Privilege Blog

Get Ready For The Holidays, Decorate Your Table First

American Thanksgiving is on the way, Christmas and other winter holidays not far behind. I say that in a very benign tone of voice, no cause for alarm. The commercial forces of the world want us to focus on presents and decorations but all I can think is, time to start feeding people.

I was in Crate and Barrel the other day, buying small wineglasses for my Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol project, and white plates for the other key initiative, Not Having To Do Dishes Every Time We Eat. I surveyed the vast landscape of white china, and I thought, how to make it festive?

The secret trick is salad plates. Right? The simplest way to add some color to your table, without shaming the mixed white plates you’ve accumulated over the years, is to go fancy for salad. If you like traditional red hues, this Palladian Salad Plate, from Wedgewood. is on sale.



But you may prefer a more urban palette, i.e. a gray/platinum approach. Maybe these, from Waterford. Hmm, not on sale. City life is always more expensive.


Or go hog wild with enamelware in black and white checks from Mackenzie Childs. You’re looking for a pattern that starts at Makes An Impact, but bows out before Isn’t That A Bit Loud Dear?


Finally, a different approach. to help support the ongoing effort, Eat Reasonably And Fit Into My Jeans. Slightly derivative of the gorgeous, outrageous Hermès Balcon Du Guadalvir china, in a good way. And on sale.


Plates that help you, gently, with portion control. Festive but not overfull. I rather like that idea, as we enter the season of Eating To Get Through Winter In The Old Country, If, And Only If The Old Country Is Very, Very, Very Far North.

Let the Butternut Fairy Dance begin.


Note: some links above may generate commissions to be donated to Dress for Success.

48 Responses

  1. The white china is something of an obsession for us, we’ve no end of pieces (especially serving pieces) that aren’t all exactly the same white. We love them just the same. It helps tone down the isolated Mackenzie Childs usage. :)

  2. How did you know about the stacks of white dinner plates — do we all do that? (and here I thought I was being so clever ;-)
    I love the cheeriness of that red-and-white pattern and may just have to look for something similar. Although increasingly, the kids are setting the tables at their places and we’re just happily showing up. . .

  3. Have been a white plate user for decades. So easy and so free to use whatever placemats or table cloth suits. Love the Mackenzie Childs.

  4. My friend does some designing for Mackenzie Childs, and her stuff is great. I have lovely blue and white Royal Copenhagen and use small white plates to tone that down. Not that it needs much.

  5. I ended up with what was left of my great-grandmother’s china. Somewhere in the mists of time, the dinner plates disappeared, so I have a large set of luncheon plates pretending to be dinner plates, which are perfect for portion control!

  6. I’ve been on the hunt for tartan salad plates for the holiday table – I’m feeling like taking it up a notch this Christmas.

  7. Best I don’t count the salad plate variations in my over-engineered cabinet. White with gold rims. Blue, red & gold imari. Antique painted fruit variations. Celedon. Thinest white with subtle texture. Thank goodness the second floor of Gump’s doesn’t have the pull of days gone by.

  8. While I admire the fun factor of bright patterned china I am now a converted and dedicated ALL white china hostess.
    It’s true about some wine glasses, there are so many large ones on the market that it is easy to sip too much. The vintage cornflower wine glasses of my mother’s era were too wee though…just like the martini glasses in the same pattern…so wee that you might consider using a thimble instead!

    Please show us your Thanksgiving Harvest table when you’ve set it Lisa.
    I’d love to see how you’ve put it all together.

  9. With the most recent dinnerware purchase I noticed that the salad plates are getting much closer to what the dinner plates used to be sized at. It was a little alarming.

  10. At times like these, I doubt my Artsy Cousin credentials because food patterns/colors set on top of china patterns/colors agitate me highly. So for this hostess to be calm, she’s gotten it DOWN. A 14″ rattan charger sits down directly on the wooden table, on top of that goes a PB Great White Dinnerware 12″ dinner plate, on top of that goes an ironed/folded Sferra basic hemstitch linen napkin [Neimans] [in one of a range of colors that “signifies” what time of year it is] [on sale right now so I”m ordering!], and on top of the nap will finally sit a bit of something pulled from nature outside my door, a sweet gum ball, a shiny magnolia leaf, twig with an acorn intact, etc. IOW, always the same, but always different.

    1. Interesting – I’m like that about clothes but I enjoy a chaotic table. Maybe that comes from being one of four children?

  11. You have inspired me to start considering my Thanksgiving table somewhat earlier than the morning of the holiday; thank you. And please let us know if you succeed in finding attractive wine glasses (especially red wine glasses) that hold less than a gallon. I have been trying to do this for years, only to be told that red wine needs an enormous glass because it needs to breathe more, and I need to appreciate the aroma, etc., etc. I notice that my Victorian forebears managed without oversize glassware (sadly, theirs is broken now), but of course, they knew nothing about wine . . .

  12. My mother had the most elegant china which she got as a wedding present in 1967: plain white with a very narrow band of silver at the outer edge of each plate or cup. She died many years ago and it sits unused in my father’s china cabinet.

  13. As an antique (or just old) china collector I’ve amassed white linens to highlight the Adamsware Currier & Ives, Reynolds by Spode, Italian Fruit by Ginori and other glorious examples from the stash.

  14. I have missed commenting on your earlier posts for the simple reason that I have been busy; ).Grr.
    But about the china ( bone china ) gotta be white – definitely. You have to be able to see what you are eating.
    The colorful, smaller ones are ok for private snacking.

  15. Food looks terrible on those checkerboard plates. Drabware is always a great choice, but Martha owns most of the availabe stock of the original Wedgewood. I think finding amusing salad plates, dessert plates, rim soups, etc. at thrift stores and estate sales is fun.

    1. Interesting you would bring up Martha and her drabware as she set her T-giving table w/ it on her blog yesterday. FWIW, I checked my favorite website for china patterns and, wow, they show Wedgewood Drabware available in two categories, “older” and “newer.” Here is current availability in the “older” category:

  16. All my “china” is speckly blue Michael Graves stoneware from Target. I love dishes that I don’t have to worry about. And in mid 40s, nothing larger than a salad plate is even needed!

  17. My “good” china is white porcelain with a textural band. I’m looking forward to using it at Thanksgiving, along with the turkey pinecone centerpiece.

    We have tiny old wine glasses. The aperitif glasses hold about a thimbleful.

  18. As the only 59 year old woman you will ever meet who is named Mackenzie…let me just say what a thrill it is to have enamelware named after me.
    Just joking.
    I do think M-C stuff is pretty great, in small doses, and I like your suggestion about using dessert plates to mix things up a bit. I also like Site Corot’s tableware…
    It may be a bit too Marrimekko-ish for some, but it was my wedding china. The Wasband is gone, but I still have the china!

  19. I like very minimal design and neutral color in clothing, but I’m all for over the top china, crystal and silver. I love a very fancy table.

  20. I like a plate to frame the food, which to me means a light colored plate with a colored rim of sorts – the Wedgewood is lovely.
    The first thought that came to mind when I scrolled to the checkered, was dinner with the Mad Hatter! So whimsical.

  21. I cannot imagine you with MacKenzie Childs! I adore white plates because you can present the food so beautifully. You’ve made me think I must get all this stuff out and practice setting my table again.
    Sending love…

  22. I have white bone china – a very sturdy inexpensive set. I want to get some colored salad plates, but in solid colors – maybe a beautiful green.

  23. Festive and fun with a hint of drama: Last couple of years I have had a blast using our everyday dishes, a black and white Royal Stafford toile pheasant pattern, with red Target cut glass stemware, goldplated flatware, a harvest gold RL tablecloth, Fitz and Floyd Holiday Solstice serving bowls and platters, which together create a rich mix of color and texture and the perfect backdrop for the feast. Love that dishes, utensils, and glasses can go in the dishwasher at day’s end. Yahoo!

  24. Oh yes, indeed- when did wine glasses start to compete with a Big Gulp?
    As for me, Lenox Holiday, a gift from my husband. We use it from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Just the two of us at home, now, so hand washing is not a problem. After my years in boarding school I find white a little too institutional. It is interesting to consider what informs our choices.

  25. Having run through a gamut of coloured china in my past now much prefer my white porcelain for daily use,bone for ‘high days and holidays’.

  26. Tish, I love your plate choices. Of course, I want the Hermès ones ;)

    The smaller glasses for wine, though, don’t really work. We can manage our own consumption, and as a host, provide many attractive alternatives- but serving wine in small glasses makes the hostlook cheap. (Not advocating oversized glasses, just average ones.) I call those little wine glasses “wedding reception glasses”.

  27. White plates, ha. Mine all got broken and I haven’t replaced them yet finding myself unable to decide. Since it now seems I am hosting Thanksgiving, I suppose my great-grandmothers overly dainty looking floral china will come out to play.

    Of course I love the Hermes. For me it is either plain, plain, plain or full-on drama.

  28. Our wedding china has finally arrived. It is Wedgwood White – ten each of three sizes of plate (thank you for your wedding registry advice!) and soup bowls (I like those ones with the flat rim! and they are quite small), and two serving platters. It was all very practical when I chose it: Wedgwood have been making this pattern since the 1920s so it should be easy to add to as we grow and/or break things, and plain white is plain white. (Although of course bone china is not porcelain, but that’s another story and one I will try not to fret about). I did not know it was possible to get so excited over white china! Opening the boxes I was suddenly transported into heady dreams of dinner parties, Christmases, daily family meals around the kitchen table year in, year out. (Of course it’s all staying at my parents’ until we move somewhere bigger and we will continue to eat off the chipped hand-me-downs until we’ve an actual cupboard in which to keep our plates, rather than one shelf!). But I also have a collection of patterned side-/ bread-and-butter plates (blue transfer ware and pink Sunderland lustreware) picked up at jumble sales and antique shops over the years and wasn’t sure what I’d do with them … and now, obviously, I realise I can mix them right in! Impunity.

    Thanks so much for this. I love reading your table-setting and wedding-registry-type advice almost more than anything. (‘9 Tricks and Tips for A Generous Aristocratic Table, On A 2010 Budget’ is bookmarked on my computer, and sometimes I read it for inspiration, and sometimes just for pleasure).

    Those Balcon Du Guadalquivir plates are breathtaking. I hope I might be invited to eat from one someday by someone as yet unmet! My parents, in their very different way, eat celebratory meals from plates made by the British ceramicist Sandy Brown. ‘Gorgeous’ seems inadequate. Works of art in their own right, they make everything (and everyone) feel special, and bring untold cheer to the table.

  29. You got me at Hermes Lisa..I think it would be a fun addition to a white plate. It has been years since we celebrated Thanksgiving. It is just so much more fun in the USA. The food is right, the weather is right, the entertainment is right and the next day shopping is so right. We do not have the Thanksgiving holiday and having a turkey dinner on a school night when the family is spread out across the globe is not the same. We save it all for Christmas and go all out!

    On another note…thanks so much for your contruction tips for Tahilla Farm. I appreciate them all! I will be thinking rock and wood as we plan… ;)

    Warm wishes from Saigon…xx

    1. I did do an Asian-flavored Thanksgiving a few years back:). I can’t wait to see Tahilla Farm develop. If you ever feel like doing a guest post here and sharing a few shots, just let me know!

  30. Goodness, I’ve never managed to aspired to anything other one than one all purpose collection of slightly varied white plates. If they weren’t too chipped then they were good enough to feed people from!

    I did/do have a variety of pretty Royal Albert rose printed tea cups and side plates for playing ladies with when we had afternoon tea.

    And I had about 10 really useful glasses that were a narrow v shape (like a smaller, narrow version of a martini glass) so they worked well for cocktail dos but were okay for wine or punch or whatever too.

    Still, storage is an issue for that this kind of stuff. It isn’t used often and it takes up a fair amount of space. In our small one bedroom flat, we generally don’t entertain at home and we don’t have room to store anything extra. It’s quite nice.

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