So, what do I really want to do? I really want to provide a resource for those who, like me, wish to hold on to the last vestige of civilization: the formal dinning room. (But of course, dining tables and other tabletops are in every room of the house, so naturally I don't want to limit myself!) For this is the room where life events are toasted, where holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are celebrated, and where family and friends can gather and share in the most primal and nurturing of rituals: the meal.
Where did this odd fetish for dining rooms and tables come from? From my childhood. There is a very early photograph of the dining room in the house I grew up in in Palos Verdes, Estates, California taken by my mother who was obviously (and rightly, I might add!) proud of the coming together of a table scape for Christmas, circa 1964. My family dining table ( a modern, teak surfboard of a table designed by Finn Juhl for Baker Furniture) was covered in a perfect shade of rose linen cloth, very plain, and set with my parents "good dishes" they selected as their wedding china (Theo. Haviland "Cambridge" in green and white, but we've always known it as "Tree of Life"). The water goblets were also from their wedding, as was the silver flatware (Gorham's English Gadroon. For some of you, I don't need to say that they were married in 1951. This was "THE" china and silver of their generation.) The napkins were "good plain white" family linen that my mother received from her aunt. As the centerpiece, there were two wreaths of nuts, pods, and pine cones collected by aunt from the hills near her San Francisco peninsula home and then crafted into these wreaths which were to hang on the front doors. But my mom, knowing better, placed these center stage with moss green beeswax pillar candles and clear glass hurricanes in their centers. So, in that photograph, the table is set and pristine, the walls of neutral grass cloth creating a rich texture for a room that, on such a celebration, could easily have veered off into any number of cliches from that era. As a matter of fact, I look at that room in that photograph today and it looks as fresh today as it was almost 50 years ago.
So, now that dining table is in MY dining room as is the set of chairs and sideboard that made up that perfect room (all Baker Furniture, but from different sets, not too "matchy matchy"). And in that sideboard, are the "Tree of Life" dishes that my mother (and I!) so loved. I also have the water goblets, and the "good plain white" family linen napkins, but that rose linen cloth has seen better days. An unfortunate spill of bleach and some other fading have rendered it a "memory", though I do still have that, too. And speaking of the wreaths, I have those, as well, and while the moss green has evolved into natural colored beeswax, they, every Christmas, find their way onto my holiday table.