Object of Desire: Iittala Origo Dishes Lend Colourful Mix-and-Match Style to Any Table

Tempted to toss out your tired dishes for trendy tableware? Find basics with staying power, then add some pieces with designer cachet to the mix

Credit: Courtesy Iittala

Courtesy Iittala

Iittala’s Origo striped bowl in Orange

If you peeked inside my kitchen cupboards a few months ago, you’d find an array of plates and bowls that seemed to be perfect for mixing and matching.

There were some pale yellow dinner plates – a bargain-priced set of four – tucked alongside about 15 pieces of Italian Mamma Ro plates, bowls and mugs in a gorgeous shade of red.

There were also the 10-inch dinner plates fringed in a Majolica-style floral pattern, and the five pieces of green-and-blue-glazed pottery serving bowls and plates I picked up from a Squamish-area potter who has since moved away, leaving yet another collection unfinished.

And don’t get me started on those annoying teacups and saucers that come as part of the typical 16-piece set of dishes, or the items that have been chipped, scratched and crazed from years of use. The problem: I didn’t have enough of one thing to set a table that didn’t look like, well, eclectic.

Before You Smash Your Dishes…

You know the feeling: you just want yell opa! in Greek celebratory fashion, smash all those dishes to bits, and start over with a new collection (all right, maybe I’m overstating things a bit, but you get the gist). Well, I recently did just that, in a matter of speaking, by keeping some dishes, passing some others on to friends, and dropping a bunch off a local charity. Naturally, though, I had to decide on replacement dishes before I did all of this, and that task was a bit tougher than I had expected.

For a few years, I had been yearning for Japanese-style square plates, which started cropping up in kitchen boutiques everywhere. I’d see them in mossy green, earthy ochre and brown tones, or crisp white. I wondered about their staying power, yet year after year, more manufacturers seemed to be offering up extensive open-stock collections.

While I’d always gravitated toward colourful dishware, I also thought it might be time to choose that practical go-to colour: white. After all, don’t chefs swear that white dishes are really the only option since they won’t compete with the food?

Iittala Origo Striped Dishes

But then the Iittala Origo striped dishes, designed by Alfredo Häberli, caught my eye. They weren’t square, and they weren’t exactly white, either. At first, I thought the multi-coloured stripes of the Orange collection (pictured above) might even appear garish, but I soon realized these Scandinavian beauties had already been around since 1999. If the design world had embraced them for more than a decade already, there was a good chance that I would enjoy them for the long haul, too.

At around $33 a dinner plate, it was tough to actually embrace the Origo collection. Instead, I’ve been admiring them from afar (and obsessing a little bit). I had planned to start a collection, buying a few pieces at a time, and then someone convinced me that I’d be really upset if one of my guests broke a plate at a dinner party or something . . . so I switched gears once again and sought out some simple white dishes.

Sticking with the Basics: White Bone China

I love my crisp white bone china, designed by Australia’s Alex Liddy. I bought eight of everything, including proper coffee mugs, so I’m not cobbling together an unmatched set at dinner parties any longer. And I’ve seen my open-stock collection at various Vancouver shops, including Chintz & Company, Homewerx and Chocolate Mousse, so I know that I can get my hands on soup plates or teacups (and saucers) if I decide to branch out from the basics.

That doesn’t mean I have stopped dreaming of the Origo dishes, which were actually designed for that all-important mixing and matching. Instead of going for broke (literally) and buying a set, I plan to get a few bowls to use as serving and accent pieces, and the cylindrical mugs come sans handles, so these could easily double as vases or be used for serving things like breadsticks and crudités.

I haven’t gotten my hands on anything yet, but my birthday is coming up soon, so maybe someone (you know who you are) will surprise me with a little something that’s timeless and versatile, with orange stripes, please.