In her sumptuous new book, decorator and photojournalist Stephanie Stokes makes the case for souvenirs.
I am a self-confessed tabletop junkie and consummate hostess. On my travels through 86 countries, I have assembled a collection of things that have caught my eye so long as they’re useful for entertaining. These “toys for my table” are for special occasions, special friends or simply because it’s Saturday, and why not have a party.
In the words of Carl Jung, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” And I love each of my treasures. My parties usually start with a verbal table tour instead of grace. I describe how the dishes are from Bali, the wine coasters are from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, the tagine salt cellars are from Marrakesh, and so on.
Many of my favorite pieces come from Japan: contemporary sake cups, sonorous Bizen bowls and Oribe kitchenware, all of which are versatile. In France, I fell for Aptware pottery, simple cotton tablecloths from Provence’s outdoor markets and gray porcelain partridges from Nîmes. While exploring Budapest’s antiques district, I couldn’t resist traditional bright-red flowered plates and cross-stitched tablecloths. When I use them at home in New York City, they evoke the folk art quality of Hungarian craft in the same way the pink Fortuny tablecloth I bought in Venice recalls light reflecting off the city’s brick walls, turning its canals the soft-edged pink of Paolo Veronese’s murals.
Published by Rizzoli, my book, The World at Your Table, is a call to action. When something inspires you, whether across the globe or at a local consignment store, buy it. Then, set the table with your finds to transport guests into a magical atmosphere.