bohemia ceramic work dinner plate
Use me! This gold-trimmed Bohemia Ceramic Work dinner plate, circa 1918, is too pretty to hide away.

Produced by Barri Leiner

Who among us doesn’t have some fragile old family china stashed away, its sentimental value as huge as the space it takes up? We reach for it less and less often these days, as our need for a Louis XVI–style gravy boat wanes. And yet, we’d rather not give great-grandma’s china the heave-ho. We’d like to use it. For ideas on how to work vintage pieces (in this case, from an early 20th-century Czech set) into modern table settings, we visited four stylish shops, and came away ready to eat cake-à la mode.


Four ways to make it work:

1. Lighten the look.

Polka dots give the setting a young feel, as does playing up a cheerful accent color-in this case, red. Layer the antique dinner plate between clear glass pieces for casual elegance.

Larabee Dot charger, $100, and bowl, $50. Pompano Point stainless steel flatware, $55 per place setting. Pebble Point stemware, $35 each. Red Larabee Road tidbit plate, $80 for a set of four. Adjective place cards, $18 for a package of eight. Alicia Shulman "cherry pie" beads, $265.

Kate Spade, 101 E. Oak St., 312-654-8853

china from Kate Spade in Chicago
chine from tabula tua in chicago

2. Vary shapes; lay on the gilt.

Leaf-shaped plates and curvy flatware add an organic feel. Repeating the antique plates’ golden shimmer in other elements-even in the opalescent placemat-holds the look together.

Fiorella mouth-blown stemmed wine glass, $49, and Tessa cup, $24, by Juliska. Michael Wainwright 18k gold vermeil dipping bowl, $80. Rock Rose side plate by Mustardseed & Moonshine, $50. Aspen Leaf bowl in 18k gold vermeil and enamel over copper by Kiln Design, $165. Vuelta white ceramic soup plate by Jars, $26. Artichaut 18k gold and stainless steel flatware, $315 per place setting. Capiz shell placemat by Asiaphile, $88. Brutus beige linen napkin by Daisy Hill, $36.

Tabula Tua, 1015 W. Armitage Ave., 773-525-3500

3. Mix colors, patterns, and textures.

Bold geometric and floral patterns and colorful striped glassware are pure fun. One last surprise: traditional-looking flatware (in stainless steel) on the earth-toned napkin.

Margherita charger, $123, and sugar bowl, $108, by Missoni Home. Siesta bread and butter plate by Hermès, $65. Ajka Crystal Trading Amber stemmed glass, $40, and water glass, $42. Japanese Bird stainless steel flatware by Ricci Argentieri, $75 per place setting. Lanai Collection linen napkin by Sybaritic Industries, $32. Deborah Rhodes brown lurex placemat, $28. Lady Rhubarb scented candle, $35, and handblown salt and pepper shakers, $38 per pair, by Douglas Little.

Barneys New York, 25 E. Oak St., 312-587-1700

china from Barneys New York in chicago
china from lille in chicago

4. Take things in an Asian direction.

The freeform bowl,  slim-handled flatware, and understated placemat keep the mood modern. A sleek teapot and cup add subtle grace notes. R&Y Augousti beige stingray bowl with brass bottom, $220. Chrysanthemum teapot, $105, and cup, $20, by Asianera.

R&Y Augousti stingray box, $108. Juliska mouth-blown stemware (small, $49; large, $52). Certo stainless steel flatware, $210 per place setting. Chilewich "plynl" placemat, $13. Starlings silk scarf by Agnes & Hoff, $102.

Lille, 1923 W. North Ave., 773-342-0563

Photography: Tyllie Barbosa