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Perfect place settings mix, match elements for holiday table

By Wevonneda Minis

Adding unexpected elements to your Thanksgiving table could take your holiday feast to the next level, local experts say. When it comes to perfect place settings, using a few stunning pieces with your everyday dinnerware can make an amazing difference. Thoroughly mixing new and inherited pieces for an updated look also is a great idea. Another possibility for adding excitement to your family and friends feast is to mix and match flatware patterns.

Local experts Mim Stein, Jeanne Smith and Charlotte Crabtree focus on making your Thanksgiving place settings perfect this year. Etiquette expert Cindy Grosso offers her thoughts on manners and more.

"There is a lot of the everyday stuff that you can jazz up," says Mim Stein of Open House Charleston in West Ashley. Those who already have nice everyday dinnerware such as Tag, a type of ironstone that comes in colors, can add a few accent pieces.

They can accent it with something such as Annieglass, handcrafted sculptural glass by a California artist, to make their tables extra special. Or they could simply add something nice like cute napkin rings to make their table more interesting.

More than half of those who purchase from the store are looking for something that is relaxed but a little elegant. Many have a lot going on and don't have the time to plan something too involved. Some simply choose to take their table to the next level by adding a decorative place mat of high-quality paper.

Mix and match

When it comes to colors, a lot of people are going into browns and more neutral-type hues. Others are doing something like orange and going in to navy and lighter blues.

Brides and existing customers at Vieuxtemps are mixing and matching pieces, says Jeanne Smith, manager of the King Street store. The different pieces bring new life and color to the table. Sometimes adding a natural rattan charger under fine china can be stunning.

While some brides are mixing patterns of new pieces, others are updating place settings they are inheriting to make them more contemporary and personal.

"We can pick up a color, or rely on a shape," Smith says. "We can go with a lot of the new patterns that adapt well back (to older patterns). It's a more interesting table.

"Colorful linens are always wonderful this time of year," Smith says. "They can be any color that you like. We are giving thanks for everything we have so the table should be happy and joyful and reflect the family that is celebrating."

Family affair

Don't shy away from setting a formal table because children will be dining, Smith says. It's a good time to teach them the correct use of flatware and table manners, she adds.

If there are inherited pieces on the table, older members of the family can tell younger ones about what was served in those pieces when they were children, Smith says. "Give thanks for not only the things that we have but for the family that we've had," she says.

Charlotte Crabtree, owner of the Silver Vault, says many hostesses and hosts in Charleston have inherited silver from more than one side of the family. They don't want to ignore either side, so they alternate place settings.

Crabtree also knows of several hostesses and hosts who collect odd place settings, which makes for an interesting table, she says. When there is a marriage of many different patterns, they select patterns to fit the individuals who will use them.

"A woman who has very classical dress might be given a very tailored pattern," Crabtree says.

Men tend to be larger and have larger hands, so they might be given a dinner size fork, where someone with small hands would be given a luncheon size, she says. The dinner size measures 7.5 to 7.75 inches and the luncheon, about 7.5.

"The china they are pairing the flatware with does not matter as much anymore," Crabtree says. "It used to be that everything had to flow, but we really have gotten away from that. The younger generations are focusing more on the experience and that's what the meal is.

"It's interesting when there is a mixture of pattern," Crabtree says. Such arrangements are sure to spark conversation because people usually have a story about the mix.

Cindy Grosso, a Charleston etiquette expert, agrees with Smith about using Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to teach young people about eating at a formal table and manners.

Grosso says teaching children how to dine properly equips them with the confidence they'll need to be successful in the future.

"Manners are the basis for confidence," Grosso says. What a gift that is, when you can walk into a situation and not be held back from a job or scholarship because you know the right thing to do.

"It's not about what the other people think, it's what they think of themselves. How disappointing is that for a child to be the one who doesn't know?" Grosso says.

If they are not taught table manners at home, they are not likely to learn them, she says.

Author: Wevonneda Minis

Source: The Post and Courier

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