Staying In: How to Set a Valentine’s Table for Two, Courtesy of Ajiri Aki


Instead of dining out on Valentine’s Day—in a restaurant packed with strangers and dripping with paper hearts—wouldn’t it be more intimate, in every sense of the word, to stay in? That’s always been our preference: candles, a table set for two, and perhaps pajamas over crowds and cold.

When we emailed recently with Ajiri Aki, the France-based doyenne of stylish, effortless table settings (she runs the vintage tableware shop and linen purveyor Madame de la Maison), we were happy to hear that she feels the same, all the way over in Paris. Here’s how she sets the table for a simple Valentine’s dinner for two—plus her tips for making it just a bit romantic, never fussy.

Photography by Ajiri Aki.

1. Resist the urge to go pink.

Just because it&#8
Above: Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you should drape the table with all the pink things you can find. “As much as I love pink everything, I wanted to go with a simple, soft, romantic look using the orage tablecloth and sable napkins,” Ajiri says. “The orage linen is grey-ish blue, kind of like a storm. Orage means storm in French. It’s a soft color palette without going full-on pink.”

2. Choose petite flowers over big bouquets.

In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.
Above: In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.

3. Sprinkle some roses.

Above: “I always add one little stereotypical element that connects to the holiday,” Ajiri says. For a romantic touch, she scattered a handful of dry rose buds down the center of the table.

4. Use the good china.

Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. &#8
Above: Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. “These mussels in white wine sauce take a whopping 20 minutes to make, but they are always served in beautiful antique finds,” Ajiri says.

5. Embrace imperfection.

Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  &#8
Above: Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  “I rarely iron my linens because I find the texture beautiful,” Ajiri says.

6. Sit kitty-corner.

Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It&#8
Above: Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It’s more casual than facing each other—and you won’t have a table between you.

P.S. See more of Ajiri’s entertaining tips in Joyeux Noël: How to Throw a Holiday Party the French Way. And here’s our original feature on her work: Vintage French Style You Can Rent: Madame de la Maison in Paris.



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New Colorful Dinnerware from Alice Waters + Heath Ceramics, All for a Good Cause


“When we first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, we used to buy vintage sets of Limoges china, which we had to hand wash at the restaurant (that lasted about a month!),” Alice Waters says. Over the years, as Chez Panisse established an international reputation and Alice Waters became known as a slow food pioneer, it was time for a bespoke approach to dinnerware. “I’m a neutral plate person, and I was looking for something that would harmonize with the food,” Alice says. “I didn’t imagine we could find something durable and affordable that still looked good. But my friend Christina Kim of Dosa introduced me to Cathy Bailey and Robin Petravic of Heath Ceramics, and I had such faith in Christina I said, ‘Let’s try.’ Christina helped us choose colors and develop the simple, timeless shapes.”

Introduced in 2006 in one shade only—creamy white—the Chez Panisse line, designed in collaboration with Alice Waters, became an instant classic. Now, more than a decade since its debut, Heath Ceramics and Alice Waters are reintroducing the Chez Panisse Line’s iconic shapes in an assortment of new glazes. “The palette is a balance of matte and glossy, classic and modern, warm and cool—and pieces are meant to be mixed and matched,” according to Cathy. “I think it’s always good to make changes, wake people up,” Alice says. “It’s very different to see food on a darker green plate, for instance. I especially like the Aloe Vine shade, a green gray that is so evocative of the Bay Area.”

N.B. The Chez Panisse line is made in Sausalito, CA, and a portion of the proceeds from each sale supports the Edible Schoolyard Project, whose mission is to provide a free, sustainable school lunch for students K–12 in public schools throughout the country.

Photography courtesy of Heath Ceramics.

Above: Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, holding a collection of her new, colorful bowls for Heath Ceramics.
Above: The new palette includes several new shades designed to be mixed and matched.
Above: A stack of Side Bowls (L) and Cafe Bowls (R).
Above: The Cafe Bowl in Bluejay ($37), the Side Bowl in Indigo ($42), and the Salad Plate in Slate ($40).
Above: A Cafe Bowl in Cedar ($37), a Side Bowl in Sorbet ($42), and a Main Plate in Jicama ($48).
Above: A Cafe Bowl in Aloe/Vine ($37), Salad Plate in Sand ($30), and Main Plate in Aloe ($48).
Above: Robin Petravic and Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

For more Chez Panisse and Heath, go to:

A Berkeley Kitchen Tour with Alice Waters and Fanny Singer

A Mountainside Cabin in Tahoe, Reimagined by Heath Ceramics

Object of Desire: Alice Waters’s Egg Spoon from Permanent Collection

Required Reading: Tile Makes the Room: Good Design from Heath Ceramics



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