Blame the baby boomers, the big spenders in the domestic field. Sensitive to new designs, they want an exquisite home, a sophisticated kitchen.
The upscale baby boomers, now 35 to 40 years old, are entertainment oriented. They go for flashy table settings, something dramatic and new wave.
Equipped with this marketing savvy, new product developers have changed their gear to creating striking innovative table-top fashions. With the layer-on-layer look in style, there's a trend in the use of chargers (from the French word, chargeur, meaning "loader"). For the traditional thinker, it stands for service plates. Familiar interpretations are chop plates . . . underliners . . . rim plates. If the material can withstand food and utensil abuse, they can also be used as buffet plates.
Mainly, the plates are oversized. They measure from 11 1/2 inches to 13 inches in diameter. Made to mix and match with existing china patterns, chargers come in metallic finishes of silver, brass, gold, platinum and stainless steel, as well as porcelain, ceramic, glass, wood, plastic and lacquer.
Although matching service plates for fine china patterns like Lenox, Hutschenreuther, Pickard and Limoges have also resurged, there's been some interest in the following designs from Swid Powell, Arita and Taitu, particularly from yuppies.
The intriguing styles in the Swid Powell collection of buffet plates or oversized dinner plates make them conversation pieces and mood setters. The talents of a roster of international architects are showcased in the 12-inch china pieces, exhibiting patterns that set the mood from elegant subtlety to boldness or playfulness.
The architectural collection was made possible through the efforts of two women in New York, Nan Swid and Addie Powell, who started in the furniture business as designers.
"The reaction was beyond our wildest dreams," says Addie Powell. Debuting with a 54-piece collection of china, silver and crystal, the company now includes more than 100 decorative and functional objects. "There's just no end to this . . . we're going to stay in the table-top business," Powell said.
Created by Charles Gwathmey and Robert Siegel, the black-and-white "Tuxedo" pattern from Swid Powell, for instance, has been such a runaway best-seller oversized plate that the service has been expanded to include other dinnerware pieces. Laurinda Spear from Florida contributed the sprightly colored "Miami Beach" buffet plate.
The perky patterns of "Medici," with geometric forms and curvilinear lines, and "Renaissance," with classic floral motifs, were created by Ettore Sottsass. The Italian architect is the mastermind behind "Memphis," a line of designs by a consortium of avant-garde Milanese architects and designers.
For black-and-white enthusiasts, the "Broken" and "Stripes Black on White" patterns provide an optical illusion that's intriguing. The plates were designed by husband-and-wife team Robert and Trix Haussman from Switzerland. Exhibiting color and playful designs are the popular "Planar" and the "Volumetric" patterns, both designed by Steven Holt.
Unlike traditional service plates, which the books tell you to remove after the first course, the beautifully rimmed Swid Powell plates can be retained at the table as place mats. With this usage in mind, various color and texture combinations with other dinnerware pieces can be employed to dress up the setting.
The trend in California cuisine inspires a lot of people to use it as a dinner plate in which they can make an artistic display of the food, according to Kris Hansen Torrey, buyer for By Design. Many customers buy one of each pattern and present them at the table at the same time, she added.
Beautiful Lacquer Finish
Our second charger comes from Arita in Japan. Primarily decorative more than a dinnerware, the Arita chargers are made of sleek and beautiful lacquer finish. They measure 13 inches in diameter, a wonderful size for larger dinner plates and preferred by those who like to enhance their china with a larger color-coordinated rim.
Vulnerable to scratching, the Arita charger should be handled with care. For cleaning, simply wipe with a damp soft cloth. When scratched, a plastic cleaner like a silicone-based spray may be used.
The chargers are available in gold, black, silver, antique silver, hunter or moss green, red, blue, charcoal, maroon, electric blue, peach, rose pink, teal, turquoise and yellow. They also come in speckle gold and rust, Tudor brown and gray. The bolder colors like electric blue, red, teal and turquoise are bright, stunning and fit to mix and perk up a number of patterns.
According to Chuck Gallagher, executive vice president of the company, gold seems to be a popular choice, adding richness to any presentation. It also is the most expensive in the line. Also available are lacquerware pate/cheese knives in various colors, which may be used with the charger when serving soft cheeses and pates.