I've been on the lookout for a place card holder for a while. These little silver watering cans were perfect. They're from a collection by Bunny Williams for Ballard Design in the US (currently heavily reduced). Being a gardener and with the design on the chargers these were perfect.

Dinner was fun - I did a simple menu with a loose Italian theme - Tuscan white bean soup, Veal Osso Bucco on Risotto alla Milanese with a couple of different sides, and Lemon & Lime Tart for desert. Main and dessert were Jamie Oliver recipes - I do like his recipes as they always work. The tart was from the first cookbook he put out, the Osso Bucco and Risotto from his latest (Comfort Food). All done in advance (aside from the risotto) which meant I spent minimal time in the kitchen.

usual table setting for a family dinner - silvery jug just seen is Georg Jensen Pumpkin water jug, everyday stainless cutlery and napkins, everyday water glasses from Market Import

The other dinner setting improve I've made recently concerns every day dining. Like most small children mine make a mess, and a wipe clean placemat is essential. All the kid ones I've purchased have  gradually had the designs scrubbed off them, so they look quite tatty. Additionally as we dine as a family so often I really wanted something that could be used for either Adult or child for a nicely cohesive table setting. The ones we had been using were round rattan, which tended to get bits of food stuck in the rattan and they were looking tatty as well after around 6 years of use. Bunny Williams again to the rescue - while purchasing the Watering cans, I thought I'd also try out these placemats that were designed for indoors/ outdoors and were supposed to be child friendly. These things are genius! They are really large, which is perfect for catching mess from kids, but it also means they easily accommodate plate, cutlery, glass and napkin without moving any of those things onto the table surface. They're woven out of a thick tape that seems pretty much indestructible, and I can give them a good scrub in the kitchen sink if they've got pasta sauce or weetbix stuck on them and it all comes out. My only complaint is the lack of colour option - there's a blue/ white or orange/white. Bunny needs to do a neutral. I'm planning to use these for outdoor dining as well in Summer, but for everyday dining they are perfect indoors too. Highly recommend them.

a little bit more dressed up for casual dining

Apologies for the photo quality at the top of the page - I snapped them just as everyone was starting to arrive, so used the iPhone...

44 comments:

  1. Ditto, Heidi.
    I love everything BLUE, and I have the same Tippo Blue dinnerware from Villeroy and Boch. Ours is nearly 20 years old now (purchased from David Jones in NSW in the 90's) and it is still as good as new (well except for the ones I have broken along the way).
    Melody

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    1. So funny we've got the same China Melody! I've seen a bit of it on Gumtree in the last 2 years, so I think that people are getting rid of the remains of their sets after breakages… which has meant I've been able to buy a few spares and replace the ones that have smashed in the past. You should have a look on Gumtree/ ebay to see if you can replace your broken bits and pieces.

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  2. I love everything blue as well and I have been searching and searching for lovely indigo placemats for ages with no luck. Ended up buying rattan but the ones you have featured here are so perfect I am considering going ahead and just getting another set!!!

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    1. They're really nice Anna, strangely plasticky in one way, but so sturdy and look so good and from a practical standpoint are fabulous, so I highly recommend.

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  3. Such a beautiful set Heidi, I had to pin it, it's just so lovely and thus up for dishwasher safe.
    The placemats are perfect, I use similar ones as I don't want to faff with linen on a daily basis.

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    1. Thanks Tabitha! Love anything dishwasher safe. I'd love to add more of the Country Estate pieces to the existing china. Might go with a couple of serving pieces... Linen placemats are nice, but with kids would be in the washing basket more times than out of it. Plastic ones are perfect!

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  4. My everyday-to-formal is Vietri Portobello. The "chargers" are large square plates with rounded corners, and I mainly use them as dinner plates when there's going to be a lot of food, Christmas, Thanksgiving, choucroute garni... When t learned the pattern was going to be retired I bought up a lot of spares. The various plates are generously proportioned, and made all my inherited sterling look incongruously dainty. I wound up with some artisan-ish stainless, which looks like Viking garden tools in the drawer, but is perfectly proportioned to the plates.

    I haven't used my very very formal wedding China in years, so I think your aunt gave you good advice!

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    1. Plates are on steroids I think.. they have all grown so big. The chargers are enormous, but handy to double up as platters when I need them. Laughing at your viking tool cutlery though - Does it have a lot of heft to it as well?
      My Aunt puts a lot of thought into anything interiors related, and is a great sounding board for all sorts of things. Her advice on the wedding registry was perfect - while I'd love a 'good' set of formal china (because I love china), it's been far better to have a nice everyday set instead.

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  5. This is so beautiful! You make it all look effortless. We also use those type of placemats as well, since they wash up so easily.

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    1. I've not seen anything like them locally strangely enough Louise- the only washable ones we have are much thinner and would fall apart over a couple of years. I think these should last a long time...

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  6. That is a beautiful pattern for a charger, and your table looks so inviting (lucky friends!). Mixing and matching is fun to do and I'm a sucker for plates and cannot resist whenever I'm tempted. I'm so bad, in fact, that I've run out of storage so our basement comes in handy for overflow (all stored in big plastic storage boxes until needed).

    Place cards are indeed a useful item to add to a table setting for parties of six or over. As you say, it avoids a lot of milling about just as food is coming to the table. Your watering cans are très chic!

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    1. I'd been keeping an eye out for antique place card holders, but the larger sets always seem to sell for a fortune, and the smaller ones were all so odd that they didn't tempt me (a pheasant or a pinecone or something disparate like a snail, but all looking so different from each other you wouldn't make a harlequin set out of them at any rate). I'd love boxes of china to choose from, but no where to store it so it keeps me honest!

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  7. Love this table setting Heidi! Very clever to buy the chargers to complement your set. Villeroy and Boch is terrific quality, my basic everyday white is V&B. I struggle to find nice placemats, I have the round rattan ones and they are getting wrecked.
    I read this post this summer and then got lost on the Juliska site, what gorgeous patterns! XO

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    1. I meant "this morning" (although we are having the miracle of summer!), auto-correct grrrr.

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    2. I was trying to work out what autocorrect had done with that! I do love the Juliska stuff - the Country Estate pattern is my favourite, but also love their thread and berry and a few others as well…
      Afraid the rattan placemats seem to have a short shelf life, and considering they're not that cheap in Australia it's kind of annoying. Mine are all looking very sad and disintegrating.

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  8. Heidi, Your blue and white table looks divine! Completely adore the chargers. From what I can see of the details in your pics they have a Chinoiserie feel which would work so well with your dining room painting, not that it's really Chinoiserie either.
    Wish I'd had a wise aunt around to advise me when getting married to a student in England so many years ago (our wedding presents were things like art books and a genuine Scottish kilt and the odd silver plate candle holders - not a lot of practical use for setting up a beautiful home (our first rented homes tended to be tiny flats and bedsitters anyway) - and most of the rels in Oz held off on wedding presents - as they said they'd give them when we came home. But we were away so long (years) most people completely forgot. Instead I collected what I now think of as a horrid brown Denbyware dinner service (last word at the time - along with the much more expensive brown Arabia). Haven't used it for years but it's still in one of our big drawers, also what's left of with my mother's two surviving dinner sets. Yes I know - declutter!
    As a fellow blue and white devotee, in the last 15 years have been using Spode's blue and white Italian dinner service (dishwashable with liquid detergent in a Miele with gentle wash settings) for indoors - and a Portuguese aqua and white service for outdoors, not dishwasher friendly. Silly, but I like it.
    Love everything about all the table settings in this post. Pammie xxx

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    1. My Aunt (the one that gave that advice) uses the Spode! That was the basis of her example to me - she dresses it up for formal dining, and uses it everyday as well. She's my Canberra Aunt as well - more in common! Wow - you've got a few dinner sets stashed away then with your Denby, Arabia, Spode, 2 inherited sets and the outdoors portugese things….
      Love your wedding gifts - that Kilt must've really come in handy over the years!

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    2. Kilt mostly used for weddings, specially our and son's. And the occasional ball and costume party - G one time went as the Braveheart hero, I painted blue eye make-up across one side of his face, had a wooden broadsword cut and painted it in grey/silver and stuck fake jewels on the hilt, tartan ribbons etc. He won first prize. But you were probably writing tongue in cheek.
      We don't normally use the Spode everyday as G is a bit of a heavy handed menace with fine china. Wouldn't be much left if we did. Treasure it more now that it's no longer made n the UK. Pammie

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  9. All looks lovely Heidi, love getting all my goodies out to use- not much good sitting in cupboards and never used. Thanks for the tip on the lemon tart- abundant lemons at the moment so will put to good use - aka Jamie Oliver. Enjoy your week
    Marilyn xx

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    1. It's a great recipe Marilyn, I highly recommend it, although it only uses up around 2 lemons! Maybe try preserved lemons if you have a glut? Have a good week too x

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  10. Lovely informative post as always. I’ve been thinking of a new dinner set recently and as I get older I can’t see the sense of having a ‘good’ set that rarely gets used. Much nicer to handle and use beautiful things everyday, especially if those are the things that give you pleasure. Love the chargers and how useful would they be! I’m always fearful of hot plates on my wooden table and they would be so handy as platters at Christmas, as well as adding some colour. I’m off to check out the website now! Tonkath x

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    1. The chargers are so pretty Tonkath - they've really given a great lift to the whole set and it's nice it's got a bit of life in the old dining set yet! And yes, as you say quite handy to protect the table from hot dishes… I'll be interested to hear if you're tempted by any (plus they double up as platters if you're not using them for dining!) x

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  11. Stunning table setting Heidi, those chargers are a real winner & look like vintage plates, I just love them. I bet your guests were impressed upon their arrival to such a setting & what sounds like a tasty menu, and you are right, you can never go wrong with Jaimie. xx

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    1. They are gorgeous aren't they Engracia! I love the way they've managed to replicate the feel of the Isis original plates in something more mass produced. They really do fit well with the (very few) pieces I already have of Isis, so they've done well. x

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  12. Heidi - am besotted with those chargers! I use similar placemats in a couple of different patterns on a day to day basis, saving linen for the weekend, though we always use linen napkins. Your menu sounds divine - just the simple kind of heightened fare that make people comfortable and spoiled all at once!

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    1. I have to admit that chargers are a very new thing to us Australians - I remember reading my old Martha Stewart Wedding magazines 15/16 years ago and the registry suggestions had them on there.. and I couldn't work out what they were!

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  13. How beautiful your table looks Heidi. It's so good to see the younger generation enjoying and using beautiful tableware. I fear that so many of the young, don't appreciate antiques/good porcelain etc. xxx

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    1. No you're quite right. Unfortunately all the styling in the magazines (food mags etc) has focussed on the rustic and the white plate in the past 15 years, and I think as a result my generation is not quite so comfortable with the concept of "formal dining". Which is a shame because they are really lovely things to use, and definitely make everything feel a little more special. x

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  14. Heidi, I am new to your blog, but oh! how I love your table setting and style. Thank you for starting my day off here in California with elegance and inspiration.

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    1. I always love hearing from readers around the world! Thank you for dropping by and commenting xx

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  15. Heide, I like your idea of using the concept of 'accessories' for the dinning table. A mix and match philosophy rather than the dreaded matchy-matchy which always comes to grief when a few key pieces are broken. You have given me something to think about and also a determination to use my 'best' tableware more often. Thanks,judith

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    1. Definitely use the good stuff more often Judith! Those crystal glasses were all purchased at auction last year for $20/ glass. They're waterford and had stickers still on them as they'd been kept in a cabinet by the previous owner for well over 30 years. Such a waste!! And agree, you can always mix things up. I find if you look within the range of whatever brand china you have you can often mix in other patterns as they have the same base colour (the white of the china) within a range so they can somehow work.

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  16. Heidi - I just love the blues. Your taste is exquisite. I too live in Adelaide and have only just started up a blog to post about all things Adelaide and South Australian. Only this week I was inspired to do a post on how blue can be used in the home to add a pop of colour. I'm now an avid follower of your blog. It's beautiful. Kind regards, Sandra

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    1. Hello Sandra - I'll have to pop by your blog being a fellow Adelaidean and blue and white lover. Thank you for taking the time to comment too x

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  17. Well you won't be surprised to hear I love the setting. I do love the blues but unlike you I only have mismatched patterns but then that suits my style and lack of organization!!! I keep meaning to do a post and yet the lighting is always so terrible on the iphone in the evenings...

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    1. I agree with the iPhone pics. I'd love to be so organised that I had my big camera out taking better quality photos of the dinners I do, but I'm just more focussed on the food and the company… which is how it should be. But I'm hoping you'll do a post on your china soon, as you've never done one and I'd love to see what the self confessed china lover has in her cupboard!!

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  18. Just coming back to this for the third time, I love your presentation so much.
    That pattern and glasses are just the prettiest blue and love how you have that blue and white and traditional with the modern white chairs. Also ove how your wonderful light fixture and painting also add other dimensions. Your guest are lucky ducks!
    We have that multi colored thing going on and I love our glass plates - they are supposed to look like seaglass - but they are very scratchy when you're eating, so you have to talk loud over the top of it all.
    I'm a huge fan of presentation, esp as my cooking in not always up to par. I once read a party planner who serves champers and KFC, but on really lovely plates.

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    1. You're so kind Jody!! I love your colourful home, and love that you have sea glass plates too - they'd be stunning I think.
      I think table settings can definitely elevate the most basic of foods. Although I did watch with incredulity when I discovered that Sandra Lee show on US television when we were there around 8 years ago. Those tablescapes and the food made out of packaged ingredients was just complete train wreck tv for me! Her parisian themed show just about had me over the edge. I thought the feather boa, eiffel tower models, glitter and poodles really said Paris in a way the Parisians probably didn't think to do themselves...

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  19. Blue and white is such a classy combination!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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    1. You can never go wrong with Blue and White - still glad I have it after all these years!

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  20. My mother used to always put the desert or entree ? fork and spoon above the plates like you have , she told me it was the older way of setting a table..btw have the same silverware pattern ,,some ancestral stuff

    I love those plates, look like 18th C ? Chinese ceramics for the European market , I think :))

    Its cold here, esp my house

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    1. We're twins smr!! I think it is the older way - I couldn't fit the cutlery on in the more standard modern way with the chargers as they're so big and my table is just a smidge too small. Hence also the bread and butter plates at the top left. But my mum used to set the table like this, and so I do too :)
      Hope you're keeping warm.. it is a real winter this year! xx

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  21. Oh my goodness, I would love to sit down at your table one day. You have such an eye and everything is so pretty. Your dragonfly napkin rings are completely divine too. I absolutely agree with your sentiment of using "the best" for everyday use. Why not, life should be beautiful. xx

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  22. Beautiful, Heidi!! Luvvvvv your new plates! I sourced the same ones for a client. And I agree about seating guests: so much easier and less confusing!!

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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