The arrival of autumn largely ushers out al fresco dinner parties but also heralds the anticipated season of entertaining on a grander and more formal scale.
(Published Fall 2013)
Equestrian style blogger Molly Knott sets a well-dressed table with these eye-catching equestrian chinas.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s not too early to start planning your grand celebrations, and the dining room is another fabulous place to express your equestrian style.
The hallmark of equestrian entertaining is a well-dressed dinner table, which we like to think of being much like styling ourselves for a party. Of course you have your accessories — linens, silverware, stemware, and the centerpieces — but it is always the dinnerware that sets the stage.
Formal china, perhaps used infrequently, can feel at once impractical yet also cherished as a nostalgic family tradition. We think of it like a little black dress, allowing a party to look effortlessly stylish on a moment’s notice. Like a good show bridle, it signifies that an event is somehow special.
The china you select, or inherit, can say a lot about your individual style. For my own table, I use the minimalist white Wedgwood Nantucket Basket, a not overtly equestrian pattern. Instead, my preferred look is to leave our dark, farmhouse table unclothed to maximize the contrast and let my equestrian accessories shine.
My mother, on the other hand, is much more of a traditionalist, and her very formal dining room is the perfect setting for a hunt-themed china. This is a woman who can set a table with precision, which the intricate hunt scenes require, and knows how to artfully accessorize for the epitome of an elegant equestrian tabletop.
Julie Wear’s designs are heavily rooted in tradition; she has even painted a commissioned horse portrait for Buckingham Palace. Available in black and chestnut brown, her Cheval collection — strikes a modern note of polished sophistication with her sleek twist on the iconic snaffle bit. A very coherent look could easily be created by incorporating additional snaffle elements in the other accessories.
For the equestrian style iconoclast, we recommend the Lladro Equus collection, designed by London’s Bodo Sperlein and a far cry from the blue and beige figurines in a grandmother’s curio cabinet. This exquisite formal china incorporates individual elements of Lladro’s horse sculptures into the functionality of dishes, bowls, and tea sets — legs as handles, heads as the feet of a bowl. The resulting effect strikes the perfect balance of strength and delicacy, just like the china’s namesake.
And then, of course, there is the ultimate in equestrian elegance. The Hermes Cheval d’Orient pattern is an ornate and brilliantly-hued pattern infused with silk-road drama, but so transcendent it could be set gracefully anywhere in the world. The many differing scenes on individual plates, cups, and bowls are sure to inspire conversation amongst the equestrian jet-set.
Finally, when selecting a new pattern, think about the differing ways you might style it depending on the occasion and your other pieces. And like a knockout outfit, take pictures of your favorite equestrian table settings so you can recreate or edit them for future celebrations.
Molly Knott is the founder and editor of the lifestyle blog, Dappled Grey, a curated guide to equestrian style and culture. When not working on the blog, she can be found doting on her warmblood, Fitch, and maintaining her small farm in the Pacific Northwest.