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The modern table has become more than mere ritual. Feast your eyes on the latest tabletop collections for stylish dining.

“If you don't like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over in your lap and you won't mind,” quipped the author Irving Becker. For centuries dining and table etiquette have played a fundamental social role, giving rise to “l’art de le table” – the art of the table – otherwise known as tabletop chic.

During the court of Louis XIV ornate baroque dinner services were fancifully gilded and embellished by leading artisans. However, by the early 20th century ostentation fell out of favor, particularly due to the groundbreaking austere style of Trude Petri-Raben’s Urbino teaset, produced by the Berlin porcelain manufacturer KPM. Bereft of any decorative flourishes, merely glazed in white, her award-winning design revolutionized the modern table setting.

In the mid 1930s, Carlo Alessi, the son of Italian kitchenware manufacturer Alessi, tapped into the market for design, stemming from earlier decorative epochs and the artistry of movements such as Art Deco and the Wiener Werkstatte, when he became a designer for the marque. Moving away from its craft origins, Carlo led the company into the realm of cutting edge industrial design, a vein in which it continues to excel. In 1983 the company once again championed contemporary design with the establishment of its department for experimental design, Alessi Officina. From Robert Sapper to Zaha Hadid, name any star designer worth his or her salt and, chances are, there’s an Alessi accessory or two in their portfolio.

During the 1980s, designers Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini of the Italian anti-design movement Memphis were also paying special attention to the artistic merit of tableware with teapots, kettles and creamers in bold clashing hues and perverse forms.

Recently, dinnerware has come under close scrutiny once again, due to a decorative renaissance among contemporary artists and top industrial designers. Fancy floral flourishes and whimsical themes adorn serving sets and table decorations. Paola Navone for Richard Ginori, Jurgen Bey for Netherlands’s Royal Tichelaar Makkum and Iitala have all celebrated the well-decorated plate this season. For once, it’s good to have a lot on one’s plate.

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