Hosting a crowd? First of all, good for you! You have stepped up to the plate (I'm sorry, the puns just happen; they are truly out of my control...) and have committed to providing an experience for friends and family. And after all, who are we, if not collectors of experiences? So now comes the hard part: paper plates or rentals? And really, there is no wrong here, just different. We all know from paper (and now of course, the ubiquitous plastic, as well) but there is also an alternative to the rental white or glass plates: a company in Los Angeles called Small Masterpiece and its founder/owner Jason Murakawa who has done the almost impossible. He has amassed a huge inventory of antique china and porcelain fit for a king or queen (...if the crown fits, wear it!) and they're for rent. My friend, John, had torn a profile of Jason and Small Masterpiece out of the June issue of Los Angeles Magazine thinking I would be interested. He was right. It's a brilliant idea and no doubt has taken quite an effort to collect. Along with dishes, there is also glassware and silver to rent, as well. Now this isn't for your weekend barbeques, but if you are planning a wedding, an anniversary, or another celebration where you may want to raise the bar, this may be for you. He ships all over the US, as well, so this isn't only for the LA crowd.
And speaking of Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of working with David Jones, the custom florist (Renaissance master?!), for a year, and watched as he created party magic for his clients. For one of his best client's birthday (it was a round, celebratory year), she wanted to use L'Orangerie, one of the city's most fabled restaurants, as the venue for her event. The WHOLE restaurant. On a SATURDAY night. (It was a different time and place...) Of course the banquettes and other regular furniture wouldn't do, so out it all went, and in its place came custom upholstered banquettes and chairs and tables with custom linens, all designed and arranged by David. And for the table settings, he found beautiful antique dishes in about 10 complementary patterns from the different movie studios in town to be used for the multi-course, sit-down dinner for the party. Needless to say, the effect was breathtaking. All this custom work and the unique place settings, enhanced by his beautiful flowers, created quite a memorable evening. I could go on and on about this event. In its "over-the-top" excess, it still felt amazingly intimate, as if you were in a grand dining space of a country home in some far-off land. And those dishes played a large part of that intimacy. Well now you, too, can create magic like this without access to Hollywood studios. And even if you aren't hosting a shindig like this, it is a fun website to check out. The internet truly is one of the host's most valuable tools!