Summer is here, and that means planning for picnics and patio dinner parties with friends. I just ordered a French bistro table-and-chairs set for my patio and am eagerly anticipating breakfast and The New York Times in the sun every Saturday morning until it’s too hot to bear.
But with the change of seasons, my winter table transforms, as well—and not just from indoors to out. The holiday reds and golds are packed away in boxes, and out come beautiful, colorful table linens (or crisp white ones) that complement fresh flowers and sunlight.
Recently I stopped by the Villeroy & Boch showroom to take a look at what’s dressing their tables this spring and summer. The 250-year-old Germany tableware company knows a thing or two about setting your table right.
Isabelle von Boch, Villeroy & Boch’s brand ambassador (and an eighth-generation member of its founding family) chatted with me about how to make sure your table weathers this welcomed seasonal transition. Her number-one tip is to add color, especially green.
“Color impacts our emotions and feelings,” she said. “And green, in particular, symbolizes vitality, health, prosperity and energy, and connects us with nature … so it’s essential to bring it into our homes to usher in spring.”
What’s more, green’s especially popular this season, as Pantone named “Greenery” (a spring-perfect light-green shade) its 2017 Colour of the Year. Here’s what else Isabelle had to say …
How are you dressing your spring and summer table?
For me, the secret to changing my table is all about placemats, runners and chargers. I have stacks of them. How do you seasonalize them? How do you make your table different? When someone comes over for dinner, I might have the same pattern on my plates, but they think I’ve changed my whole dinnerware set because last time the linen was all blue. This time I’m going to be all green. Next time I’m going to be pink, or beige, and so on.
It’s what’s under the plates that brings out the quality. It supports it. This spring, we’re all about green. Many of our decorative items have green because it’s about nature, and we’re inspired by nature. Glass chargers instantly add depth, dimension and interest to your table. Choose green glass chargers from the Verona line, for example, for a vibrant, spring-perfect dose of color.
Then, you support that with crystal. It’s all about mixing and matching, and you can use crystal every day. Crystal is very often synonymous with formality, but we don’t agree. Just think: When you drink juice out of a champagne glass, it just tastes better. Also, crystal glasses can be for dessert! I take a beautiful glass like the Boston Water or Wine Goblet and I put tiramisu in there. Or fruit salad in the morning.
Speaking of mixing and matching, spring is the best time to curate a lighthearted tone. That means forget being matchy-matchy, and vary patterns and textures — just like you would in a spring outfit. Put a plaid or stripe tablecloth against the floral-pattern dinnerware and solid chargers. It will instantly give dimension to your tablescape.
I collect runners, placemats, and chargers. In my cupboard, I have a wardrobe for my table because you can’t go out and buy a whole set of new dinnerware all the time, but you have to have clothes for your table.
You do all pink, you do all blue, you do texture, you can do wood, you can do stone, you can do cork—you have the same dinnerware and you make it look totally different. You can make it look formal, you can make it look casual.
Finish the look with napkins and even napkin rings, which are the perfect plus to put touches of green, other colors or materials (like metal and wicker) throughout. And don’t forget to add an element of actual nature with decorative greens or a bouquet of spring flowers.
You can create themes, but effortlessly. It transforms the mood. It’s about creating the ambiance.
What’s are you serving on your spring table?
I bring a lot of color in my food. I cook with color. I have a Mariefleur salad bowl that is really large. My husband and I fill it with colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s always raw, colorful vegetables. I grate red cabbage, add red, yellow or purple carrots, or Jicama to add color to the green salad that is the base.
The Mariefleur bowl has a subtle, sculptural leaf shape that makes it absolutely ideal for spring. You can fill it with anything from fruit to flowers. But I look for color, and I look for green. So I will use yellow carrots if I have lots of red and green. I like blueberries because of the antioxidants. I use raspberries or strawberries, but all organic because of pesticides.
My spring table is all about color, all about freshness, all about greenery. I start my day with green drinks, but I always have it in a glass because it makes you feel better. If I had it out of plastic, I don’t feel good. I tell people no condiments like ketchup on the table that are in ugly bottles because it is offensive to the eye.
What should you bring as a hostess gift to a dinner party this spring?
Beautiful, colorful vases, candle holders for the table or big statement pieces like the big double bowl from our bestseller NewWave. You bring it to someone’s house—it can be decorative, but it might have purpose too. I always like to give things that have functional purpose so you’re not just looking at it. You can do a bouquet in these, you can do floating candles.
For gifts, I love mini vases. A vase needs to be beautiful when there’s no flowers in it. I love the colors, too, especially this green. This is the color of the year; it’s called greenery. There’s so many shades of green, and it has to be the right one. I think people are aware how much color affects our emotion. You surround yourself with blue or you wear orange, but green is life, vibrancy, energy.
I also love bakeware as a gift, where you bring something you cooked and then you leave the new dish. Our bakeware comes in very popular patterns like Artesano Provencal or Mariefleur, for instance. It’s fabulous. Like you make brownies in them and you leave the bakeware with your guests. I love bringing a quiche and leaving the dish there, too. I also love bringing and leaving the salad bowl—any salad bowl is wonderful. As an eye-catcher, it is lovely.
Another nice, smaller gift are these beautiful coffee mugs of our series NewWave Caffè Cities of the World. Imagine, if someone just recently went to Toyko or London—these are hand-illustrated with destinations. It’s a cool gift. I always say to people it is much less expensive to set your table every day as if you were in Paris than to go to Paris. Or for Mother’s Day, you could put a theater ticket or a spa certificate in the mug.
What are some of the biggest food trends you’re seeing this spring and summer?
First of all, organic, GMO-free, no pesticides, local, sustainable food—more and more people care about that. I live in California and organic is going mainstream there. You finally have availability of fresh and sustainable food.
I think people are more aware of how much food impacts them, their emotions and well being. They’re more knowledgeable about this. There’s more education out there. Talking about food trends, think about diabetes… that’s reversible. It doesn’t have to exist if we taught our kids in school how to eat.
There is a movement about going back into the kitchen. There is a movement and an availability of information that wasn’t there before.
I also think food trends also have a lot to do with ethnic influences. The food trends that are globally available, you can follow and create. Middle Eastern food, Indian, Caribbean or Asian food is much more spicy, also much more interesting food. Even vegan food. For instance, five years ago, you could make a vegan dish and you’d be so bored because you’d have to eat boring vegetables. But now, I have vegan cookbooks coming out of my eyeballs, and it’s all so fresh and interesting.
Most of all, it’s important to not just worry about what you’re eating but how you’re eating: The relaxation, the sitting down. This is where we come in. It’s important to take it out of the takeout box. It’s important to put it onto a plate. It’s important to put it onto a plate and create a relaxing environment and ambiance.
BitchBiz: While this article was written independently, Bitches Who Brunch does receive compensation from Villeroy & Boch.