Your Grandma’s Plates Are in Demand
There was a (long) time when no one wanted to inherit Grandma’s prized wedding china, so valued she only busted it out for special occasions. Potential heirs dreaded the bequest, dismissing the service’s fussy pattern as twee. Instead they sought out minimally designed dishes that can clatter from table to sink to dishwasher without anyone’s crying out in alarm.
Recently, though, so-called grandmillennials—young, design-minded people who have found beauty in old-timey furnishings, virtue in recycling and delight in mixing and matching—are shifting attitudes surrounding such precious china. You only live once, they say. Use those beautiful plates.
Ginori 1735, renowned as one of the oldest porcelain maker in Italy, attests to the change. “Our average customer used to be between 50 and 60 years old, and now it’s running down to 27- to 35-year-olds,” said Annalisa Tani, the company’s product and brand director. “And this younger customer experiments much more.”
The pandemic can be credited partially for the new appreciation of fancy plates. Lockdown put the brakes on frequent dining out and, for some, plain dishes came to seem oppressively unspecial. “The trend has been super minimalist for the past few years, at least,” said Kate Holt, founder of the Ark Elements, an online homewares store, “but as people [retreated] into their homes this past year, [minimalist design] just isn’t doing it as far as joy goes.”
When she got married, Laura Redella, a 34-year-old Atlantean and former banker, registered for three different china patterns—all riffs on a palette of pink, orange and blue—that she knew she could mix and match in a way that looks intentional. “We use it day in and day out,” she said, “and I put it in the dishwasher, even the set with gold leaf.”
The three styles of china that Ms. Redella uses are all equally vibrant: Ginori 1735’s Oriente Italiano in Cipria; Mottahedeh’s Sacred Bird and Butterfly, a petite pattern in tangerine; and Haviland’s densely floral Dammouse. “Playing with scale is important, too, some small, some large,” she said.
In this way, younger generations put their individual spin on once-formal place settings, said Ms. Tani. Ms. Redella backs her up: “I do not set the table in the same way as my mother,” she said. “I stack all these plates and make it feel really casual...I think it’s how we make these really stuffy things feel youthful.”
“Everyone is a chef now,” said Ms. Tani, referring to the obsession with food presentation that Instagram has wrought. Ginori 1735 researches hashtags like #foodporn when trying to understand how younger people are connecting with their dinnerware.
Want to experiment with these mashups without investing a trencher of money? “Start with beautiful side plates,” said Ms. Holt. The secondhand market holds bargains as well. A set of 10 mismatched porcelain plates on Etsy can run as low as $28. Replacements.com offers single plates in hundreds of historical patterns for a fraction of their retail price. And take a lesson from Ms. Redella. “Use them and love them and look at them everyday,” she said.This article was written by Rebecca Malinsky and originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.