It’s a fine time for fine china

Fine china — the delicate, sometimes fussy tableware long associated with wedding registries and your grandmother’s cabinet — has found a new, more relaxed place at the table.

Whether a Herend soup dish adorned with a wild boar or a gilded Lenox dessert plate rimmed with a Greek key pattern, fans of using fine china, which is usually made with porcelain, say it makes everyday meals far more celebratory than the minimalist earthenware popular in the past few years ever could.

Laura Chautin, 29, an artist in Manhattan, said that spending time at home led her to use her “good plates” more.

“Plates that I had been saving, I now use them every day,” said Chautin, who has also made a collection of porcelain tableware featuring delicate floral patterns. “It just feels special — why not use things that make you happy on a day-to-day basis?”

Michele Mirisola, 31, an artist in Brooklyn who owns a set of gilded Homer Laughlin plates, agrees that “if you’re not partying as much in restaurants and bars,” fine china is “a way to class up what you’re doing at home.”

Inspired by the colors of Delftware, a style of Dutch tin-glazed pottery, Mirisola has made a collection of patterned clay tableware in a blue-and-white palette for her line Chell Fish.

According to Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert at Etsy, there was a 39% increase in searches for fine china on the site in 2021 compared to 2020, and a 28% increase in searches for antique and vintage porcelain dinnerware.

Dawn Block, vice president of collectibles, electronics and home at eBay, said that site has seen a similar increase. “Since this time last year, eBay has seen a significant surge in searches and sales for china and porcelain brands including Lenox, Noritake and Herend,” she said.

There has also been an increased appetite for fine china at some secondhand shops.

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Elise Abrams, 71, owner of Elise Abrams Antiques in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, began collecting porcelain plates in the 1970s. Her shop, which opened in 1989, sells an array of china decorated with motifs ranging from floral to fish and game. Lately, she has noticed an uptick in clientele looking for it.

“There are more young people coming in and being excited, saying, ‘Now is the time, I’m bored and I want to set the table,’” said Abrams, who organizes her store by color. (Over the past year, she said turquoise-colored pieces have sold particularly well.)

Of course, for some, using fine china casually has long been a part of daily life. Maryline Damour, 52, an interior designer who lives in Kingston, New York, grew up in Haiti and said that it was customary for her family to set two formal tables a day. She has continued this ritual, using china taken from her mother’s home in Haiti, as well as pieces bought at antiques stores in Kingston.

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

“I’ve never saved stuff for special occasions,” said Damour. “I have one set from CB2, but everything else is English china, like Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. It’s just what I have, so I use it all the time.”