By Karen Parr-Moody
If you want to spice up your dinner parties, brunches or lunches, take some cues from the mid-century era with its focus on saturated colors, geometric patterns and clean lines. Think: Pale blue Russel Wright serving pieces, bright yellow fondue sets and atomic starburst cocktail glasses. Mid-century tableware can turn entertaining into a fabulous pursuit. The bold serving pieces are conversation starters and the cocktail glasses make every drink toast worthy.
It’s easy to incorporate such looks from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s into your china cabinet and bar. For inspiration, just watch some episodes of Mad Men and then visit GasLamp, where you will find an array of vintage tableware with color and patterns to fit your style.
Southern California saw a mighty boom in the production of ceramics during the middle of the last century. During this period, more than 600 ceramic factories produced a swath of dinner ware in cheery colors and enchanting shapes. Both popular and practical, they included pieces such as this serving tray with a ruffled edge ($45; Booth T-166). It resembles Catalina Pottery, but the words “Hand Made California Ware” are embossed on the underside. The exterior is a satin-finish ivory color; the interior is glazed in a glossy turquoise. What a lovely piece on which to deliver cocktails or appetizers.
Serving pieces at mid-century parties ranged from lazy Susan ceramic pieces to petite trays. The range could be astounding and would surely have included many serving bowls. This Zodiac bowl is a prime example ($25; Booth T-166). Made of heavy glass, the bowl’s perimeter is printed with all twelve astrological signs in black and metallic gold. Above each sign is its name and below it is its date range. This is a must-have for your mid-century china cabinet.
Multi-compartment trays were common in mid-century dining, as hostesses wanted to offer as many delicious foods as possible on a buffet table (if she didn’t have hired staff to pass finger foods around on trays). Called a relish server or a crudité server, these trays would have shown off the hostess’s style in food and tableware. This vintage ceramic crudité server features five compartments, making it an ideal serving piece ($19; Booth T-166). To put a modern twist on an old-fashioned relish tray, you can thoughtfully arrange an assortment of pickled corn, olives and tiny French cornichons on this piece.
If you take the party outside, the easiest way to transport cutlery is via a charming caddy. Modern ones can be too utilitarian and lacking in style, which is why we love this vintage version from the Philippines ($9; Booth T-166). The woven basket, trimmed with raffia flowers, belongs to a fun category of mid-century souvenirs that became popular in the 1950s. These baskets of woven rushes resembled picnic baskets with ribbons and decorative fruits or flowers on top. This darling cutlery caddy reminds us of that time.
To host a proper party, it’s critical to serve each drink in the appropriate glass, so let’s make a toast to these mid-century modern champagne flutes ($45 for four; booth T-255). This set is adorned with atomic sunbursts in various shades of metallic gold, making them crucial for any retro bar worth its margarita salt.
The weather is still warm enough to host a party outside or inside, encouraging various possibilities for endless fun and frivolity. With enough mid-century modern pieces for entertaining, your parties will be as stylish as they are fun.