Whether they are entertaining two or 22, people have a wide range of options these days for personalizing their tabletops. Here are some popular trends to look for in dinnerware, glassware, stemware, flatware, serving pieces and table linens:
* Leaf-shaped dinnerware and serving pieces.
* Hand-painted pottery.
* Metal and more metal -- both solo and as trims.
* Polka dots, stripes and other splashes of whimsy, including a ladybug on a saucer visible when the china cup is lifted, in a Kate Spade for Lenox design.
* Mix-and-match shaped dinnerware -- square, round, oval.
* Bright colors but also deep hues such as blue, brown and paprika. And black and white, always.
* Colored glass salad plates, bowls and accent pieces that mix with china, pottery, porcelain or stoneware.
* Chargers -- or service plates -- are still popular. Look for them in wicker, wood, hammered glass and other materials.
* Big, big serving platters.
* Botanical-inspired flatware and serving utensils. Handles that resemble a twig or bamboo, for example.
* Gaming themes -- poker, billiards, etc. -- in barware and items such as chips-and-dips.
* Female-themed party ware, including items such as pink patent martini shakers.
* Rich, opulent fashion-inspired table linens -- especially as holidays draw near.
* Place mats that are dressy enough for dinner -- even when the boss is on the guest list.
-- Susan Martin