Vintage tableware once dismissed as 'granny china' are making a comeback in restaurants and homes
At dinner tables and restaurants, vintage plates, even the flowery variety often disparaged as “granny china”, are making a comeback. There’s a move to homier place settings featuring mix-and-match dishes and plates.
The look is all over Instagram and Pinterest, where posts show delicate pink cherry-blossom plates and blue transfer ware with pastoral scenes gracing meals at the swankiest bistros and hippest lofts. Granny’s stuff never looked so good.
“The big white plate has had a heck of a run,” says restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, who says the rage for white plates originated in 1980s California. “It’s probably not going anywhere, but it has some new friends and some old friends.”
“People are mixing and matching more,” says Alyssa Longobucco, style and planning editor at the Knot, a wedding website and marketplace. “Couples want their home to feel unique and they like things that have history. They want something more than going to a big box store and buying 50 pieces of white china.”
She cites a renewed interest in family history. “Five or 10 years ago you would hear ‘I’m me and I’m modern and I don’t want any of that old world stuff’. Now they want middle ground.”
At Maydan, the interiors are what co-owner Rose Previte calls “mid-century modern meets the Middle East”. The mood extends to the previously owned dinnerware culled from around the world and used in a crazy quilt of table settings.
“With social media, you’re constantly looking for ways to make the food look pretty,” says Previte, who searches for old ceramic teapots, copper serving platters, and blue-and-white pottery at flea markets and thrift shops when she travels.
“The dishes express who you are, whether at a restaurant or your home.” Previte is a big fan of repurposing.
“I like things that come with good energy,” she says. “The plates come in here with their own story.”
Nick Pimentel, co-owner of American thrift store, Elle, says the menu and decor were inspired by his wife’s grandmother, Eleanor, who retired and was known for her pies and vegetable garden.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘grandma chic’, but it was part of our design concept,” Pimental says. Reacting to what he called the “sterile or industrial feel” of nearby eateries, he wanted a less stuffy look.
“We wanted to make it more warm, friendly, cosy and neighbourly.” He says 80% of the dishes are vintage, many with casual, country patterns. Some were picked up for less than R10 apiece at charity shops and antique stores, and some were “donations from our friends and family”.
Sets of formal china generally haven’t been in demand recently, and, as formal entertaining has waned, many downsizing boomers have got rid of theirs. But table scapes using older dishes are making a comeback in homes as well.
Replacements is a retailer of vintage and modern tableware, with more than 11 million pieces in its inventory. The “vintage” shop on its website is doing a brisk business. According to Julie Robbins, a Replacements marketing specialist, old china arrives at the facility every day.
“There are a lot of new uses for it. Vintage plates elevate the look of a table setting. It’s not generic but is affordable,” she says. “It’s more homey to mix up your china, especially if you have 10 people over for dinner and you don’t have 10 of everything,” says Liz Curtis, chief executive and founder of a tableware rental service.
“The table setting sets the tone for the evening,” says Curtis, who encourages customers to mix in family pieces with china they have hired. “If your guests walk in and it looks as if you spent time curating the table, it makes them think they are having an elevated experience.”
The Washington Post