The Passover Seder is one of the most important meals that Jewish people eat all year, and there is no arguing that the symbolism and ritual associated with the dinner is far more meaningful than the décor. That said, given that family and friends use the first two nights of the eight-day holiday to gather around the table, it would be nice if that table looked beautiful.
Whether you use your grandparents’ china or your six-year-old’s hand-painted Seder plate, we asked stylish people from Jonathan Adler to Gail Simmons to share tips to modernize and design your table while still honoring your family’s traditions. Borrow their advice, or get inspired to create your own rituals this year, and craft a table setting that reflects your personal style.
Jonathan Adler: Mix The Old And The New
Adler, who describes his aesthetic as “modern American glamour,” sets his table with sophisticated tableware, like the porcelain Seder plate from his Futura Collection. But, if you spend Passover with the Adlers, you’ll also find the Haggadahs (prayer books) that he used in his childhood. “They’re super worn out,” Adler says, “They’re basically antiques with my sister’s scribblings in the margins.”
Jonathan Adler is a potter, designer, and author. You can find all of his work at jonathanadler.com.
Gail Simmons: Embrace Layering
Simmons, who hosts what we are certain is a delicious Seder, says that Passover is the time to bring out your wedding china or other special serveware. “I use Passover as an opportunity to layer different dishes,” Simmons says. “I love layering the old and new—using my grandmother’s plates layered with my modern bowls.”
Simmons also applies this “layering” idea to cooking a modern, beautiful meal. She takes classic recipes passed down in her family—like her mother’s brisket—and incorporates new fresh flavors to make them her own. (In fact, her horseradish-crusted brisket is in her latest cookbook, Bringing It Home With Gail). She adds dried fruit and nuts to her aunt’s famous chocolate meringue recipe, giving it a crunch, while also being a nod to the charoset—both the brisket and this updated dessert have ingredients that nod to other parts of the dinner ceremony. Layers of décor and of meaning!
Gail Simmons is a host on Top Chef, special projects director at Food & Wine, and the author of a new cookbook, Bringing It Home.
Lily Diamond: Personalize The Place Settings
Diamond also loves leaning into the theme of spring when it comes to setting the table (like the perfectly seasonal snapshot above, captured in the bungalow courtyard of her friend, Suzanne Zoe Joskow). “I love making small herbal bouquets tied with twine to put at each place setting,” Diamond says. “You can punch a small hole in a name card and attach it to the twine, so that the bouquets double as seating directives.”
Molly Yeh: Imperfections Make the Meal Special
While a perfectly coordinated table might look great on Instagram, certain touches can’t be purchased at a store. Molly Yeh, who runs My Name Is Yeh, says her mom still uses Molly’s hand-painted Seder plate from 20 years ago and gets very “mushy and sentimental about it.” Yeh herself has admired modern plates—she loves this colorful one from Kate Spade—but says she will “probably hold out until someone paints one or carves one for me.”
Decor isn’t the only place to incorporate the personal—try your hand at experimenting with the meal, too! “Last year we made our own matzo using freshly ground wheat that my husband grew,” she remembers. “It was hard as a rock but the sentiment was there.”
Lilla Rogers: Bring The Outside In
Passover is a celebration of Spring, and while flowers seem like a no-brainer, Rogers, a stylist and artist, recommends going hunting in your yard (or home!) for other natural textures. “I like to go outside and get any twigs or vines that you can’t always get at the florist,” Rogers says. Those can be incorporated into your tablescape or centerpieces—Rogers opts for rustic wooden boxes or zinc tubs for arranging flowers and other nature elements.
Since there are so many dishes and rituals during Passover, the table can get crowded. Rogers’ advice? Lean into it. Embrace multiple textures, a colorful centerpiece, and bright, playful linens… but keep your dishes neutral. Despite her love for color, all of Rogers’ plates and serving platters are white. Not only does it allow important ritualistic items—like the Seder plate and Elijah’s cup—to remain the focus point, but it provides a clean canvas for the delicious meal.
Leah Koenig: Allow The Food To Steal The Show
“Home cooks have every excuse to play up spring produce in their meals,” says Koenig. “Be it a vibrant plate of asparagus brightened with orange zest, or a plate of gorgeous baby beets with a balsamic glaze.” Her mom always ended the meal with a colorful fruit plate that gave the table with a visually stunning bookend—she builds hers with sliced oranges, grapefruit, halved green and red grapes, dried figs, and a topping of pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios, and a drizzle of honey.
Because Koenig, a chef, serves up bright, fresh dishes, she veers away from white tablecloths and silver cutlery (a traditional Passover theme). Instead, she likes to “play around with earthy ceramics glazed with a pop of color, or try out a modern floral tablecloth or tapestry.”
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