Instagram is such a wonderful way to meet kindred spirits, and it is how I met Cynthia Nouri, founder of Sasha Nicholas. A former dentist, Cynthia changed paths to follow her passion for art, culture, design, and fine china. She named her personalized and classic tabletop company Sasha Nicholas after her children with the intention of building a brand that would transcend generations. In addition to her signature custom china (which is all dishwasher safe!) Sasha Nicholas carries a full range of tableware from purveyors including Herend, Royal Crown Derby, Burleigh, Waterford, and Baccarat.
Cynthia’s love for history, traditions, and everyday beauty is evident in her work, earning recognition for Sasha Nicholas in leading publications such as Vogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, Southern Living, Victoria, and Garden & Gun. Today, I am thrilled to welcome Cynthia to The Glam Pad for a Q&A!
Q: What inspired you to create Sasha Nicholas?
A: Always a maker, I took trips to historic ceramics factories in England, France, and Italy while studying at Oxford University as a college student. This gave me both the inspiration and passion to create meaningful dinnerware and gifts which could be used every day. I had china and serving pieces that already held dear memories of family and friends gathered around the table and thought how beautiful it would be to create pieces with meaning from the time they were made. Knowing that I wanted to build a brand that would transcend generations, I named my company after my two children, Sasha & Nick. After installing a kiln in my home I began by creating custom pieces for family and friends. In 2012 I took the leap and began selling hand painted champagne buckets and platters through retail stores and online. I quickly realized that creating meaningful dinerware and gifts, pieces that could be used every day, fed my soul. Using my ceramic materials science background from dental school, I chose the strongest most durable and classic material to work with, European porcelain, and began designing timeless fonts. On a trip to AmericasMart, just as I was designing and getting ready to launch, I literally ran into one of Sasha’s talented friends, Regi Alonso, who began designing with me. She is literally the right arm of our company! With wonderful mentors & a talented team, I began taking the steps necessary to sell my dental practice and launched our entire line of porcelain dinnerware in April 2015. I haven’t looked back!
Q: Please tell me about your custom monogram and inscription services.
A: We offer in-house custom monogram & crest design services in addition to working with other designers and customers’ existing family crests & monograms in order to create from one piece to entire sets of china. While some customers want custom designs, most of our clients choose from our well loved 1, 2, and 3 letter hand drawn stock monogram & crest designs. These range in style & are available immediately on our website where customers are able to choose their monogram style, color & letters to see an immediate “mock up”. One of the core options and driving force behind our company’s mission of making every day more meaningful is being able to add custom inscriptions in a script font on the back of most of our pieces. Every single day we receive heartwarming, funny and life affirming inscriptions from customers. We often have couples put their vows on their china to remind them on a daily basis when setting the table why they love each other! Taking this one step further, for an additional fee we offer custom inscriptions in customers’ own handwriting. We have placed inscriptions such as numerous grandmothers’ handwritten recipes to love letters & Irish blessings. One of our first local brides was very close with her grandfather who had passed. As a surprise shower gift, her mother had the sentiment from the last card the bride’s grandfather had written her put on the back of her platter. Needless to say, there were tears!
Q: You are known for your signature monogrammed place settings, but what other brands does Sasha Nicholas carry?
A: We are fortunate to partner with many classic European tabletop brands such as Herend, Anna Weatherly, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Limoges, Wedgwood, Burleigh, Baccarat, Waterford,…our range is vast. We even proudly offer the heritage French cookware brands Mauviel and LeCreuset so that we can truly be a resouce for helping couples choose the sizes and materials best for them. Besides our brand, customer favorites include several Herend patterns such as Princess Victoria & Fishscale, Anna Weatherly Anna’s Palette, Royal Crown Derby Ave & Imari.
Q: One brand I particularly love is Burleigh, which is difficult to find in the United States. Can you please share a little about the history of Burleigh?
A: We are thrilled to carry Burleigh, a British brand dear to my heart. Burleigh’s iconic & charming ironstone, including dinnerware, egg cups & cow shaped creamers, have been crafted in England using the same techniques & some of the same equipment for over 160 years. It is the last pottery in the world to use the over 200 year old decorative technique of English underglaze tissue printing. No wonder this factory was tops on my list to visit as a student! It is such a national treasure that in order to insure this craftsmanship remained for future generations, in 2011 The Prince of Wales stepped in through his charity, HRH The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, with funds to restore Middleport Pottery where Burleigh is made. While blue calico is the most iconic pattern, Ralph Lauren’s love of Burleigh led him to create a custom color Arden collection with a pattern of beautiful hawthorn blossoms for his restaurants.
Q: How did you develop your passion for classic design, history, and traditions?
A: To a certain extent, my passion for classic design, history, and traditions is innate. Fortunately, I had parents and grandparents who encouraged my love of art, music and “making” from the time I was a very young child. I began playing piano at the age of four & begged my mom to play our classical music albums. I loved Peter & the Wolf! As an avid sentimentalist, I also vividly remember practicing my penmanship while collecting poems and quotes whenever I had a free moment as early as elementary school. This passion for the art of the written word led me to take calligraphy classes & marbling courses through college. While attending Oxford University as a college student my creative fire was further ignited. As a lifelong maker, I toured the Wedgwood & Burleigh Factory while studying English Literature in the Cotswold countryside, popping into Oxford’s museums, cathedrals and often the Laura Ashley store as a treat. I was in Heaven! I ultimately, went on to dental school and practiced dentistry for almost 30 years. As I was finishing dental school and waiting for my board results I worked in the Laura Ashley store in St Louis. The team I worked with had a strong common bond of classic design and we keep in touch to this day!
Q: How does one set up a wedding registry through Sasha Nicholas? Is this available to brides and grooms throughout the United States?
A: The vast majority of our registries come from couples around the country! We are thrilled to have a St. Louis flagship boutique which offers us the opportunity to have in-person individual consultations with local registry clients. We are delighted that it has become a destination for many out of town couples as well! In addition, our website offers couples the ability to register online. We have a team of expert stylists that happily help couples curate the ideal registry for them through phone (and video!) appointments. We are fortunate to live in the technological age where there are an abundance of ways to share couples’ inspiration and our styling options as we speak by phone in real time. In addition, our website & instagram feed are great resources to start making a wishlist.
Q: What trends are you seeing in registries today? Is the Millennial generation interested in fine china and crystal, or do they prefer dishwasher-safe?
A: Research shows and we have seen that what drives Millennials are meaning and experience which are core values of our company -offering custom china and serving pieces that hold personal meaning through monograms, crests, along with inscriptions which can be read during time gathering with loved ones which will become the most memorable and appreciated moments of their lives. We are lucky to attract couples who value what our brand brings and want fine china and crystal on their registry along with the resources to know that china truly is able to be used every day if desired and not stuffed in a china cabinet! That said, there are several current registry trends, some of which we expect to be just that-trends that will go-and others that will endure. Here are some of our favorite current registry trends which we expect will endure:
- Mixing china patterns within place settings-delightful!
- Incorporating family heirloom or vintage patterns into place settings-a favorite of ours!
- Registering for quintessential highballs & double old fashioned glasses along with bar items for making craft cocktails-one of my favorites as I am a cocktail – a Pimm’s Cup girl!
- Selecting high quality core pieces that will be used regularly and cherished more with each passing decade. Because couples have more choices than ever at their fingertips, it is not easy to wade through to find what a couple will truly be thankful to have registered for 10 years later. This is the heart of how we love to help!
Here are a few words of caution we offer couples regarding current trends:
- Gold & thin shanked stemware. While they offer beautiful “instagrammable” tablescapes, the finish will scratch and wear off of most (not all) gold flatware. The thin shanks of flatware make it difficult for many guests to grip their forks, spoons and knives!
- Registering at a multitude of stores. It is wonderful to be able to register in more than one place. However, registering at four or five places makes it difficult for your guests.
Q: What are some of your tips for setting a beautiful table?
A: While we immediately think of setting a beautiful table for a dinner party or family holiday, my favorite topic is giving tips that make every day more beautiful and meaningful especially with the hectic lives many of us lead. Since we have a multitude of instagram posts full of inspiration for fabulous flowers, stunning sterling, lovely ironed linens, and breathtaking stacks fine china, at our fingertips, here are some of my favorite easily attainable tips for bringing classic beauty to everyday meals which is most often our struggle.
- Simplify-Keep your table set! I consider a well set table a temporary art installation. Why take your china, flatware and glasses out of your dishwasher and put it in the cupboard after every meal? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home to your table already set for your meal? If your breakfast table is often used for homework & projects, don’t worry! In addition to using your finer things regularly why not use your dining room regularly?
- Use cloth napkins! Invest in high quality thick European linen napkins that become stronger and more durable each time they are washed. It’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for the soul to use them every day. In addition, collect other sets as well to use through the year. Don’t worry about ironing them every day! Invest in a set of napkin rings, such as our monogrammed napkin rings, and voila!- this tip alone makes every meal more luxurious and memorable.
- Use your china and sterling regularly. Porcelain and silver are very durable. If you don’t want to use them every day, choose just one or two meals a week. I hear stories of these traditions every week from Instagram followers who share memories made with their parents, grandparents and children
- If you don’t have flowers available for dinner consider a bowl of apples or oranges, and there is no shame in using artificial greenery and florals.
- Bring it outside! Alfresco meals with porcelain and silver are as easy to set and are quite memorable.
- Use a family piece or two at your table. Rotate them in and out through the seasons. The slightest glance of my grandmother’s bluestone pitcher immediately conjures up memories of her sweet tea. Our hope is that a glance of our custom china will create this same emotion.
Q: How do you create beauty in your everyday life?
A: In addition to the using the tips above, I also surround myself with art and craftsmanship from paintings to pottery that I have collected or been given over the years. Since I have a very active mind and life, I have found that I enjoy a calm palette at home. This gives me the opportunity to add layers of color, pattern (and china!) which I change through the seasons. I have always preferred slipcovers for their versatility and charm…hearkening back to my Oxford and Laura Ashley days…and I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that the greatest beauty in my life comes from spending time with family and friends.
Q: What does the future hold for Sasha Nicholas?
A: We are brimming with enthusiasm about future plans for our company. We have several exciting designs and pieces coming out shortly. In addition, we will be implementing a wonderful new system for communicating more effectively with customers in order to better serve their needs. As with The Glam Pad, our future will always include what you have coined “anti trends”- in other words, pieces and designs that will become more loved, used and appreciated over the years. Stay tuned via our Instagram for upcoming announcements about new designs and pieces!
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
I am incredibly grateful for the friendships & opportunity Instagram has given all of us to connect, collaborate, and create, sharing what we have in common to make our homes and our worlds a better place. That’s how I met you!
Sasha Nicholas signature dinnerware is a welcome addition to any home! It is the perfect one-stop destination for gifts, every day, special occasions, and wedding registry. They have even had couples purchase plates in bulk with custom monogram for wedding receptions, and afterwards use everyday as a reminder of their special day. It is more affordable than you may think! For additional information, please visit Sasha Nicholas and follow @sashanicholas on Instagram. Thank you so much, Cynthia, for sharing the story behind your very special company.