Wednesday, October 13, 2010

S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your Sunday Best!

It happens sometimes. The number of guests you've invited to a dinner party exceeds the total number of place settings displayed in your china cabinet. Perhaps you'll have to set a second table for the event. You want the overall effect to be beautiful and harmonious. Particularly when all the invited guests are adults, it seems inappropriate for one of the tables to have the look of the kids' table at a family reunion.

Do you go shopping? Call Replacements, LTD? Use (shudder)your finest paper plates? Let's not go there just yet. Maybe you have your wedding china in the cabinet and Grandmother's dishes stored in the back of a closet. You might consider mingling everyday ironstone plates with your fine china (especially if the background colors are similar). You can still give your guests equal treatment.

I took a relatively safe approach to mixing-and-matching two sets of dishes for one event today. The key is to make it look intentional, fresh, and modern. I combined two Lenox patterns: Monroe and Essex Maroon. Introduced decades apart, they have in common a warm, creamy background, decorated with maroon accents and metallic gold rims. You could take the same approach with patterned/solid dishes, black/white, two bright colors, glass/porcelain, gold/silver rims. The trick is to alternate place settings -- the dinner plate of the first setting matches the salad plate of the next, and so on. I took the same approach with the cups and saucers, even though the cup shapes are quite different -- you'll see.

This turned out to be an image-intensive post. I hope you'll indulge me and scroll through to the end. If you have a slow Internet connection ... well, this may not be the post for you. I'm sorry! I love setting tables for you and photographing them in a variety of lighting conditions.

Obviously we're in the dining room. There was almost nothing blooming in the garden (the odd rose here and there and a lantana or two). I wanted to include touches of autumn colors and reminders of harvest time.

I headed to Kroger and checked out the supermarket's floral department. I was in luck. I found a beautiful bouquet reduced from $20 to $3.99! I stripped off a few wilted leaves, discarded some of the aging filler greenery, and cut the stems relatively short. I added height to the centerpiece with the stand of a silverplated chafing dish ($1.49 at Goodwill -- the other pieces had gone astray) and inserted a round silver Revere bowl to hide stems and floral foam.

I unified the place settings by using the same stemware throughout (Fostoria Holly, 1942-1980). You could just as effectively mix and match a variety of patterns. If you do that, I'd suggest using all clear glass or a single color, either all gold rims or only platinum decoration -- something to create harmony along with interest.
I often use stemware originally intended to be tall water glasses for serving wine. Since it's no longer common practice to change wines with every course, nor to serve course after course, it's easier to use a larger glass and avoid frequent refilling. The "iced tea/beverage" glasses work well as water glasses.

Do I always place the glasses (and flatware) where rules of etiquette dictate? Not necessarily. Especially for a tablescape post, I tend to place things where they feel balanced or look interesting. A real-life centerpiece wouldn't be this tall. I'd probably use just the silver bowl and cut the stems much shorter. This arrangement would work well in an entry hall or on a large sideboard. But, for today, it's our centerpiece.

Below -- one of the place settings with a Monroe dinner plate and bread plate (used as an underplate for a Holly tall sherbet glass). The tall sherbet/champagne glasses are perfect for serving appetizers.

The 1847 Rogers Brothers "Remembrance" flatware was my mother's. As I set this table, the weight of the forks and the shape of the knives reminded me of setting tables for long-ago Christmas dinners. She would often say, "My wants are simple." Buying this silverware for herself had been a rare indulgence.

Here I "married" an Essex cup to a Monroe saucer.

A closer view of the flower container and the garden greenery I used as filler. The upholstery fabric remnant cost a dollar (or less) at a local moving sale.

The Tablescape Thursday wine is faux once again. Two or three drops of red food coloring and a drop of blue in a pitcher of water created the look I wanted.

I alternated two kinds of napkins. They have in common a similar size, off-white color, and taupe embroidery, but they're definitely distant cousins. Two contrasting colors would have also worked -- especially if the dishes and/or the flowers used were bright and colorful.

Closer view of the centerpiece ...

I used a pair of gold-plated salt and pepper shakers. I could have added silver or glass ones, but I thought these repeated the tones of the china's gold rims.

I was delighted to find the flowers for such a good price. They actually looked better the second day after having had their stems cut and being placed in fresh water.

The late day autumn light brings attention to the wheel cut laurel design of the Holly stemware.

The gold trim of the china shimmers as day's end approaches.

Visitors (real and online) often ask where I store tabletop items. The Holly glassware lives in the sitting room secretary/cabinet. The Monroe china is displayed in the dining room china cabinet, and the Essex Maroon dishes have zippered, padded storage containers and are stored on floor-to-celining shelves in an upstairs closet.

A closer view ...

Almost time to light the candles ...


The double-light candleholders are also Fostoria Holly, an eBay purchase a couple of years ago.

A series of candlelit views ....

Did you think we were finished for today? I decided to stretch two services for 8 into one for 16 (actually I have more than that of each pattern -- this is for instructional purposes!).

The second table is set in the sunroom and, even though the dishes, silverware, glassware, and napkins are the same, the overall mood is quite different. Obviously, the room itself is a more casual space. I opted to use (mostly) fruit instead of flowers for the centerpiece. I gathered the pears from under my father's tree (they fall as they ripen). The tree is loaded this year -- and they're organic -- he never sprays his fruit trees. The grapes were on sale at Kroger. I saved enough on grapes to offset half the cost of the flower arrangement in the dining room (and we can eat this centerpiece!).

I used my favorite Mikasa crystal salt and pepper shakers. The single candleholders are Fostoria Holly.

This stemware came from a recent local estate sale. Their previous owner is 93, and she's moved to a nursing home. Her nieces were at the sale. They told me it had been her wedding crystal and that Aunt Lucy probably only used it once or twice. They were in pristine condition, and the set included 8 Holly salad plates. If you're lucky (and it's the last day of a sale), you can often purchase a similar complete set of stemware for not much more than a single stem of new department store crystal. I'm sure prices vary in different areas of the country, but I think estate sales tend to be great sources of vintage and antique items that cost the same or less than (often lower quality) mass-produced merchandise.

An overview of the table.

I elevated the centerpiece with an upside-down Pyrex square baking pan and used an old curtain valance to add color and softness.

I placed clusters of grapes on either side of the round centerpiece to add interest and to echo the oval shape of the table.

It had been a gloomy afternoon, but the sun came out just as I began taking the photographs.

I love the stems of the tall sherbets and tall water glasses. Fostoria produced a plain version of this shape called "Astrid." Holly is one of the few vintage patterns that combined a wheel cut pattern with an "gray" acid-etched one. The longer etched shapes represent leaves, and the more rounded polished cuts symbolize the berries. Honestly, I don't think of actual holly when I see the pattern. I just like the crisp, modern, stylized design juxtaposed with the neo-classical shape of the stem.

The color of the "wine" spreads a rosy glow as reflections and shadows extend across the table.

The Fostoria center handle plate below is great for serving cookies, appetizers, etc. Most of the serving pieces were based on Fostoria's Sonata shape. The stemware was decorated on shape number 6030 (Astrid).

I thought the fringe was too pretty to throw away. And now it's come in handy!

So tempting to keep samping the centerpiece as I took the photographs!

Here you see the transluscent quality of the Lenox china ...

Do you mix your china patterns?

The Lenox covered casserole dish is the only piece that makes me uneasy when I use it. If chipped or broken, they're very expensive to replace these days!

I snipped a few blooms from an outdoor pot of mums. They really say fall, don't they?

More shots in the late afternoon light ...

You know what's next .... candle time!

And the Blue Hour ...

Thank you for visiting today. I hope you'll join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday!

See you soon ...


  1. Wonderful, as usual, Bill! I would love to find a pattern to mix with my wedding china as you've done here. I always love seeing your Holly crystal. How wonderful to be able to serve 16 guests as you've shown us here!

  2. So masterfully done (but of course! LOL!)! Unless you really look, those two patterns of china blend so well, that you don't even realize each place setting isn't the same. It's magnificent!

    - The Tablescaper

  3. Wow! Your tables are so elegant. I thoroughly enjoy visiting and seeing your masterpieces. Mixing the two patterns works. You have a talent, my dear. Thanks for sharing! Linda

  4. Bill, you are absolutely the master at this, so looking through your photographs is such a treat! I love these patterns together. Who would even know they are blended they work so well. I used a chaffing dish this week also and some paisley fabric, but not with flowers, just leaves and twigs. Both settings are absolutely gorgeous. You set the standard for the rest of us as always. Beautiful:-) Anita

  5. You are very lucky to have found two china patterns that "marry" well. They were meant to be! It is beautiful! I especially love the cup shape. The crystal is lovely, as well as your Mom's silver(always a favorite!)

    My Lenox pattern is "Ascot" I wish I had a full set, but the month I was married Lenox discontinued the pattern. I have found pieces here and there over the years. Replacements has my pattern but it is a bit too pricey at the moment. It would be great to find a pattern that would mix well.

    Your tables are always so well done.

    From Virginia

  6. Both tables are beautiful. I often mix and match things, although I must say that the mix/match of the cup and saucer is brave...and with these patterns, it works! I would have been more likely to alternate place settings. After seeing this, I might try it differently.

    I love Lenox. It was my wedding china and I would pick it out again today.

  7. I love your tables -- but your a master as setting a pretty table. I like the idea of the mix and match -- you'd never really know it all looks so pretty together! But, then I think you are the table setting master! Yours are always so elegant and so pretty.

  8. I love to mix and match my china. Both tables look effortless and are breathtaking! Your pictures are amazing and really show the beauty of each piece. I enjoy learning the history of your collection. you are a wealth of knowledge!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Both tablescapes are breathtaking. Stunning photos also. I enjoy your tablescapes so much and I always drool over each one. Definitely a treat. Hugs, Marty

  10. Stunning! I might never have realized that you used 2 different patterns, they blend so beautifullY! I am going to post tonight on Susan's TT, so I hope you will come visit. I have posted my table on RMS, since I don't have a blog and my latest "comment" was "too much going on"..LOL! I guess she hasn't heard of tablescaping:):) Oh well, I truly enjoy it. You are such a wonderful ionspiration to so many, Bill! XO, Pinky

  11. Welcome back! We missed you! And, as usual, you have yet again "WOW'd" us with your gorgeous tablescapes. And we didn't just get one for the money, we got two for show! You did a wonderful job, everything looks so classy. And I love your Kroger flowers. The arrangement you made was beautiful -- as were all of your pictures in the candlelight. Take care!

  12. Bill, we missed you!

    Your tables are as amazing as ever. I felt like I was part of your gorgeous photographs. You are a master at tablescaping and photography - your tables are lovely at every angle and in every light. I love your commentary. I do feel like I am in tablesetting class. And I look forward to your history lessons, your etiquette lessons, and your commentary! Two different, yet complimentary, tables. Wonderful!

  13. Two very esquisite table scapes. You did an amazing job of placement.

  14. Hi Bill,
    It was enjoyable as always to see your pretty tables. It doesn't amaze me that you are able to strech your china from 8 to 16 persons - I hope you can strech the soup as well. LOL
    But in fact your china matches so well as if it is designed for that combination. Every detail is really perfect. Thank you for showing us your talent.
    Greetings, Johanna

  15. $1.49??!?!?!?!! You got that beautiful chafer for $1.49??!?!?!!!! I am flabbergasted, dumbfounded, speechless, and freaked!!! $1.49?? How is it that I can never find deals like that?? I know I don't hit the thrift stores very much, but when I do there is no bargain that even comes CLOSE in comparison to that! Bravo for you! Everything looks fabulous! I'm glad to see you back today. I enjoy your settings. Have a wonderful week!

  16. Oh my Bill... there is not anoter in all of the land of Blog who sets a table that makes my heart go pitter pat like you!
    I am totally captivated with the gorgeous way you married these lovely sets of china! They are so very interesting together and define Synergy!
    Only you could find that chafing dish and make it look like a treasured family heirloom.
    Your attention to detail and elegance is outstanding.
    You have captured my heart, my friend!!!!

  17. Oh well, Bill, you have done it again!! I love this idea of stretching your china to meet demand! These Lennox patterns are perfect for this and you showcase them perfectly....always look forward to your photography. Knowing, of course, that I will come back to your blog over the next week and scroll through them again...and again! Thanks so much for sharing your is so much appreciated.

  18. Bill, thanks for the pointers in mixing patterns...they all look perfect together. I love the large shot of all the table together, seeing everything all lined up so is just satisfying, don't you think? As always, GREAT post... Have a wonderful week. Sharon

  19. Two beautiful tables! I always enjoy seeing your next tablescape creation.

  20. Wow! As always a great table, Bill. I like how you combined the china - in fact they look like they should go together. And you know I love Fostoria, especially the center handled servers.

    Thank you!

  21. Faux wine is the only brand I drink, and it must be the right vintage too. I can tell! :)
    Beautiful tables, I love the china with the burgundy trim, just gorgeous.
    You missed your mention in the poem last week. TSK TSK! So many bloggers are just dying to be named, LOL!

  22. Love the mix and match. I don't think anyone does that better then you!! Love the centerpieces! Beautiful tables as always Bill!

  23. Your tables are amazing. Absolutely, mind blowing amazing. I love those two patterns together. They do look as if they belong. Which now makes me think I need to find a mate to my Lenox Snow Lily. I love how elegant and natural your tables flow. It would be a pleasure to sit at one!

  24. Your tables are just beautiful, Bill. You captivate my attention with your designs and commentary. How do you make so many great pictures! Your lighting is intriguing. I must ask, however, how long does it take to load this many pictures on blogger? Do you load all at once or several at a time? Great post. Everything is beautiful. I would love to be your guest.

  25. Bill -
    I LOVE those two patterns together. I love the upside down pyrex pan! One's got to be creative in blogland!
    Linda at A Toile Tale

  26. I love how you've combined two patterns to stretch the place settings. So pretty and practical! I think the two patterns mixed create a more interesting and pleasing table than using only one pattern. Now I'm pondering how to combine my great-aunt's china with my formal china. Thank you for sharing your beautiful table setting!

  27. Such a wonderful table, as always! I love the ideas that I get (and the inspiration) from looking at your tablescapes! The Holly stemware is true beauty; the more I looked at it, the more I loved it. The pattern, so simple, yet so classic...but has a modern feel. The china pieces are so similar, you'd never know that it was two sets combined! Beautiful!

  28. My word! You are incredible! I can't believe that centerpiece! I need to go to your good will store and your Kroger! Good job! I am definitely subscribing and following.

    I am stopping by on the way back from BNOTP and I hope you will stop by my way too at Currently Chic.

  29. Bill,
    I learn so much from your posts, you really have the eye for putting things together in a fabulous way.
    Would love to see your kitchen sometime, please share it with us.

    Mary L

  30. Hi Bill, I love the way you mixed the two china patterns. They seem to be made for each other. I have a question about the sherbet glasses--were they also sometimes used for champagne, or were champagne glasses different? I remember my mom and her friends drinking champagne and brandy alexanders out of glasses in that shape, probably in the late 60's/early 70's. Beautiful tables, and great ideas for mixing. Linda

  31. I love the stemware. Just so pretty. And, I love the silver flower vase. I have a couple of pretty little silver bowls that I think I can do that with on a smaller scale. Which would work out well since I have a smaller table. Thanks for the great idea.

  32. Bill,
    Another incredible tablescape. The Monroe and the Essex Maroon are wonderful together. I love the way you "married" the cups and saucers. The stemware is just gorgeous and your centerpieces are beautiful. I picked up a few ideas today.
    Glad to see you back.


  33. Very beautiful. I love how you revived that discounted supermarket bouquet! Stan

  34. Mega "sigh" here...such elegance & inviting & obviously selected with a discerning eye to create a wonderful feeling of warmth & ambiance.

    I adore the Lenox pattern, Monroe & must make a point of checking it out in person to see if it will work with my "Eternal" set. I'd love to be able to use some of it together. The rich red-burgundy color with that rope patterned detail is so opulent.

    I always enjoy my visits to your blog so much. Its like going to a party only I don't have to put on pantyhose or high heels!!!

  35. What a beautiful post! I always enjoy your tables...Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures and the time you spend making me happy veiwing your scapes!

  36. Oh Bill, I feel the same way you do about paper plates. I have a few sets in the cupboard that were so inexpensive and cute but I can't make myself use them. Darn it, that's what china is for!. . .and yours is lovely. Yes, I do mix my china and like you I attempt to do it in a tasteful manner. I don't often do large parties anymore so the 16 matching sets of china and packed up in the garage. Really pretty flowered pattern. Oh well. I always enjoy visiting your "Home" you have a gift for making everyone feel so welcome.

    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  37. Bill, I personally like the mix of the patterns. I think it makes for a more interesting setting. These two patterns are magical together. Your tables are stunnig as always. You are the master! ~ Sarah

  38. Hi, Bill! I'm so glad you're back! And, I dearly loved seeing these two patterns together; it makes me want them both! Everything is so lovely, including your photography. When I saw the first candlelit shot, I smiled so quickly and so wide that my lips squeaked and woke up my kitty! Your posts are like a visit to how I'd love to live. And your effort and inspiration are so appreciated.

    Sherry in Little Rock

  39. Hi Bill... have done it once again, my friend! You always set the most elegant and graceful tables! I love the two china patterns that you mixed...they look as though they belong together...gorgeous! All the crystal...simply breathtaking!!! I loved the beautiful floral arrangment in the silver...but the fruit centerpiece was just as pretty! Beautiful examples for a large gathering! Thank you for sharing them with us, my friend! Your tables always just say..."Ahhhh"!!!

    Warmest autumn wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  40. Artfully presented, skillful tutorial on mixing. I see you have your napkins folded correctly! ;-)) There are various online tutorials on the subject -- I am talking about the classic fold, not decorative folds -- which instruct to fold them the wrong way, at least according to what I was taught. Maybe you could talk about that one day. My mother would be proud!

  41. Bill, this is just wonderful! I love everything--so classic and elegant. You always inspire me!

  42. My first comment to your blog, but follow religiously. You never fail to impress and would so love to live near you so we can together play 'dress up the table'. lol

  43. Bill,
    As always, when I visit your blog (I know it is not so often !) I am just impressed by your skills and talent. Very very inspiring. Congrats !

    ♥ Hélène Glehen - a French artist, fond of roses and romantic stuff ♥

  44. Bill, Both tables are beautiful and the china looks like it all belongs together. Love the centerpieces.

  45. Hi lovely lady. I love your Tablescapes just Beautiful ~~` You have a way with all of them just lovely. You must been doing this for a long time it shows. I am new at Bloging five weeks now ~~ But I hope my tables do as will as yours. If you can have a look~~ Thanks so much for sharing your Tablescapes with me.

  46. I am so sorry Bill, for the lovely lady. Some times I forget man can do lovely Tablescapes also. SO SORRY.If you never look at my Blog. I will understand.

  47. Bill, I'm so-o glad you came back this week,especially since you brought us two gorgeous tables! (It's the least you could do after making us wait so long to see another one of your beautiful tablescapes!!) I love the combination of these two china patterns. They work so beautifully together. They are a perfect combination! I love Lenox patterns. I was collecting their Boxwood and Pine Christmas china until they discontinued it! I almost have a complete set. There is a factory and store here in my town and I love to just go in and browse!
    Once again, so glad you are back. Please don't stay away so long. We blog stalkers need our weekly dose of inspiration!!

  48. Hey there Bill, so glad to see you again!
    Oh and need I say these two different tablescapes are just lovely as always my friend!
    Your description on how to pull it all together was amazing and really helpful. Thank you for that great tutorial.
    Ps if you stop in, just to let you know, my tablescape at the beach house was the best I could do with the meesley assortment of "beachy" dishware I had to choose from:)

  49. I always enjoy my visits here and learn so much.....about china, stemware, flatware, centerpieces, history, photography.....

    Thanks for all the hours that I know go into doing a shoot of this magnitude! Looking forward to future posts of yours.

    Angelic Accents

  50. I wish that I knew how to adequately spell the sigh of contentment that escaped my lips as I scrolled through the shots of your beautiful tablescape. The Essex and the Monroe could have been designed to use together...they are perfection on your table. The stemware brings a hint of a wheat laurel to mind...perfect for autumn. I've missed you. Glad to find you post this week. Thank you for sharing your elegant design. Cherry Kay

  51. You really pulled everything together in such an elegant way. I'm really impressed how you incorporated the valance and grapes. I would have never thought to use a valance as a table runner (wonderful touch). You get an A+ in creativity in my book my friend. Truly another masterpiece.


  52. Bravo, Bill!

    Beautiful job on this table, and I love the way you mixed the different patterns. You always set such wonderful tables, and no one takes photos like you do. THE BEST!

    And how could you ever apologize for giving us what we want... lots of photographs of lovely accoutrements on your tables? The more the merrier!

    As always, thank you for sharing...


    Sheila :-)

  53. Hello Bill,
    What a stunning tablescape! I love the sparkle of the stemware and the ambience of the white tapers! Love how you mixed and matched the china too and your floral centerpiece is gorgeous! I agree with Gigi; you get an A+ for your creativity! Enjoyed my visit very much and I will be back. Have a lovely day.


  54. Everything is just beautiful, Bill. Your 2 china really blended harmoniously....Christine

  55. Bill,
    I really enjoyed this post--you left me without a single question, as you provided all of the info we needed! The two lenox patterns were perfect together--almost intentional.
    Thanks for sharing!

  56. Bill lindo post! você é muito criativo. Tenha uma ótima semana de plena semana. Até breve

  57. Hi Bill,
    It was so good to hear from you! I was hoping you would share your kitchen with us last week! That was a fun meme!

    I love this tablescape, so elegant, so gorgeous! I like the way you "married" the china together, works great!

    I think my favorite of the two is the one with the upholstery fabric!

    Beautiful blue hour photos!

    I also like the way you told how you break the rules sometimes with your table designs, I also do that! One time some anonymous person, I call her the tablescape police, told me I had the glasses, or flatware on the wrong side. I purposely do that to balance it out, for the pictures. For all she knows I could have left handed friends!! ;-)

    I just posted my Tablescape Tuesday on Marty's meme.


  58. Stunning, absolutely stunning! I would be delighted to dine at either one of these beautiful tablescapes.

    Mr Wonderful and I have two china patterns from our bridal registry. I have yet to use them together, as the bridal consultant recommended solid and a patterned china. Thanks for sharing how to create fabulous tablescapes by coordinating two different, yet complimentary patterns.

    All the Best,


  59. Bill, You have done an outstanding job as usual. You are truly an artist. No one else in this tablescaping world can" light a candle to you". I have been lurking around here for a while. I really didn't know I was lurking. I just started blogging a couple of weeks ago. Only now, do I realize the importance of commenting and following. It is an affirmation of what you are doing and how it is being accepted.
    Your narrative with the historical bent can draw one in as much as the beautiufl accoutrements you so artfully display.
    I really love that you have given your nod to the mixing of two tables with two mixed patterns. Coming from you, this information will be the boon of second tables across the land.
    I am lurking no more. I am following. - Ginger

  60. WOW !! That was a long post. Every place setting was devine, thanks

  61. My God're to much! What a beautiful table and sooo very elegant, I adore elegance, and boy, you're the best! Totally divine and your mother's flatware, Remembrance is a beauty, the name is perfect for you to remember her whenever you use it. I want to indulge in a sterling silver flatware set and maybe I'll get something with a name my daughters can remember me by. The china is terific the way you mixed it, I thought for a while it was the same one...WOW!
    Merry Xmas.