Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dinner for Eight or What to Do When Nothing Matches

Guests are coming--six or more--and you can't find matching crystal, plates, napkin rings, or flatware. What to do? Buy more? No, you have a cake in the oven and you need to vacuum--seriously.
What about shopping your house?
Absolutely.
Just mix and match, even if it looks like it will never work. White plates, clear glassware, and great food. If your mother is there, keep very, very quiet. Chances are, she won't notice. Chances are no one will care.
They key (if there is a key) is to keep symmetry where you can, and when you can't, throw caution to the wind and get wild. Like most people, I have four of this, three of that...mainly because great buys at Goodwill or garage sales don't come in perfect sets.


I kept the luncheon plates (the Lenox pattern) and the white napkins consistent. I thought about using colorful glassware, but I decided to save them for another party.
And that's it. It's a busier table than I normally set, and if I'd had room, I would have added more.
The more whimsy you can find, the better is my motto.
Do you see the mixing?
Let's play Where's Waldo with the crystal and napkin rings.

When it comes to entertaining, it is critical to keep a sense of humor on the table and above it. Especially above. At all times. No matter what. That way, when things get tense, you can look up, take a breath, and all is right in the world.

And add diversionary accessories.


For chargers, I used Big Lots and Baroque dinner plates (they're nice and large) with Lenox Winter Garden luncheon plates--bought at the local antique mall several years ago.


Linda Riley (Mom of a German Shorthair) gave me this darling Majolica bunny last year after my book tour.
The Limoges bowl has been with me for decades, moved with care from one house to the next.
The flatware is Towle Hotel service--all mismatched--and it's stainless, but when candlelight hits it, the metal glows.
This old bowl was found in a dusty shop in Watertown, Tennessee, about 25 years ago. I love the dolphin detail--a conversation starter if there ever was one!

A mismatched table is a metaphor for real life--everything is always better when it isn't perfect.


Check out the give-aways (see below this post or the sidebar for details) for a Kitchenaid mixer, 20 piece set of Treble Clef flatware, and 2 Le Creuset stoneware pears.
I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday, my favorite day of the week.

I will see my foodie friends tomorrow at Foodie Friday. Mr. Linky will be available at 8 pm central.

Dishes: Baroque by American Atelier, Lenox Winter Garden, Big Lots Claremont.
Crystal: Odd pieces
Napkins: Horchow (came with a tablecloth)

75 comments:

  1. It is a pretty table and I always think that conversation is the most important part of a dinner party anyway!
    With great conversation and plenty of wine, no one will notice!

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  2. You have a way of making anything look good. :)

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  3. Your table is stunning! Nevermind that even paper plates would look great in that elegant dining room. Your touches of whimsy are inspiring!
    Cheers, Andrea

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  4. Beautiful table in a beautiful room. I love your running commentary and practical decorating advice! Joni

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  5. Beautiful table. I don't like everything matching any way.

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  6. Michael, I have never set a table when everything matched, and most of the time, it doesn't even coordinate! Thank you so much for validating that it is okay to not match everything on the table. Your table is beautiful. That stemware is gorgeous! laurie

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  7. Good advice...I have lots of partial set dishes/stemware; each week I do the best with what I have.
    Beautiful room...love your eclectic tablescape.

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  8. Gorgeous - great advice on mixing and matching.

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  9. Oh my Michael Lee! The whole room is just amazing! Love the window treatments ... so beautiful ~
    Everything about the experience in this room invites dining pleasure~

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  10. ps. Do you have any ideas / links to share on wedding showers?

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  11. Michael Lee- you are right! When the focus is on the people and things aren't SO perfect- thats when the gatherings of magic happen! When everyone laughs a little more, talks freely, loves lavishly!
    Who is looking at the table? The room is spectacular!!!!! I do love the champagne bucket with flowers!
    Wonderful post as usual.
    BTW- I have a book club and I am going to offer one of your books for the selection for July! I can't wait!
    Yvonne

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  12. I love the little green bunny. So sweet.
    I have always liked a table set with mismatched crystal and silverware. It is like an art composition.
    Very nice table Michael. Relaxed and inviting.

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  13. Love it! Your mother has taught you well, Gollum! :-)

    Okay, I love the fact that you alternated the tall goblets... they look smashing. No pun intended. I love the use of the restaurant stainless that has that wonderful vintage look. Had you not told me, I would have guessed sterling. I love to be fooled that way!

    And you have a short goblet there that has me in goblet lust. Oh, to have a set of those!

    And I like your Lenox. And I want to steal your green bunny. Is he cute or what???

    Yes, you did a great job, and I like the fact that you added those elements of whimsy to your chandelier. Wonderful Wonder!

    Happy Tablescape Thursday to you, and see you tomorrow for FF. I did not cook (well, I heated something in a pan and Gollumed it with a little cheese and pepper), and it's good. ;-)

    XO,

    Sheila

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  14. Oh ML, what a pretty table with it all mixed up! I LOVE it! Noone could do this as well as you!!! I love the mixture AND it gives me inspiration to go ahead and buy 3 of this and 2 of that when I see something I really love but don't think "it's enough"!!! XO, Pinky

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  15. Absolutely charming!

    Jane (artfully graced)

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  16. Forgot to mention: trable clef!!!!

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  17. It's all beautiful! I love your sense of "imperfection" and not sweating the small stuff. :-) Love the stemware!

    xoxo
    Pat

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  18. Extreme beauty, frame after frame! I enjoyed this so much!

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  19. Gorgeous table! I love it...can't even tell things are mismatched.

    I also love Kitchen Aids, pears, and treble clef stemware. :-)

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  20. It is all beautiful! You did a great job!!

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  21. Your mismatched table is gorgeous, and you're so right; life is better when everything isn't quite perfect.

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  22. Your post made me smile. I love mismatched things~on purpose. Like wine glasses and goblets and silver, I have fun with that and ir reminds me of the days when it was really all I had! lol!

    Your table is beautiful. Your china is absolutely lovely and I love looking up at that chandelier and spotting a bit of magic. Very cool!

    Happy Wednesday, Michael!

    xoxo
    Jane

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  23. I have come to the conclusion that you don't know how to do anything unless it is stunning, I think you do the best "I don't have enough things that match" that I have ever seen, it flows beautifully and if I were at the table the last thing I would be thinking about would be if my setting matched someone elses, the pieces are just so pretty and look very well thought out....a little glamerous too, I like that, come for a visit my friend and see my rabbits.....Phyllis

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  24. I forgot to mention trable clef I adore that silverware...Phyllis

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  25. Elegant with a touch of whimsy...love the stemware and the chandelier! Gorgeous!

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  26. The chandelier is wonderful! I love all the mix matched for it all comes together so lovely! Michael this was great! So many wonderful things put together to make one elegant, whimsical setting!

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  27. Beautiful table in a beautiful room.
    hAPPY Fridays

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  28. I love a mixed and matched table! When you do it really well. It isn't that noticeable that things aren't matched. That is what you have done. I had to look really close to see the differences. Very stunning!

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  29. No one but you, child, could do this so well. You are, without a doubt, the Queen of Tablesettings any way you do it !! PERFECT!

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  30. bwaaa...I forgot to mention
    treble clef...treble clef..treble clef...:)

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  31. Hi Michael what a beautiful table and I love the mix and match I think it keeps things interesting. I do it all the time. I do not have 12 of any of my place settings. You are the master at this, Kathysue

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  32. Michael, with 6 children around, matching sets of anything don't last long. This is what I do, but I can only hope to do it half as well as you! Gorgeous
    xoxo Pattie

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  33. Michael, You have captured the art of mixing and matching to perfection. Your table is so elaborate and stately.

    One day I will learn to do that.

    Barbara

    Ps treble clef

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  34. Michael,

    Just exquisite. No one would even know that not everything matched.

    I loved the chandelier, too.

    Carol

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  35. p.s. Kitchenaid here for a keyword.

    I absolutely adore this post! also not sure if I commented on the thyme butter post but I enjoyed that one the other day also! ;) It always makes me smile to be here.

    In this post, I love the first photo with the crystal and napkin /ring and the drapery choice in your room is so beautiful! I love the idea of diversifying and I realized lately I also have a lot of mix and match. The last few photos with the glass goblet and the designwork on it is beautiful!

    I am always inspired here and wanted to express much gratitude for your art and love that you so willingly share here!

    have a beautiful day!

    hugs, Jenn

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  36. What's not to love with your elegant mismatched table. Beautiful.

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  37. This is just gorgeous, and if not right on top of it, you'd never know there was anything mismatched on that table! My favorite is the etched glasses.

    But is that a dolphin on your bowl? It kinda looks like a koi to me, but what do I know?

    Kitchen Aid! Treble Clef!

    Justine :o )

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  38. Somehow I could try that and it would not remotely look anything like yours. But it's a nice thought! It is so perfectly gorgeous. I love how your photos look three dimensional. Just beautiful!

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  39. Everything looks so perfect mixmatched, Michael. You couldn't even tell! And who cares about the table anyway when you can be in this gorgeous dining room! It is so elegantly beautiful!....Christine

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  40. Hope your morning is off to a sweet and sunny start. Loved, loved, loved the tablescape - and your term of 'shopping the house' was just perfect. I loved all of it but especially this part of your post: "A mismatched table is a metaphor for real life--everything is always better when it isn't perfect." Ciao, Bella!!

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  41. Oh how lovely! You are the queen of mismatch -- so many beautiful things to see on your table. How gorgeous!

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  42. Stunning; I have to set the table with mismatched when I want to use a place setting and I only have four and I need eight. And it happens when I have eight and need 12. This is beautiful. I like different too, it makes it more fun and interesting.

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  43. Your room is so pretty I would never notice anything that didn't match. I think the table is stunning. I love the way you tied it all together. I always have mismatched things. I guess I now think that is normal. Just gorgeous. Hugs, Marty

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  44. I love your table! Mixing and matching is the best! Everything looks so beautiful! You always set a gorgeous table every time.

    Karin

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  45. That is the encouragement that I need to not stress out and make everybody miserable because everything doesn't match...unfortunately, my mother notices and comments on everything! What did she do to me?

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  46. Beautiful table...thanks for sharing...Pat H

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  47. Everything looks beautiful. I really love your stemware.

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  48. Oh, Michael ... I don't know where to begin, so I guess I'll start with the green bowl with the dolphin detail. I was captivated by it (I've been to Watertown, but didn't find anything remotely as special!).

    The overall effect is dazzling. It's opulent without a hint of stuffiness or pretense. This would be a VERY long comment if I mentioned everything I admired about the table in its gorgeous setting. I'll just say I love it all!

    I love my Kitchenaid! Worth the price for whipping up fluffy meringue alone ... especially the price I paid at an estate sale! ;)

    Offering one as a giveway definitely qualifies you as the patron saint of Blogland. You're as generous as you are talented!

    Warmest regards,
    Bill

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  49. Everything is just lovely. Love the bunnies.

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  50. yeah sure...if I try that..be sure..some of my friends will notice!
    :))
    but...nevertheless...this is something I will try..I always panic when they say they are 5 and then arrive 6 o 7....aaaaaaaaaargh!!!
    (like tonight...made dinner for 5 and we are in 7!!! ok ok..I better get back in the kitchen...make some more!!!!)

    have a nice evening!
    baciusss

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  51. I totally agree with you. Your table is so elegantly set! Love the beautiful dining room...it's just perfect to celebrating special occasions and enjoying a delicious meal! Stunning!

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  52. Now That's a Dining Room!

    I would play dinner music on my flue only in the Treble Clef while Chef Bandwith uses the KitchenAid Mixer for accompaniment!

    Scribbler

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  53. What a beautiful tablescape - I just love all of the gorgeous details.

    Chelsea

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  54. Great taste makes everything match... beautiful table!

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  55. Michael Lee your table is downright stunning! love the mix, the green bunny, the gorgeous color on your walls, everything is lovely!

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  56. Michael-I think lots of people don't entertain because they think things have to be "perfect"--you certainly put an end to that idea! But, in the end, it is perfect! Love the chandelier!

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  57. The mismatched table is stunning. They are my favorite place settings. You could put anything in your gorgeous dining room and it would be stunning. I love it all. You always share the best.

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  58. It all looks beautiful! I LOVE the shot of the glass with the bubbles..wonderful..
    It's all been said..you do a great job, and such a beautiful room!

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  59. Exceptionally well done, Michael!

    I'm in awe of the ease with which you entertain & manage to convince us that we can all do it just like you, with a little practice & an eye for the unusual.

    The mixing of heirlooms & Big Lots items, the fun little surprise elements from the chandy, the exquisite photos of the bubbles in the glass...all wonderfully inspiring. You are a pro at this & I am very grateful that you share so much with us.

    fondly,
    Rett

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  60. ps. I forgot to say "thank you" for that GREAT newsletter about your camera & all the wonderfully helpful links! I've bookmarked each one & am slowly absorbing all that they had to say. Most appreciated!!
    R.

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  61. What a gorgeous room! I love the table setting and I like the idea of whimsey and mix/match. I think it is fun to put something out that will cause your guests to take a second look. It keeps things interesting!

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  62. Oh I forgot to write: KITCHENAID!
    Yahoo!
    Thank YOU!

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  63. Michael....I adore the mix-match look...it is my specialty. I have to tell you I have been coveting those hotel flatware for years. They are gorgeous :)

    Blessings!
    Gail

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  64. so beautiful... even the TREBLE CLEF flatware would look wonderful in this setting!!

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  65. You definitely have the perfect plan for a great party. Just throw in a lot of fun and the rest will follow :)

    Christi @ A Southern Life

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  66. Beautiful setting and your photography is fantastic!

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  67. With such an amazing dining room and such beautiful things, I'm sure I'd never notice if everything wasn't part of "matched" sets!!! WOW! So stunning!

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  68. That's beautiful! And thanks for sharing the great advice!!

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  69. Stunning table in an absolutely stunning room! Wow, what a visual treat. Thanks for all the advice and thank you for the recent review and advice and links on a camera. I hope to get a new camera soon.

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  70. Me again, I forgot to mention "treble clef". I so want to get my name in on these! :-)

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  71. The table is divine! Particularly love the patterned crystal stemware.

    -Brenda-

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  72. Gorgeous ideas. Thanks for posting.

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  73. Beautiful table! The mismatch is hardly noticeable and what is mismatched looks so lovely it looks like it was purposeful.

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