Most often, shopping for flatware must be done in person. The perfect fork, knife and spoon will feel right in your hand and look right to your eye — it’s a highly personal choice. “If you can, always go to the store,” says Mat Sanders, co-founder with Brandon Quattrone of Consort , an interiors firm with retail outposts in New York and Los Angeles. “Hold it, feel it, make sure you connect with it kinesthetically,” he explains. But, if you can’t go to the store, “just order one set and make sure it’s right for you before you make a full order.”
Whether you’re registering for a first set of silverware or wanting to finally find that perfect set that complements your table and your personality, we have tips from a vintage flatware hunter, the editor of a home design magazine, interior designers and a shop owner who scours the market for the best of the best. “Everyone thinks they have to register for the fanciest, most elegant tabletop when they’re putting together their registries,” says Darcy Miller, celebrations expert and editor at large for Martha Stewart Weddings. “However, think about how you live your life, the kind of gatherings and celebrations that you like to throw and attend, and build your collection around that.”
●Sanders and Quattrone are “huge on Crate & Barrel’s Emerge Mirror set for its simplicity and its weighted handle, which gives it a more elevated feel,” Sanders says ($39.95 for a five-piece place setting, crateandbarrel.com). “Clean, simple lines with a timeless feel are our go-tos. We’re not too big on overembellished or super-decorated pieces.” Bonus tip: Don’t skimp on the forks — make sure they have pointy ends, because cheaper forks can have disappointingly dull ends.
A longtime thrifter and self-proclaimed hoarder, New York designer Eddie Ross has a thing for flatware. He likes to hunt for his favorite vintage patterns on Replacements.com, but he doesn’t worry about getting a complete set. “I collect a ton of different patterns, materials, mother-of-pearl, bone-handled flatware, and you just have to mix them together,” he says. For something “fresh and modern” to pair new with old, try one of the favorites in his stash, Mepra’s Due cutlery in matte gold ($160 for a five-piece set, themine.com). It also comes in rose gold and black.
●“If you love entertaining but hate washing dishes, be sure to look for a dishwasher-safe set,” says Amanda McClements, owner of the D.C. Salt & Sundry shops. “For everyday use, we like a classic shape in stainless steel for easy care. . . . The Oslo flatware collection from Canvas Home is a great option” ($42 for a five-piece place setting, canvashomestore.com; also available to order from Salt & Sundry).
●It’s not what’s “in,” it’s what you love to eat with and entertain with that makes a nice set of cutlery, says Miller, author of “Celebrate Everything!: Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties to Life.” Find a set that you’ll actually use and not just admire in a drawer. Although Miller has many flatware loves, she’s a big fan of Mepra’s Fantasia collection ($72 for a five-piece place setting, food52.com). The Italian-made line is set in stainless steel with a resin handle in oatmeal, sage, gray, brown and cobalt.
●Sometimes it’s okay to pick flatware based on whimsy. “Even in the dead of winter, the Timber Mirror bamboo-style flatware reminds me of springtime entertaining outdoors,” says Clinton Smith, the editor in chief of Veranda magazine ($2.95 per piece, pier1.com). “No table, even formal ones, should take themselves too seriously — and neither should the host or hostess.”