Dozens of torn-out magazine pages fill my recipe files, and most don’t have recipes on them.
Instead, the worn sheets showcase beautiful images and tips for the second (food is No. 1) most important key to a good meal: dining table ambiance.
I recently visited the House of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland, which charged up my passion for entertaining friends and family and lingering at the table long after dessert is served. Beyond the coffee, after-dinner drinks, chitchat and big laughs that table-lingering offers, it’s just good for the soul to sit back, relax and enjoy a pretty tablescape peppered with everything from elegant crystal to rustic pottery.
After watching and listening to the Irish Waterford crystal blowers and cutters while they turned out gorgeous designs that adorn everything from vases and champagne flutes to centerpiece bowls and candelabra, I now have an even deeper appreciation of the crystal pieces I’ve received as gifts or collected over the years.
With spring here and Easter dinners, Mother’s Day brunches and more right around the corner, I’ll soon be setting tables accented with my favorite adornments.
Incidentally, while in Ireland, I also visited a replica of a ship that transported Irish potato famine victims to America in the 1840s. The museum where the ship is located features a room dedicated to famous Irish people, including our very own Henry Ford, whose parents were Irish immigrants to America. What, you may ask, does all of this have to do with crystal and tabletop beauty? Well, Henry and his family appreciated crystal’s attributes, and in fact, Edsel, Henry’s son, and his wife, Eleanor, often entertained at the stately Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores with a treasure trove of crystal.
Oh what dinner parties they must have hosted here at the grand manor. Who better to know about them than Edsel and Eleanor’s granddaughter, Charlotte Ford, who wrote a book called 21st Century Etiquette.
In the book, she offers lots of insights for dining table devotees, including:
“The Creative Table Setting: While bone-white chine, polished silver, and the flicker of candlelight presents and elegant setting, personal touches such as pareos (colorful wraps) that masquerade as a tablecloth or a centerpiece of seasonal fruit and exotic leaves have their own distinct aura. The table’s setting need not be a venue to showcase your wedding registries, but can be as creative and dazzling as the main course. Just keep in mind that the setting, notably the centerpiece, shouldn’t distract from dinner conversation.”
Here are some more of my favorite tables around town:
- Looking at the photos in the Cranbrook House Archives in Bloomfield Hills, it’s easy to see that newspaper mogul George Booth and his family often enjoyed dinner with plenty of silver, china, crystal, lace and candles.
- Fast forward to spring and summer 2012. I recently met Colleen Galacz and Crystal Watkins of Troy-based Affordable Elegance Chair Covers & Linens. They were participants at the Royal Park Hotel’s recent Ballroom Bliss in Rochester. To make flowers sing, the women set a table full of simple, clear-glass vases filled with yellow flowers along with several clear votives. The hotel's annual extravaganza showcases everything from flowers to table linens to culinary trends for brides-to-be and those in the event-planning industry.
- Bill Hamilton of Royal Oak's Bill Hamilton Designs, a wedding and event planning company that specializes in floral design, might persuade you to design an outdoor table based on wall-paint colors. He recently created a stunning garden-motif table based on Sherwin Williams Luau Green (SW 6712), Gold Crest (SW 6670) and Juneberry (SW 6573). They show up not only in a centerpiece brimming with peonies, roses and hydrangea, but also in Brassia orchids that bedeck the centerpiece. They also steal into cheerful, plaid chair cushions — note Ablaze (SW 6870) in the cushions, fruit, linens and dishware. Hamilton found a striped wrapping paper in green, gold and red that provides inspiration for what striped walls in these “Artistically Bright” tones could look like.
Whatever type of table we set this Easter, Mother’s Day or for a festive spring brunch, we can certainly be swept away to a different place or time with a nicely appointed or creative tabletop.
Here's a toast (in a crystal glass, preferably) to that!