The Bohemian Dream

by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, IIDA TCW

We waited and we waited.  Garden parties were rained out, brides bundled up in their grooms' tuxedo jackets, and graduates considered wearing long underwear and Wellies beneath their caps and gowns.  For awhile there, we weren't even sure about the Fourth of July, but finally it arrived. Summer--and all the fun and entertaining that goes along with it, is in full-swing at last!  Whether you're firing up your grill on the sundeck, sitting out on the lawn at Ravinia, or traveling downtown to picnic as the Grant Park Symphony serenades you in Millennium Park, one thing is for sure--there's bound to be plenty of food involved. 

            Indoors or out, when the weather is warm the atmosphere for dining becomes casual, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be attractive and stylish.  Consider mixing your beautiful porcelain or silver pieces with the new wave of tin or plastic dinnerware.  Choose the tin-ware that's painted to look like fine china for a touch of class or bright melamine for a modern look.  There's even clear plastic stemware-not quite crystal, but unbreakable and much more elegant than a standard plastic or paper cup.  If you do want disposable, there are brightly colored paper goods with plastic coatings which perform far better than old, soggy paper plates and cups.  

            Try a real tablecloth instead of paper or plastic.  It doesn't have to be fine linen; even a twin sized flat sheet works well. Available in just the right size, color, and pattern--they fit the party theme and your picnic table.  Use a queen or king-sized size sheet for a large round table.  They are easy to care for and do double-duty in your guest room between parties.

            A beautiful tabletop can stimulate your appetite and even make the food taste better. So while you're planning the menu, also think about how you will dish it out!  Colors, patterns, and interesting shapes abound-use your creative genius to mix and match, setting a table sure to make your guests feel special.

The White Investment 

Stock up on classic white dinnerware and accessories.  The possibilities are endless and it will always be in style.   You can buy various colorful pieces to mix it up and change the mood with flowers and linens.

            It's hip to be square with Crate and Barrel's Square Service dinnerware (Photo #1) or soften it up with their Classic Century pattern. (Photo #2) Be patriotic and combine them with the blue or white Cove dinnerware and a red tablecloth and flowers. (Photo #3) Un Histoire de Bleue from French manufacturer Genevieve Lethu, is a collection of traditional blue and white patterns.  Introduce them to those solid white or blue pieces --perfect for everyday or a celebration.  (Photo #4)

            Janus et Cie creates quite an array of distinctive white accessories.  Use them as serving bowls, vases, or on their own for decoration.  The strong silhouettes are beautiful even when unadorned. The Fiori vase (Photo #5) is crafted of stone matrix and also available in charcoal gray.  Eggwhite vases and the marielle platter are of translucent white glass. (Photo #6) Add votive candles to shine through the fine porcelain finish of the Lace Light lanterns. (Photo#7)  Black and white plays together on these geometric patterns: Jugband, Bowlover, Juggle, and RicRac.  The hand fired clay has glazed interiors.  (Photo #8)

Nature Calls

And manufacturers have answered with patterns and textures from the forests, beaches, and oceans. 

            Nothing says "summer" like a seashell, so consider this Under the Sea Collection from Pottery Barn even when you're yearning for the beach in December!  The stoneware pieces are coated with a reactive glaze creating subtle variations and making each piece unique.  The serving shells are dishwasher safe and can be used with or without their bronzed aluminum stand. (Photo #9) The shell and starfish motifs on the salad plates are worthy of the Little Mermaid and can even be used to warm up your food in the microwave.  (Photo #10) She would also adore these fanciful napkin rings!  The clear silica glass sea creatures are hand-pulled by artisans experienced in the art of lampworking.  Each set of four includes a starfish, crab, jellyfish, and octopus. (Photo#11) Add this white porcelain coral vase from Janus et Cie to complete your under water theme.  Its' grand scale makes a lovely centerpiece, with or without blooms in each branch.  (Photo #12)

            Flowers and leaves cover the table on brightly colored linens from Unison.  The Juniper branches and leaves adorn double-sided placemats and napkins. (Photo #13)  Create an instant garden party with a Lush tablecloth and napkins. (Photo #14)  All are hand printed on cotton and made in the USA.  Add straw and bamboo placemats to create an exotic base for all your dinnerware.  Use them with everything! Go green with this bamboo leaf pattern from Crate and Barrel (Photo #15) and accessories from Elements (Photo #16).  The small bowl is carved from green agate and blends beautifully with the textured napkin and glassware.  The small sea shells are designed as salt and pepper containers, but use them for anything from barbeque sauce to hot fudge.

            This red lacquer lotus blossom stands alone atop its own black lacquer box, but you can fill it, if you must, with fruit or flowers.  (Photo #17)


Pack these up and take them along with you to your favorite picnic site, even if that happens to be your own backyard. 

            Everything old is new again.  Select your favorites from Pottery Barn. Galvanized steel has been recognized for its function for decades, but never has it been so user friendly and stylish before.  The riveted construction and clear powder coat finish make it classic in every way.  (Photo # 18).  Do you remember melamine dinnerware?  Well, it's back, with new and re-worked patterns that are poolside, picnic, and dishwasher safe.  (Photo #19)

Satisfy your thirst

Drink in the beauty of the sunset along with your favorite beverage.  Keeping hydrated in the warm weather is much more enjoyable when you are sipping from lovely glassware.

            The geometry and architecture of this stemware assortment from Crate and Barrel likens itself to the Chicago skyline and adds contemporary detailing to any table (Photo #20).  Feeling more traditional?  Then the tinted and embellished options from Material Possessions are the perfect choice. (Photo #21)

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