13 Apr2008


I am a white plate kind of guy. In fact, when I envisioned and subsequently constructed our beach house kitchen, it was stocked with white plates of all sorts and clear glasses. A bit basic. But so easy to work with. It was that way for many years. Then we started using the place as a “storage place” for city cast-offs, for kitchen stuff I inherited from my parents and grandparents, for odds and ends that we purchased on trips around the country and the world. And when I am really bored, I troll through all this stuff and occasionally feel inspired to pull together a table with a bit of color.


My table dressing gene is a weak one. I am not great with color combinations and definitely did not inherit my mother’s family’s artistic bent. I would typically dress a table as I would dress myself on an average day… throw on some shorts (black, blue or khaki), a t-shirt (white, grey or blue) or if I am feeling formal, a pair of long khakis or jeans. So I was mildly surprised by this effort which resulted in a cheery, bright table for four, under a canvas umbrella, on a somewhat sunny day at the beach…


Basic brown/tan dinner plates and deep dark blue ceramic plates were both purchased at a Balinese ceramics exporter some 15 years ago at say $2-3 a piece and they still look terrific to this day. Glasses of varying colors but in a “pinched” style are throwbacks to the 1950’s and 60’s and I inherited them from my mom’s kitchen. Gorgeous and understated Japanese ceramic cups meant for tea, but sometimes used to boiled rice, in muted colors were a wedding gift from a Business School classmate, recently rediscovered from long-unopened storage boxes. The almost art deco dark blue cups look like cheap Pier 1 imports or votive candle holders, but are in fact 1940’s pieces from my grandmother’s kitchen/cupboards…


I didn’t try to match everything up. In fact colors appear rather randomly placed but I have to say between The Kid and myself, we re-arranged the items several times until we are happy. If you were really sharp, you would have noticed that one of the chopsticks is upside down; it’s bloopers like this that I hunt for in food magazine photos… :) The chopsticks sheathed in a basket weave (different colors) were purchased on a trip to Thailand several years ago.


And finally, the napkins, which aren’t napkins at all. But rather bright kitchen towels purchased at a Williams Sonanoma close-out store, for some 70% less than retail. I use them as napkins when they are brand new (first use after a machine wash) and then they become dish towels afterwards. In this case, these particular dish towels matched the color of the lisianthus centerpiece and my trunks, on the chaise longue… The water pitcher is one of my favorites, and we purchased it for a very reasonable sum at a Crate & Barrel store in the U.S. Care to guess what type of meal (up next) would be served on this rather jumbled and bizarre table setting?



  1. millet says:

    love the chopstick thingies, MM….where did you get them? i thought at first they were made of rattan or split bamboo, but the colors are so vibrant they’re probably made of woven leather? pray tell.

    Apr 13, 2008 | 2:25 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    millet they are rattan or bamboo, dyed all different bright colors…. couldn’t have cost more than $1 each pair in Bangkok flea markets. :)

    Apr 13, 2008 | 3:12 pm

  4. nikka says:

    Lovely setting. I think I would have added white placemats so all the colors could “pop.”

    Apr 13, 2008 | 4:28 pm

  5. bernadette says:

    I think it really is fun to just collect tableware of different colors, motifs and cultures…then play around with them as to table settings! My husband is also of the “safe” whites and browns tableware…so inorder to compromise, I go crazy with my centerpieces (meadow flowers and rainforest ferns). Nowadays, he goes more crazier than me with the centerpiece decor—like huge, overblown birds-of-paradise! But the tableware should still be whites or browns :-).

    I like your overhead photo, MM…napaka post-modern ng composition!

    Apr 13, 2008 | 5:09 pm

  6. sonia says:

    beautiful!!! a merry mix of colors and textures pulled together by the napkins and the flowers.
    white is great and safe . . . but used too often can be rather boring . nice to spice up the table occasionally with
    colored pieces. what a great looking pitcher — does it function as well as it looks?
    thanks for yet another treat,

    Apr 13, 2008 | 6:03 pm

  7. sonia says:

    Does the pitcher work as well as it looks?

    Apr 13, 2008 | 6:04 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    sonia, yes, the pitcher is extremely functional. Terrific to lay out several types of juice for a breakfast buffet as they don’t take too much liquid, but are so sculptural and beautiful. I think they are made in Poland, very reasonably priced at Crate & Barrel.

    Apr 13, 2008 | 6:26 pm

  9. Doddie from Korea says:


    Inspired by your blog, I have decided to start my own. I will try my best to emulate your vibrant posts, wonderful pics and sheer creativeness.

    I hope I would come close further down the lane, thank you for being a creative inspiration.


    Apr 13, 2008 | 7:13 pm

  10. chinachix says:

    love the composition of these photos, especially the first one.

    Apr 13, 2008 | 7:14 pm

  11. Homebuddy says:

    Whatever is served with that table setting will surely be good, leave it to MM, even simple and ordinary fare looks so yummy in his photos!

    Apr 13, 2008 | 8:17 pm

  12. natie says:

    lovely, MM!! the meal?? the one you throw together when cleaning out your fridge??? you’re so good at that! but then, only you would have exotic ingredients in the nooks of the pantry and fridge.

    the local pottery barn has their spring decor out..lime greens, peaches and yellows predominate.

    Apr 13, 2008 | 9:33 pm

  13. ECJ says:


    When I first moved out, everything has to be a set…silverware, china, glasses, utensils, pots and pans…you name it, I got a set. As I got older, my thinking has changed and now anything goes… It frees you up in a lot of ways…and the combination is limitless…

    What are you serving? Spaghetti with Swedish meat balls and hot pandesal with garlic butter…

    Apr 13, 2008 | 10:58 pm

  14. shalimar says:

    MM we have not been cruising much these days so not much table arrangement.. I have kosta boda glasses handblown that are just bursting with colours…
    just need a dose of MM read after days of no internet.. am here in abacos,bahamas

    Apr 14, 2008 | 12:09 am

  15. dhayL says:

    I’m guessing something “asian with a twist” type of meal because of the chopsticks! hehehe

    Apr 14, 2008 | 1:19 am

  16. The Steak Lady says:

    I love this post!! it inspires me to use my colorful plates. and i love your place!! looks so cozy. Happy summer,MM! =)

    Apr 14, 2008 | 3:05 am

  17. Belle says:

    This is your beach house MM? So nice! Have a good one.

    Apr 14, 2008 | 4:02 am

  18. quiapo says:

    Lovely setting, but I understand your preference for white plates, which are not only like a blank canvas, but enable you to discern detail of the meal.
    From memory, John Pettyjohn of Pansol potteries used to handcraft light coloured stoneware dinner plates, and I am sure he is still at his Los Banos(Pansol) pottery.
    You used to be able to buy beautiful mud crabs by the roadside on our visits there.

    Apr 14, 2008 | 9:35 am

  19. elaine says:

    I’m quite partial to the classic whites and anything blue (think: delft pottery)but your colored glasses are LOVELY!!! And so are the chopstick sheaths!!!! They are really AWESOME!

    Apr 14, 2008 | 11:52 am

  20. elaine says:

    I meant delft blue…we have quite a few good local potters such as lanelle, ugu and/pettyjohn but I must say that from what you have featured so far, the ones from your mom’s/grandma’s era (vintage) always stand out!

    Apr 14, 2008 | 12:01 pm

  21. linda says:

    If not for the chopsticks,I think Mexican or Mediterrenean cuisine will be appropriate for this very colourful setting,but whatever you have prepared I’m sure it’s gonna be exciting and delicious!

    Apr 14, 2008 | 2:53 pm


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