Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Tropical Table and a Tribute

When the table seats eight, and it's dinner for seven, how does one avoid creating a visual void?

One solution might be to let the centerpiece become an "end piece." That's what I've done today. Well, naturally, I continued the design down the center of the table, but the emphasis is on the tall floral arrangement at the end.

I wanted to create a relaxed, tropical mood in the sunroom.

I tend not to create themed tables. I'm more inclined to mix a variety of vintage and modern pieces with the goal of creating an atmosphere or a feeling.

Plates with fish designs were used by the Greeks as far back as the 4th century BC. There's a long history of French Limoges plates featuring fish designs. Whenever I see them in antiques shops or at estate sales, they're always very expensive.

My Williams-Sonoma "La Mer" dinner plates (from Goodwill!) feature a variety of fish designs, taken from original watercolor paintings by Parisian artist Marc Lacaze.

"South Seas" by Oneida (1955-65), one of my favorite vintage silverplate patterns, seems to me to be an appropriate dinner companion for the plates.

I wanted to keep the setting unfussy, so I left the table bare and added a bit of "lift" to the plates by placing them atop plain, rather chunky, dinner plates from Pottery Barn.

I'm using beautiful tapers by Colonial Candles in a soft, buttery yellow. I thought they might look nice in turquoise candleholders (of which I had none). I improvised by filling small glasses, probably intended for serving whiskey, with tinted water. Then I partially submerged clear glass candleholders in the water. Their flared rims held them in place.

The glasses were free at the end of a local estate sale. I was looking at them on an outside table, and the man said, "You can have them. Otherwise they're going in the trash." The candleholders, which I use frequently for tealights, were thrifted. I left the sticker on the candles to remind readers to check out the Colonial Candles website HERE.

The glassware is vintage. The heavy, pressed glass stems I'm using for water were labeled Fostoria in a booth at a local antiques mall, where all the items are $3 each. I'm not sure if they're actually Fostoria, but they do have three seams (mold marks). Glasses that have only two are usually lesser imitations.

The tall wheel-cut stems came from a recent estate sale. At first I thought they were too fancy for today's table, but then I focused on the fern and flower design and decided they had an island feel. Mainly I just like the stems, the shape, and the sparkle they provide!

I'm using glads again. When the colors are this gorgeous, and the prices are so reasonable, they're difficult to resist. At only 99 cents per bundle, I splurged and bought three in assorted colors!

I love the ruffled edges of the blooms.

The three small bouquets are in vintage Japanese jars. Their ceramic stoppers have a layer of cork to help them seal, so I assume they were originally used for serving sake. I saw them at a local antiques mall (3 for $4!) and thought, "Vases."

To move the bright orange color down the length of the table, I added blooms from the "Bengal Tiger" canna lilies in the garden.

The "end piece" container was a Goodwill find. I lined the vase and the votive holders with "Bengal Tiger" canna leaves. Rather than cutting them perfectly to size, I let them be "expressive." Was it the correct choice? I don't know -- I tend to go with what feels right.

I added water to the candleholders and floated tealights in them. The water lifted the little candles and helped protect the leafy liners.

Late afternoon shadows ...

Candle time!

The blue hour ...

Perhaps I could serve salad on the fish plates and fish on the dinner plates below?

From Wikipedia regarding Graeco-Roman fish plates: "Some contend that fish plates were decorated with pictures of the seafood they were intended to hold. Most of them, however, have been found in mortuary contexts, so it might be surmised that the fish images could represent symbolic offerings for the dead."

Do you like the idea of using a tall centerpiece at the end of the table?

Canna blooms usually don't do well as cut flowers, but, if they're just opening, they can make it through at least one evening.

I think Marc Lacaze's designs are beautiful. From his blog:

"His work is a fascinating documentary of his travels, inspired by the sensory exploration of these places, in the Romantic tradition.

His work has been published by a variety of international magazines and book publishers. In the U.S, his work appeared in Travel & Leisure Magazine consistently for 7 years. Other magazines include Le monde, Geo, Food & Wine, Town & Country, and Regal... His has worked with publishers Gallimard, and le Cherche midi. Business clients include le Club Med, Frequence plus, Hennessy, Accor, and BNP...

For several years, Lacaze has worked on exclusive collection pieces for Williams-Sonoma, one of America’s largest consumer retail companies for tabletop and housewares."

As I was working on this post, I was saddened to learn that Marc Lacaze died unexpectely on August 9, 2011, and his funeral was today in Paris.
HERE's a post about it at Journey Jottings.

A short video from an interview in 2010:

Williams Sonoma - 'Marc Lacaze' from 3C Films on Vimeo.

Let's drink a toast to a talented artist, who did beautiful work and brought the world happiness and inspiration.

Please join Susan of
Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.


  1. Bill, another awesome setting! Those flowers are absolutely gorgeous! And, since you asked, I think it's a great idea to put the centerpiece at the end, since that way you can avoid having to talk over it to your friends in the middle of the table!

  2. Beautiful table setting and the arrangement at the end of the table works great. Like the idea using the tinted water for the candle holders, and sake containers for vases. You are very talented in using items for something other than for what they were intended. I know someone who has a "fish platter" from Wm. So. and I told her to look on the bottom is see if his name is on it as artist, etc.. I bought glads recently that did not open. :( Guessing they were picked to soon or in cold storage to long.
    Enjoy your evening.

  3. Hi Bill, You made another beautiful tablescape. The glads are just beautiful and I love those turquoise candle holders. Have a great week! Pamela

  4. What a stunning photography Bill, wow! I just love the sun light flowing like water on the table, I've tried to follow your photo style to no avail!hahahaaa...What a great idea, it's happened to me in the past that I was hosting a party for 7 and didn't quite know what to do with the extra seat, this is terrific, a side flower arrangement and your glads are beautiful!Love the fish plates, I saw some French recently in an antique shop, kind of expensive, but maybe I'll take them home. When you have time, come and visit and see what I got, though. What a treat to see your lovely posts and this one is no exception! Lots of hugs. FABBY

  5. Hi Bill- A very enjoyable design you've created! The tall centerpiece at the end is a great idea and I love the canna leaves folded in the votive holders as well as the vase! I like the random look and agree you don't have to have them perfectly matching! I love your choice of stemware and silveware...quietly elegant!
    Looks like your Marc LaCaze dishes are very special a what a timely tribute you've created!
    I tip my glass to his memory, such a shame to lose a talent like that.

  6. Bill, this is a beautiful table. Love the fish plates.

  7. Oh Bill, I Love this table! The fish plates are beautiful, I like that they are all different. I do love the end piece too and the canna leaves in the vase and candle holders!. When I first saw the table I thought they WERE turquoise tea light holders! CLEVER you! I amy have to steal that idea sometime. The stemware is beautiful, looks like a twisted stem! Thanks for sharing this beuty. Pinky

  8. Great post lovely table, I prefer the arrangement at the end so as not to block anyone's view of the other guests.Love the plates, I have seen some more online that Marc designed and would love to own them. Sad on his passing as I don't think he was very old. Maybe one of your French readers might know more about his untimely passing from their French papers, sorry I could not help when you emailed me.
    Jackie in Surrey, UK.

  9. Fantastic job! Coming from tropic I totally appreciate this grand setting. Love those fish plates and candle holders. Stunning shots! Thanks for sharing.
    I would love to see you on my blog...sometime:)

  10. Bill, this is a gorgeous table. I love the idea of the votives in the glasses.. What a lovely idea. Great way to bring a bit more color in without purchasing odd pieces! Your fish plates are really very nice. I love Marc's work and have some of his plates too. It saddens me that he has left such a void!
    Love glads too. Their happy face just brings so much joy! You new wheel cut crystal is gorgeous.. You've got me wanting to find some too
    Congrats on another beautiful table that has your signature style all over it! xo marlis

  11. This is a great simple table. I often worry about the odd number of guests for a dinner party. Using the large bouquet at the end of the table is inspired to rebalance.

  12. Love the atmospheric shots of the table!
    I often move centerpiece "out of the way" when we have dinner -- even when it is just the two of us. Usually my dining room table has a leaf or two in it, making it way too big for just 4 or even 6, so I use the center for low candles and the food, and the flowers (or plant, sometimes) gets moved to the end.

    It works!

    Love your colors today -- beautiful.
    LOVE the fish plates, too -- and Goodwill? My kind of shopper!

  13. your tinted candle holder creation...very clever. i also like the addition of the leaves to the votives. the simple organic touch is lovely. another beautiful table.

  14. I was shocked to read about Lacaze. He is so young and telented. I wonder how it happened! I have his Francais rooster plates and Paysage pasta set. Your fish set is gorgeous, so manly! I know what you mean about Limoges fish plates being very expensive. I see them on antique stores and estate sales all the time. Clever idea on lining the glass with canna leaves and I love your aqua or teal (?? votive candle holders. The color pop on the table. Your flowers are gorgeous, as usual, Bill!...Christine

  15. It's been quite a while for me but I'm back and, as usual, you've set quite the lovely table. And I love the background that you provide on your dishes, their sources and where you found them. Love the lillies!

    Take care and lots of hugs...give one to the girls (your flamingos) also.


  16. How delightful to pretend we're in Tahiti with this tropical table! I think the idea of using a tall centerpiece at the end of the table was BRILLIANT! It looks gorgeous & the little "sake/ vases" do a wonderful job of carrying the colors throughout.
    Lining the glass vases & votive cups with canna leaves made for a really cool effect.

    It was also a GREAT idea to tint the water & float the candle holders! My mind is spinning with the possibilities for this trick. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration, Bill & what a nice tribute to Marc. So sad to hear of his death.


    p.s. I DO think your water glasses are Fostoria. They have the 6 panels similar to the Virginia pattern.

  17. so many beauty shots of your glads, they are a show stopper, so is the end vase~

  18. How pretty -- I always pick up such great tips from your posts.

  19. So beautiful, as always! You always have so many neat ideas to share with us! Thanks!

    I really like the vintage glassware!

    Nice tribute to Marc, so sad being so young.


  20. I love all of this. The fish plates are wonderful! My favorite thing is the use of the Bengal Tiger leaves in tour vase! I love that plant.

  21. Beautiful table...the fish dishes are wonderful. I LOVE the centerpiece(s). The glads are gorgeous! Very inviting table-especially in candlelight.

  22. I've used food coloring in a glass vase to make it a specific color, but had never thought of the idea for candleholders. Such a great idea! Consider it stolen. I'm always adjusting tables for an uneven number. I tend to spread out the seats on the side, so the two at the far end come right to the end of the table. Sometimes that helps, too. Thanks for sharing another gorgeous design. I'm always so pleased when I discover that you've joined the party. Cherry Kay

  23. Your pictures are beautiful as always and I must say I love that silverplate pattern too. It's so striking. You set a beautiful setting.

  24. Bill, beautiful table! I do like the idea of the taller arrangement at the end. I prepared a tall arrangement once only to find it was too tall to go in the center because of the chandelier, so by default I placed it at the end and loved it there!! Anyway, love the fish plates, the flowers you design are always just sooo lovely, and the photos are magnificent.

  25. Love the fish plates and the lighting is beautiful.What a table!

  26. Hello Bill,
    you created a inviting table. As always you sail round all problems safely. What a pitty to hear, that Marc Lacaze died. You made a wonderful tribute to him. He was a great artist and so young. His fish plates are really pretty. The different fishes are so natural and beautiful. Perfect for a fishdinner.
    Best greetings, Johanna

  27. Amazing and very romantic table decoration dear friend, I lake it!

    Have a great day and weekend:)

  28. I just love this table! It DOES evoke the tropics! I really love how you use gladioli in your arrangements! So effective!

  29. Inspiring as always, Bill. Love it.


  30. Wonderful details as always....love the colorful water/submerged glasses! You always provide such a fantastic historical context/info that I appreciate immensely!!!

    Lana In Italy

  31. Oh, I just love those fish plates! I don't have any but those appeal to me so much! I often fill the end of the table that way too. I think it works well. It makes for a lovely table, with a focal point that doesn't interfere with the flow of the table. I love putting the leaves in the vase like that - a beautiful touch. Thank you again for your help on the silver polish. I can see that this vintage silverplate could be addicting. Happy weekend to you...

  32. Bill, I have this fish pattern's salad plates which are shells. [shown on a post a few weeks ago] We should do a joint party! How lucky you found them at Goodwill. Williams-Sonoma is still selling them locally at their outlet including the large platter. Very interesting how you made the candleholders - love the turquoise - clever. I always learn something.

  33. Bill,

    Every time I look at your tablescape pictures its like looking at art work.

    Perfect table.

    And the seventh person centrepiece move was very nice.


    Karin Şen Cankan

  34. Hi, Bill! First, I have to say what an incredibly clever use of those shot glasses!!! If I ever had an empty one around, I could do that, too! ;-) Great minds think alike...I just finished a table in which I placed the focal point at the foot. It is totally unexpected, which is what makes it so cool!!! The flowers you chose are beautiful. I'm glad you identified the canna lilies. I was trying to figure out what those were. They remind me of hibiscus which I was looking at today and longing for. I didn't know cannas came in that color. I need to get out more! :-) The swirl of canna leaves in the epergne looks fabulous. The Bengal Tiger pattern is really eye-catching. Even with all the color on the table from the beautiful flowers, though, my eye went immediately to those fish patterned plates...OMG!!! Those are so cool! And you got them at GW??!?!?!! I am just bursting with jealousy! I am going to have to stake out a GW's back door to watch everything that comes in so I can bribe the guy to get first dibs on the good stuff. I can NEVER find anything decent! NEVER!!! Believe me, the day I do, you will be the FIRST to know about it! I don't know why, but this table makes me want to listen to Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca". Maybe it's all the brilliant colors....I gotta go find that CD. Have a good weekend, friend!

  35. Very beautiful table arrangement.
    And a very nice tribute.

    Cassy from Acoustic Guitar Lessons

  36. Great job Bill, Just beautiful, what time should I arrive? LOL! I love your setting, and the china is just glorious. You always do such a good job with these tablescapes - inspirational for sure!

    Listen, I have a new series on my blog called: "A Picture is Worth ..." I'm trying to get back to posting pictures about my house, and I'd love it if you'd come by and see the bar in the dining room! :)


  37. Hey, bro! Catching up on blogs... First, I salute the designer who recently passed away. So sad to hear something like that... But very nice of you for your tribute to him. You're a good person. Second, your table, as usual is beautiful. Love your solution to put that MAIN arrangement at the head of the table. The gladiolas are so beautiful and I can't believe the prices that you sometimes find on flowers! And I TRULY love your idea of the colored water in the glasses as the tea light holder. Before you explained it, when I first saw the photo, I thought you bought the blue holders and I loved them. And when you explained what you did, I said, "Genius!" :)
    Hope you have a great weekend, buddy.

  38. {{{{ BILL }}}}..
    There is NO one that does a table like you.
    This is so pretty, I have no words, really. Just magnificent.
    I do indeed like your centerpiece at the end. I have a long dining table and often do the same. HOWEVER, I haven't the beautiful things you use for your centerpieces.

    You gave a very nice tribute to Marc Lacaze'.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to see an olden friend..I loved your visit.:)
    xo bj

  39. I think you set the perfect tropical mood with this table, Bill. The colors, the china, the flowers, the flatware, the glasses all hit the mark. I particularly love the cut glasses you selected. What a great pattern. I can definitely see why you chose those, and I love the fish plates and enjoyed hearing all about the artist. Don't you love his voice??? Just the best.

    And I think that is so clever the way you made the blue candle holders with water. Fun that you got those for free.

    Mr. Magpie and I are just sitting here, and I thought I would check in for a second. We're still not running at full speed, so I blog only as I can. Hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying a lovely weekend.



  40. Bill, I always learn so much from your posts. Your taste is exquisite. I love the use of the shot glasses with the tea lights and the canna leaves in the votives and vase. The idea of using the tall flower arrangement to fill a table space is brilliant. The fish plates are gorgeous and they are even better since they were a Goodwill find. The silverplate flatware is beautiful and pairs so well with the rest of your table choices. The flowers are breathtaking. I was very touched by your tribute to Marc Lacaze. Someone as talented as he was leaves a huge hole when they pass, especially someone so young (just 45, I think). Thank you for sharing your wonderful tablescape.