Four pros share their perfect place setting and tips for creating your own

Get your home set to celebrate


Table setsVintage English Teacup

English-born Vanessa Gilbreath launched her vintage china rental company after hosting a viewing party at her Marietta home for Prince William’s wedding. She was inundated with guests, who went wild over her tea sets and family china. Since then, she’s amassed more than 1,000 mix-and-match place settings from country house auctions and British manufacturers, which can be rented for weddings, dinner parties, and other events across the Southeast.

What’s special about English china?
When I was growing up, we would visit stately homes and salivate over the dinner sets on display. I worked as a nanny at some rather special country homes and castles and was able to fully explore the butler’s pantry and develop an appreciation for the quality. Also, visiting the sites where china and porcelain have been made for hundreds of years gives me an appreciation of artistry and craftsmanship that I love to share.

Do you have a favorite?
I adore chintz, which comes in a myriad of styles, colors, and patterns. Most popular is the Summertime pattern, which features deeper pinks and burgundies, but the yellow backgrounds with sprinkles of wildflowers are hard to beat. Then there’s paisley chintz—extraordinary!

Any advice for mixing patterns?
Relish it! I like to pick out one color on a plate, often from many colors, and then find another piece that features that color, too. Nothing’s wrong if you like it.

You’re from the land of manners. What tabletop “rules” do you break?
Just because a boullion bowl is made for boullions and soup doesn’t mean it can’t hold shrimp and grits or ice cream. Use teapots for florals—it’s whimsical. And plates are fun: Hang them on the walls! A rule I follow: Always lay flatware correctly—do not confuse your guests.

Credits: Linen and placemat, BBJ Linen Rental, 700 Miami Circle. Bentick by Royal Cauldon dinner plate, Minton salad plate, Minton bread plate, Charnwood by Wedgwood boullion bowl, Westland by Wedgwood demitasse and saucer; all available to rent from Vintage English Teacup and her Etsy site (minimum order $400).

Table sets

Photography by Jason Lagi

Khristian A. Howell

Lifestyle designer, graphic artist, and author Khristian Howell creates bright patterns and poppy motifs she licenses out for everything from iPhone cases to wrapping paper, cards, and pillows. Formerly a textile designer for Nordstrom, Howell boasts perfect color vision (that’s a thing) and makes use of it as a trend and design ambassador for AmericasMart. She has also served as an expert source for the likes of HLN and Real Simple, where she gives tips for creating happy spaces and hosting perfect parties.

What new tabletop trends are you loving?
Mixed metallics are the new normal, but don’t sleep on silver. It is coming back strong to mix up the warm metals we’ve embraced for years now. Colored glass is coming down the pike, and I’m also loving matte black—in flatware, glass, and even stainless appliances and hardware in the kitchen.

Do you make your own placecards?
These were made by local designer Niki Malek of Hey Lux. I love them because they are a great illustration of how a true artisan can make what is so elegant, expert, and well-crafted look completely effortless.

What’s your trick for modern florals?
This is a preserved plumosum from South Africa (thank you, Anthropologie!). I am so color-driven that I am usually drawn to making one strong color statement with florals. I like them to feel quite easygoing and have that I-woke-up-like-this sensibility.

What else makes a table feel special?
Candlelight—even in the daytime.

Credits: Glenna dinner plates ($88), Waterfall glassware ($16), preserved floral ($28 for eight flowers); Anthropologie. Dinner plates, bread plates, flatware; Peachtree Tents & Events rentals. Stones, Blue Ocean Traders, AmericasMart.

Table sets

Photography by Jason Lagi

Parker Kennedy Living

Lance Jackson and David Ecton, the eternally preppy pair behind interior design firm Parker Kennedy, are known for their retro Palm Beach style and a flair for entertaining. Over the years, they’ve accumulated a warehouse full of vintage and antique furniture, china, and chinoiserie, which they sell via Chairish and Instagram. Their current major design project is their own—a century-old Mediterranean Revival in Commerce that once belonged to Georgia governor L.G. Hardman. The dining room will seat 14. @parkerkennedyliving, @pklthecellar

What is your all-time favorite china pattern?
Antique Rose Medallion (on egg cup) and Antique Famille Rose (bread plate). We love them because of the mix of colors—pinks, blues, green, and touches of orange. They can pair with almost anything.

Where are the best places to collect?
Auctions are a great place to find the best of the best without a heavy price. We love the hunt and get so excited if we’re in a small town on a backroad in the middle of nowhere and find an 1800s piece of Rose Medallion. I always try to imagine how it got there—who owned such a fine piece of china and what all it has seen in its lifetime. We have around eight sets of china right now.

What tips do you have for incorporating florals?
Arrange fresh-cut flowers in multiple vases and heights. First, always cut your stems at an angle and sear the ends with hot, hot water. Add a tiny bit of bleach to the vase to keep flowers fresh.

Credits: Custom emerald green and white Schumacher chinoiserie tablecloth. Vintage white Fitz and Floyd pagoda-style salt and pepper shakers.

Table sets

Photography by Jason Lagi

Emily Hertz, Born on Fifth

Emily Hertz, the fashion and lifestyle blogger behind Born on Fifth, celebrates nearly any occasion and doesn’t hold back (she brought in an Atlanta Ballet dancer for her daughter’s Swan Lake–themed second birthday party). The former director of marketing for Spanx is now a party stylist known for tabletop spreads that are classic, decadent, and overflowing with blooms. You can shop her style (including china and flatware) on her dreamy-hued Instagram and website. @bornonfifth

What floral trends are you seeing?
I am always fond of big-faced flowers like garden roses and peonies, but carnations are certainly having a moment—who would have thought? With carnations, color is key. Go for nudes or dimensional tones. Red carnations are still reminiscent of Valentine’s Days gone by. For tips, I’d reference Cathy Graham’s book Second Bloom. She’s a huge source of inspiration.

What china patterns do you love to mix?
I like to start with a traditional charger or dinner plate and then add a pop of color and femininity with the salad plate. Herend’s Rothschild Garden pattern is on my list. I also love Sasha Nicholas plates if you’re going to monogram.

Who does your tabletop calligraphy?
Kathryn Christenbury of Fleur de Letters is the best calligraphist in the city! Brent Fraim of Dear Elouise paper goods turned me on to Kathryn. Brent does paper for some of the most storied weddings in the South, so she’s in the know.

Credits: Juliska Madeleine dinner plate ($40), Madeleine salad plate ($38), Belle Botanica side plates (set of four, $98), Arabella pink-footed goblet ($39), Arabella large pink tumbler ($32), Sferra hemstitch dinner napkins (set of four, $49), Kim Seybert Natural Capiz placemat ($81), Flare napkin ring ($39), herringbone napkin ($30); Neiman Marcus, Lenox Square. Chantilly silver, eight-piece setting from $2,500, Beverly Bremer Silver Shop, 3164 Peachtree Road. Hibiscus Linens cocktail napkin ($22.50). Il Papiro Firenze floral placecard (set of 12 for $24). Flowers, Cut Flower Wholesale.

This article appears in our Winter 2018 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.