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Although three seemingly disparate patterns share this breakfast table, common features -- the underlying celadon shade, delicate details, and gold embellishments -- make these pieces perfect dining companions. Gold-edge eggcup and butter dish by Legle Limoges. "Constance" bread-and-butter plate (below eggcup), sugar bowl, and coffeepot by Bernardaud. "Illusion" teacup, saucer, and dessert plate in endive by Haviland. "Derby Panel Green" bread-and-butter plate (with knife), dinner plate, and vegetable dish (with flowers) by Royal Crown Derby. "Olivia" tumbler by Juliska. "Fairfax" silverware by Gorham.
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When formal doesn't have to equal fusty, even the fanciest spread can become a means of self-expression. Rich gold is the unifying theme here. Whether dusted on a plate rim for a contemporary vibe, woven into a lacy border for a vintage effect, or encircling an oversized mushroom in a note of pure whimsy, it elegantly brings these wildly different tablemates together for an affair to remember. "Flora Danica Fungi" soup plates by Royal Copenhagen. "Feux d'Or" presentation plate by Royal Limoges. "Alencon Gold" bread-and-butter plate by L'Objet.
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Gilded patterns mix and match seamlessly. Back row, from left: Jug by Royal Crown Derby; top teacup and saucer set by Royal Limoges, bottom by Royal Copenhagen. Middle: top teacup in first stack by Royal Crown Derby, bottom sets by the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood; top set of second stack by Mottahedeh, bottom by Royal Crown Derby; teapot by Anna Weatherley; creamer by Wedgwood. Front: Demitasse set by Marc Jacobs Waterford, bottom saucer by Royal Crown Derby; teacup set by Porzellan Nymphenburg; sugar bowl by Royal Crown Derby.
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Black adds visual weight to china with ethereal, classical details. All by Wedgwood, except for top plate on stack by Marc Jacobs and gold striped dinner plate by the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood.
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Pitch (Perfect) Black
Black makes bold hues and graphics pop. Floral plates and solid yellow plate by Raynaud; black plate (under gold floral) by Heath Ceramics; teacup, saucer, and striped dinner plate by J.L. Couquet; soup bowl and black salad plate by Wedgwood.
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Cast a youthful spell on traditional floral patterns by mixing in black pieces. Black-and-white floral china by Royal Copenhagen; green china by Legle Limoges.
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It reinforces the subtle textures of fluted edges; and in a charger, the color acts as a great framing device. Insect plate by Ted Muehling for Nymphenburg; fluted-edge plates by Porzellan Nymphenburg; dessert bowl by Heath Ceramics; black lace plate by Mottahedeh; espresso set by Bernardaud.
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Stick to a Color
Different patterns become cohesive when grouped by color. "Nature" dessert plate by Tiffany & Co.; "Galerie Royale Wallis Blue" dinner plate by Bernardaud.
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Choose an Accent Shade
Pick a hue that carries from piece to piece. "Flourish" plates in ecru and robin's egg by the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood.
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Find Shades That Pair Well
"A good starting point for mixing patterns is color," says Marina Birch, event planner and owner of Chicago's Birch Design Studio. "Garland Moss" dinner and bread-and-butter plates by the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood; "Signature Collection" salad plate by Pickard.
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The leafy green edge of a salad plate plays off the lighter green in the dinner plate. "Tropic Green" salad plate and "Verdures" dinner plate by Raynaud.
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Compare and Contrast
If you're tonally challenged, stick to one palette -- but contrast decorative elements such as botanicals with geometrics. "Blue Fluted Mega" bread-and-butter plate by Royal Copenhagen; "Blue Lace" dinner plate by Mottahedeh.
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Live on the Edge
Another idea: Contrast strong patterns with solid plates that are rimmed with the same color. "Illusion" dinner and bread-and-butter plates by Haviland; "Lily of the Valley" salad plate by the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood.