Irwin Weiner ASID - Are you one of those super-organized people who have all your holiday gift purchases wrapped up before Thanksgiving? I can only marvel at that. I wait until the last minute, but one thing is for certain - I will be purchasing a few copies of Alberto Pinto's Table Settings for good friends. It's filled with essential inspiration for tabletop fans.
Alberto Pinto is a highly respected specialist in photography, interior architecture and design, tabletop, and entertaining. I was not surprised that his generosity of spirit drives his love for entertaining and surrounding his guests with beauty, luxury, and whimsy. He respects guests who smoke, too, providing elegant containers for cigarettes at the placesettings.
His trick to making memorable tables is having vast collections of silver, china, stemware, linens, and other decor items on hand at his various residences - a Paris flat, a summer home overlooking the Mediterranean, and a NYC apartment. Company coming over? Not to worry. Mr. Pinto takes an average of 15 minutes to expertly style and dress a table.
He dips into his well-organized cupboards, pantries, and storage areas (beautifully photographed for the book, and certainly putting everything I've seen about storage to shame) and comes up with a glorious juxtaposition of objects which ranges from simple and refined to gloriously festive. He encourages readers to fall in love with flowers, crystal, porcelain, silverware, and interesting collections in general. When you have enough unique objects around to draw into your table fantasies, you'll spark conversations and stimulate the senses.
In the above setting, Pinto started with simple black straw placemats and elegant black-edged napkins then layered his colorful "Renouveau russe" dinner service, aged-silver cups, and antique silverware. The Big Surprise is in the center of the table, with a mossy pool of waterlillies. Fresh and punchy.
Old-fashioned glamour ignites many of the Pinto tables in the book, and I want you to look for his holiday table because it's a real eye-catcher. It boasts a red ribbon theme of Christmas Day and imperial silver plates from Elkington & Co. (c1881), reproductions of the service used by Catherine II the Great. This setting perfectly illustrates the principle that all great table settings begin with a decor and theme, grouping objects so that they tell a story - even when they're a diverse lot. Your table should be its own world, casting a spell of enchantment over your guests.
Even impromptu luncheons can be simple, yet elegant and thoughtfully prepared events (see photo above). Luncheons don't need to be as theatrically dramatic as dinners, of course, but they can be memorable. In the photo above, Pinto uses a simple spread on an elegant tablecloth, watched over by a whimsical bird. There's another lunch setting in the book that's a celebration of yellow and green, begun with the variegated yellow-and-green leaves of a silver-clad centerpiece to the tablecloth, jade green glass dinner service, and fascinating turbaned figure candleholders. The faux-wood pattern in his plates is fantastic, and notice the faux wood in the service pieces above.
If you like sheer luxury and panache, there is plenty to enjoy in this book - more silver, candles, rock crystal, and rare objects than you'll ever see in a lifetime. But aren't the colorful, humble, handcrafted Turkish earthenware place settings above lovely? Mix and match color on your table. A simple flower arrangement anchors the center of Pinto's clean white tabletop and whimsical silver swans watch over the diners. The colorful swatches of fabric tied around their necks are great touches.
I saved my favorite for last (see photos above and below). It's a symphony in black and white. The painting by Pierre Dmitrenko sets the tone, with the simple branches of the "Vieux Kyoto" service, silver birds by Luiz Ferreira, a whimsical frog and snails, and black and white flowers and berries in the centerpiece. Layered exquisitely, and I'm especially fond of the hunting scenes in the black-and-white Bohemian tumblers. Strong use of flowers, colors, linens, silver, and porcelain can reinforce any theme you'd like to set for your table, and Alberto Pinto's Table Settings will give you inspiration aplenty to collect, organize, and set up quick and luxe table settings in the coming year.