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How to Build Your Tabletop Wardrobe

These are some of my favorite dishes!

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With spring on the horizon, entertaining is top of mind once again! From Easter and Passover to Mother’s Day and Michael’s birthday, the warmer weather always means setting lots of tables. I’ve gotten some questions about how to decide which kinds of plates, glasses, linens and candlesticks are the right ones to invest in, so thought I would share a few of my rules of thumb when building your tabletop wardrobe.

What is a tabletop wardrobe?

Simply put, the arsenal you pull from when dressing your table!

How Do you Build It?

Any way you like! Some people collect over time, others buy full settings at once. The good news is there is no wrong way to dress your table.

Decide Which Pieces are Right for Your Tabletop in Five Easy Steps

Think about how you entertain

I often get the question: how many settings do I need? In an ideal world where storage and budgets are unlimited, 12 settings would be great! But, that’s not really very practical and I only have one full suite like this: my wedding china. Think about how you entertain. Do you typically set a table for 6? Get 6! It is nice to get an extra setting or two as patterns/colors get discontinued and occasional breakage or staining can occur, but don’t stress. You can also mix and match as you build up your collection! Also consider: will you be willing to hand wash. Many of my favorites require this level of care.

Start with a good foundation

We have a set of everyday dishes that we put through the ringer. I don’t set the table often with them anymore beyond casual dining, but for years, they worked beautifully while we focused spending elsewhere. So, my advice would be to get everyday dishes you love as they may hold you over for a while. Once you have that foundation, start with a color story or tonality as you build your foundation for entertaining. That way, each piece (dish or linen) you acquire goes towards the greater tablescape. You can also pepper in pieces like salad plates or glasses that are complementary but aren’t as much of an investment! And, FLORALS. Florals and a different tablecloth can change the whole look and feel of your table.

Stick to a concept or two

I am forever a fan of pastels and blue, so for years, built my tables around these color themes. Over the last couple of years I’ve branched out a bit, but I really try to build out specific color stories so that if I have a last minute idea (often) or inspiration strikes (also often), I can pull from my wardrobe to make a beautiful statement!

Add layers on every occasion

Birthday? Ask for candlesticks. Valentine’s Day? Ginori dishes. Easter? Adult bunnies should get baskets too. You get the idea. I really used to only get new pieces prior to a party (dinner, shower, etc.) but I’ve started to get tabletop gifts instead. I’ve built quite the collection in a short time! Shopping sale or secondhand is also a great way to collect! You can also pass down. I just gifted Elle an heirloom set of D. Porthault heart linens for her fifth birthday, inspired by the most gracious Kimberly Whitman’s collection (she has a beautiful shop, too).

Have fun and mix in playful elements

Cathy Graham is a storied hostess and she always has such fun with her tables. Mrs. Alice adds whimsical elements too. I always like to add a little something unexpected. It adds color and texture and gets people talking! You can also make these things functional, like tying your napkin with a piece of pretty ribbon, adding wrapped gifts to a birthday table or adding a party cracker.

A few Favorites From My Tabletop Wardrobe

Where to Shop for Tabletop

Here’s a Checklist for Your Tabletop Wardrobe / What I Put on Every Table

  • Dinner Plates
  • Salad Plates
  • Dessert Plates
  • Drinking Glasses
  • Wine Glasses
  • Napkins
  • Tablecloth
  • Silverware
  • Candlesticks
  • Taper Candles
  • Place Cards
  • Napkin Rings (Or Not!)
  • Florals
  • A Little Something Extra: Party Crackers, Bows, Gifts, Egg Cups, Topiaries, You Name It!

How To Build Your Tabletop Wardrobe

  1. m
    March 1, 2021 - 7:07 pm - Reply

    After 15 years of entertaining with my beautiful wedding china, I am sick of it! I have the entire 12 piece wardrobe of every plate size but never use more than 4-8 place settings at a time. I have recently bought myself a few pieces in a new pattern just to switch things up–even though I feel guilty cheating on my wedding china. As a bride, I was advised to buy a 12 piece setting but in hindsight that is just too much for my needs. I think it’s great advice to go with smaller numbers and build your way up. Now I wonder if I should sell half my china on Replacements.com

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Emily Hertz is an Atlanta-based, NYC-born lifestyle blogger with a passion for party styling and an affinity for all things beautiful. Explore Emily’s fashion favorites, entertaining ideas and tot-friendly finds.

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