Thank you for the kind, generous comments and e-mails I've received from so many of you during my hiatus from blogging. It was nice to have a break, but even nicer to be back this week with a post for Tablescape Thursday with Susan of Between Naps on the Porch! I honestly thought my "Taking a Break" post might receive a half dozen comments at most. I assumed I'd lose followers and that readership would plummet. I just checked and found that hasn't been the case at all. Thank you for your patience, loyalty, and friendship.
It seemed to me that I needed to do something a little different this week, but what? I heard an artist say once, "It's easy to learn to paint; figuring out WHAT to paint is the hard part." Perhaps it's the same with writing, cooking, and table setting.
Where do you find inspiration when it comes time to set a table for a special occasion? For me it's a process. Obviously we don't exist in a vacuum. We see tables in restaurants, at fundraising events, at dinner parties, in films, on the pages of magazines, and (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery) on the blogs of people we admire. Sometimes inspiration for a table setting can begin with a new purchase, flowers blooming in the garden, a walk through the woods, a holiday -- possibilities are almost endless.
Enough of that! I have a feeling most of you are ready to get on with the show. I know I am! Here's "Velvet & Lace" (presented with limited interruptions for commentary).
About a week ago, after a rainy afternoon, the temperature dropped to freezing. Snow began to mingle with the raindrops around 9pm. Here's what I saw early the next morning.
The street was glazed with a thin layer of ice, but the driveway and sidewalk were mostly merely wet. The streets were clear shortly after the sun came out.
It was a wet, heavy snow. I thought it looked beautiful clinging to evergreens and bare tree branches and sitting atop black, metal objects.
And on the lawn jockey's cap, nose, and shoulders.
It seemed to me that the snow created a lacy effect on the network of twigs and the intertwined vines on the arbor at the entrance to the sunken garden.
The warm morning light dancing across lacy whiteness of snow (contrasted with darkness of bare trees and evergreens) ...
So what does this have to do with setting a table? Inspiration of course!
No, not for this rather austere-looking table (which looked even worse without the neutral tablecloth). Why are these modern, blonde wood chairs in the dining room? And where are the dark ones that go with this table?
And where is the oval table that normally lives in the sunroom?
Here they are! In the den, currently staged as a dining room.
Lacy whiteness, contrasted with blackness, warm dark woods, the greens of nature ...
Still life paintings I did a few years ago as demonstrations seem appropriate for a dining room. The one on the right was inspired by a Helen Van Wyk lesson on backgrounds. The one on the left is from a still life I set up and photographed at home (and taught a class to do in a one-day workshop).
I'm using one of my favorite china patterns, Concorde by Theodore Haviland. I recently purchased the cream soup bowls & underplates at Pastimes Antiques, a 10,000 square foot mall in the historic riverfront area of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Their website is HERE. There are approximately 20 places to shop for antiques and collectibles in the immediate area. Most are in walking distance of Pastimes. If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop by and meet Deb and her friendly staff.
A closer view of the china.
The napkins are from Belk. I used plain, silverplated napkin rings accented with black tulle and prism chains intended for a chandelier ($4 for a boxful at a local estate sale).
Instead of using cut flowers, I purchased a houseplant -- a cymbidium orchid (reduced to $7.49 at Kroger!).
The pot was wet, so I wrapped it in a plastic grocery bag, disguised with a napkin. The napkin is held in place with a rubber band. I wrapped it in black tulle to further soften the look of the plastic pot. It also helps visually tie the centerpiece in with the tablecloth.
Champagne chilling on the bar. The flutes are from Goodwill -- Bohemian (Czech) Claudia crystal. They were inexpensive glasses even when they were new, but I like the sparkle of the diamond ball stems. Does it seem to you that the space has taken on the ambience of a traditional club dining room?
A closer view of the stemware.
My favorite candleholders -- I've used them in many, many tablescape posts.
"Old family" silver doesn't have to be costly (nor inherited). This round International Silver butler's tray was still in the box, wrapped in tarnish-inhibiting materials. It's a nice heavy weight. Want to know how much I paid? Would you believe $5 at a local estate sale?
Often I'm the one helping bloggers identify crystal patterns, but I'm asking for your assistance on this one. I think it might be by Bryce, but I haven't found this particular design on this stem shape. Whatever the pattern, I love the way it sparkles against the black velvet and tulle.
I cut appoximately one foot lengths of the black sparkle tulle (I didn't measure) and tied it (like the first step of tying a shoe, but without the knot). The slightly rough texture holds it in place. I started to tie the crystals on with narrow black ribbon, but ended up just draping them across the top. They could be tied on or semi-permanently attached with a few drops of hot glue if the intention were to use them this way frequently.
The vintage silverplated flatware is "Eternally Yours" by 1847 Rogers Brothers.
It's one of my favorite patterns. Introduced in 1941, I think it has timeless appeal.
When I was browsing in Cape Girardeau antique shops, I was reminded of how vintage silver and rhinestone/crystal jewelry sparkle against a black velvet backdground.
I like sterling silver of course, but I also like variety. I often think of silverplated flatware and serving pieces as good costume jewelry for the table.
I freely mix nicer pieces with things like thrifted glass votive holders. I used platters for chargers at the end place settings (where I also obviously used non-matching chairs). I think mixing, rather than always matching, adds a modern touch and helps keep things interesting.
A pair of chairs from the dining room stand in for the ones that usually sit next to the armoire. This room seems larger to me in this incarnation (and so does the sunroom, staged as a sitting area).
One of my favorite tablescapes Susan of BNOTP has done was one next to a fireplace with a lace table covering sweeping onto the floor. That was certainly part of what inspired what I've created for you today.
As usual, all is not what it appears. I don't own a lace tablecloth that could generously cover a table this size. I've used three vintage Quaker Lace cloths here. As I arranged the corners, I had an odd feeling. It was as if I were preparing a bride for her wedding photographs.
Again, silver doesn't have to be expensive. This gravy boat caught my eye sitting on a shelf in a warehouse-like, unheated (other than a space heater next to the desk) thrift store in Cape Girardeau. Only $3! It was tarnished, but I looked it over carefully and felt for rough spots that might indicate silver loss. It was perfect. I look forward to using it to serve sauces or salad dressings at a real dinner party.
The stemware came from a local estate sale. The "wine" is colored water.
I included this shot because I liked seeing the reflection of the chandelier in the window.
Another look at the flowers. I normally don't have centerpieces that touch the chandelier! I do think this could work for a dinner party, because (elevated by the glass compote) most of the foliage is above eye level.
The gas logs give the room a warm, cozy feel.
And now ... time to light the candles!
Did you know the species Cymbidium hookerianum is considered a delicacy in Bhutan where it is traditionally cooked in a spicy curry or stew and called "olatshe" or "olachoto?"
It is one of the most popular and desirable orchids in the world because of the beautiful flowers. These plants make great houseplants, and are also popular in floral arrangements and corsages. They have been cultivated for thousands of years, especially in China. Cymbidiums became popular in Europe during the Victorian era. One feature that makes the plant so popular is the fact that it can survive during cold temperatures (as low as 7˚ C or 45˚ F) [Actually they will survive at temperatures below 32˚F for short periods and even as low as 28˚F]. Orchid hobbyists in temperate climates appreciate the fact that they can bloom in winter, when few other orchids are blooming.
I confess that I didn't know any of that (except that they could be used in corsages). What did we ever do without Wikipedia?
Another confession: As many of you have probably noted, this isn't really black velvet. It's upholstery-weight corduroy. I looked at all the 54" wide fabric at Hobby Lobby and decided I liked this better than the velvets and the sueded cloth. I wanted something non-shiny, and this is machine washable. It was also quite inexpensive - $8.99 a yard. It was 30% off, and I had a $20 gift card I'd received as a Christmas gift. So I spent around $2 for a look that I think is unusual and, I hope, dramatic.
I wouldn't bother hemming the sides for two reasons. Every centimeter of width is needed here, and I found the selvage -- or self-finished edges -- (selvedge in British English) attractive, with a slightly fringed look. I bought 3.5 yards, so there would be enough length to hem if I decide to use (and launder) it in the future.
Time for dinner?
Well, actually it IS! Friends who have a standing invitation to dinner called and said they were available. What to do when the house is in tablescaping disarray? I didn't want to unset the velvet/lace table (hadn't taken the evening shots yet!), and there would only be four of us.
I flipped up the ends of the cloth and gave the table a "petticoat" -- silk drapery panels to cover the dark legs. I didn't do it very neatly, but the legs disappeared.
I had just bought a box of clementines, so those went into the bowl for an impromptu centerpiece. I added a variety of candleholders and lit candle remnants I haven't quite been able to discard (which had the benefit of keeping the flames below eye level during dinner).
The vintage Fostoria "Laurel" stemware came from the estate sale of a local judge. He was Al Gore's uncle so, naturally, I mentioned their provenance during dinner. I'm almost certain that Al and Tipper drank from these numerous times through the years of their seemingly perfect marriage. Well, they could have ... right?
For fun, I served the deviled eggs on a kitchy ceramic tray. Pickles and olives are underneath the setting hen. Some of you have asked if I use Tablescape Thursday tables for entertaining guests. The answer would be, "Usually not ... but sometimes." What you see below is simplified, relaxed ... reality.
I used easy-care cotton restaurant napkins, inexpensive acrylic chargers from Belk, and stainless steel flatware (also from Belk). The assemble-your-own salad was served on the kitchen island in plain white Crate and Barrel bowls. The chicken and rice stir fry (with lots of white wine both in the pan and poured in the glasses), I plated in the kitchen, on plates that match the bowls. There were homemade cloverleaf yeast rolls (just tossed ingredients in a breadmaker, and it mixed and did the initial rising). Dessert was served on clear glass plates. Coffee arrived with dessert (no cups on the table until then). Everything except the Haviland cups & saucers and Fostoria stemware went in the dishwasher. Easy and fun!
But this is still the kind of table I truly enjoy setting for Tablescape Thursdays. If YOU were coming here for a dinner party, which table and room would you prefer?
Please join the inimitable Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday!