There was a time last year when the dining table had to double up as a workspace in most homes. As the lockdown was extended and work-from-home continued, office tables entered the house. Further into 2020, potted plants came in and it wasn’t long before home corners were being redone to create beautiful spaces. As people started socialising again, preferring small soirées at home to going out or having catered extravaganzas, it all circled back to the dining table. This time, it has a new look.
It’s now neatly laid with table linen and handcrafted plates. The idea is to make mealtimes special by paying attention to tablescapes. “I think in the lockdown we rediscovered the joy of living at home,” says fashion designer and textile enthusiast Pranay Baidya, explaining the growing interest in tableware and settings.
Thoughtfully designed products are finding their place on the table. New brands that retail largely via Instagram and weekend pop-ups are displaying the work of ceramic artists as well as décor experts. In September, contemporary tableware brand Tablescape by Eeshaan held an exhibition at Delhi’s Bikaner House; it was sold out. Last month, two events in the Capital—The Mi Casa Collective Show at Bikaner House and Take Pop-up at 1AQ—showcased ceramic brands from across India. There was ceramic artist Priya Sundaravalli Sudharsan, with a collection of bowls intricately designed with dots; Atelier Lālmitti, with their signature indigo-dyed playful animal motifs; Divyam Surabhi’s rustic handmade ceramics; and much more. This month, the Gallery Art & Soul in Worli, Mumbai, organised Table Manners 2, with dinner sets and ceramics in conceptual designs that added a whole new dimension to food as art.
Delhi-based Eeshan Kashyap, founder of Tablescape by Eeshaan, which launched in May, is drawn to bold, modern and conceptual designs with a strong visual story—mixing two shapes, for instance, and re-imagining a traditional matka with a square base. “I wanted to move away from the regular nature-inspired designs with gulab and genda,” says Kashyap. He experiments with materials—think of a fruit bowl made with paper—and techniques to create objects of art and whimsy for the table. These handmade pieces are created in small batches and he plans to have a concept store online while participating in exhibitions and pop-ups across cities. While the website is still in the works, he has been receiving a steady stream of orders on Instagram.
Ahmedabad’s Studio Wildflower by Dhruva has seen a 50% increase in orders over the last few months. The brand, launched in 2017, was making commissioned pieces for companies, with a small collection for business-to-consumer purchases, till the focus shifted to individuals during the lockdown as they started getting orders on Instagram. “Due to the lockdown, there was a deep interest in cooking and people wanted to plate their food well,” says founder Dhruva Patel, who creates ceramics with 12% pure gold accents. The ceramist, who likes to mix and match colours and prints, adds, “The idea is to create tableware that will transport you to a happy place.”
Apart from independent labels, individuals source from multiple brands, design stunning tablescapes and document them on Instagram. Srimoyi Bhattacharya, who founded Table Code By Sri, one such venture, in August, says: “It’s a sourcebook of curated table tops for all your special moments, whether you are two or 20. In the last few months, we spent a lot of time as a family at home and I wanted to make mealtimes an occasion or a simple mood booster by setting up the table, because we started getting into a rhythm around it.”
It was Bhattacharya’s move from Delhi to Goa last year that proved a catalyst. For, it was in Goa that she met ceramists and decided to focus on small-batch products, showcasing handmade and home-grown tableware brands. She curated a table for the Take Pop-up with a kantha tablecloth and Banarasi placemats. The linen came from Baidya.
Like Bhattacharya, Baidya is a proponent of home-grown brands and products. He grew up in Kolkata in a home with a temple and finds inspiration in materials used to make items for worship, such as the shew pathor, a stone believed to be auspicious. Plates and bowls are made with shew pathor to serve food to the gods. He buys shew pathor plates and uses them as platters for cheeses and sushi. Baidya has also found ways to re-imagine the intricately designed brass flower baskets and diyas used in temples as serveware for home entertaining. The baskets become containers for napkins and cookies.
The idea, he says, is to re-imagine everyday items as tableware. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, fancies objects that are playful, have a sense of whimsy and are personalised—a poem instead of a menu, for instance. The new canvas is the table.
TURN THE TABLES
Srimoyi Bhattacharya’s tips on how to make the dining table the focal point
1. MAKE IT YOUR OWN: Mix and match dinner sets—pair modern with vintage, ceramic with cane, and so on. Always keep a neutral dinner set to mix up with prints.
2. ADD AN ELEMENT OF PLAYFULNESS: Instead of paper place cards, for instance, use a toy or a leaf and inscribe the names with a golden sharpie.
3. ADD FLOWERS OR LEAVES: Add fresh and dry leaves. It doesn’t need to look formal; it could look rustic and elegant at the same time.
4. THINK OF YOUR GUESTS: Ask yourself what your guests would like. For instance, if they enjoy travel, your décor elements could reflect that.
5. MAKE IT FUN: You can have fun even at a table for two. Your dinner will always taste better if the setting is pretty.
Also read | A home decor plan that's form of self-care