Sunday, June 27, 2010

Feeding the masses

Hosting a crowd? First of all, good for you! You have stepped up to the plate (I'm sorry, the puns just happen; they are truly out of my control...) and have committed to providing an experience for friends and family. And after all, who are we, if not collectors of experiences? So now comes the hard part: paper plates or rentals? And really, there is no wrong here, just different. We all know from paper (and now of course, the ubiquitous plastic, as well) but there is also an alternative to the rental white or glass plates: a company in Los Angeles called Small Masterpiece and its founder/owner Jason Murakawa who has done the almost impossible. He has amassed a huge inventory of antique china and porcelain fit for a king or queen (...if the crown fits, wear it!) and they're for rent. My friend, John, had torn a profile of Jason and Small Masterpiece out of the June issue of Los Angeles Magazine thinking I would be interested. He was right. It's a brilliant idea and no doubt has taken quite an effort to collect. Along with dishes, there is also glassware and silver to rent, as well. Now this isn't for your weekend barbeques, but if you are planning a wedding, an anniversary, or another celebration where you may want to raise the bar, this may be for you. He ships all over the US, as well, so this isn't only for the LA crowd.
And speaking of Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of working with David Jones, the custom florist (Renaissance master?!), for a year, and watched as he created party magic for his clients. For one of his best client's birthday (it was a round, celebratory year), she wanted to use L'Orangerie, one of the city's most fabled restaurants, as the venue for her event. The WHOLE restaurant. On a SATURDAY night. (It was a different time and place...) Of course the banquettes and other regular furniture wouldn't do, so out it all went, and in its place came custom upholstered banquettes and chairs and tables with custom linens, all designed and arranged by David. And for the table settings, he found beautiful antique dishes in about 10 complementary patterns from the different movie studios in town to be used for the multi-course, sit-down dinner for the party. Needless to say, the effect was breathtaking. All this custom work and the unique place settings, enhanced by his beautiful flowers, created quite a memorable evening. I could go on and on about this event. In its "over-the-top" excess, it still felt amazingly intimate, as if you were in a grand dining space of a country home in some far-off land. And those dishes played a large part of that intimacy. Well now you, too, can create magic like this without access to Hollywood studios. And even if you aren't hosting a shindig like this, it is a fun website to check out. The internet truly is one of the host's most valuable tools!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Let the sun shine in... Wondering what to paint your dining room? How about chrome yellow?! I was flipping through the new Elle Decor Magazine for July and August, and my eyes caught a glimpse of the renovation done to Thomas Jefferson's dining room at his Virginia home, Monticello, outside Charlottesville. I have only seen pictures of the room in the past and was never really taken with the Wedgwood blue color of the walls. I never thought anything of this, after all, it is Monticello, one of the most significant historic homes in America. Who would tamper with history? Well, apparently, in 1936, someone did, and chose that weak, undistinguished color. This yellow is the color that Jefferson, himself, chose for the room in 1815, 6 years after it was invented (color was "invented"? Who knew?).
The writers at Elle Decor postulate that because Jefferson was a man of invention, he would have been intrigued by this new color, what the home's curator described as "the color of an egg yolk from a chicken that dined on marigold petals." Apparently, like all things new (fashion, fads, toys), this color cost Jefferson a pretty penny; about $5.00 a pound, to be exact! This, compared to $0.15 a pound for basic white. The spread in the magazine is glorious. We can thank a generous donation from Polo Ralph Lauren who ponied up the money for the restoration, pun intended. They also had reproduced a sideboard similar to one Jefferson bought in 1790, a French marble console table, and an interpretation of the Abbeville carpet Jefferson purchased in France in the 1780s. In the magazine, the square table is set using Jefferson's mahogany shield back chairs he probably bought in New York, and finished off by Charlotte Moss's settings using plates and service ware from Monticello's collection (you can see all the different ones she created on her website). As she says in the article, "The yellow is more representative of who he really was, an educated man of the world, than that pale blue." Moss created several settings for the dining room, and the results "prove how truly modern and appealing the room remains."
It's true. Pick up a copy of the magazine, it's a keeper!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ready, fire... aim?!

Bethenny Getting Married - Photos - Episode 2: In-Laws We Trust | Bravo TV Official Site I'll right, another confession: I am on Team Bethenny. She's an absolute riot and is my favorite of the New York Housewives. And now, as everyone knows, she has her own show (is that question mark 'hostile punctuation'?) and this past week, she and her fiance trooped over to Bloomingdale's 59th St. to complete their wedding registry. However, I was a little skeptical of the choice (we all judge...). With New York City at her doorstep and so many interesting places to register, she chose a run-of-the-mill department store. The show then follows the couple as they enter the wedding registry department and meet their consultant. And then they were off with the gun to "shoot" their registry. It occurred to me that a lot of couples go through this ritual without really thinking about how they want to live or entertain. One segment had them discussing the merits of registering for matching coffee cups and saucers, and clearly, they were on different pages. It is a bit strange to think about parties with "fantasy friends" who may use the things that you think you may need at some point in the future, and the telling remark that she made was "...and where are we going to put all of this?"
Registries are great. They help couples furnish their homes and help guests who want to buy something the couples actually want. Or think they want. There is a whole conversation that rarely happens as to how and why couples choose what they choose. Many are handed the gun, and it's "ready, fire, aim". Taking "aim" before choosing dishes, silver, glassware, etc., will help make these decisions easier, and more reflective of the couple rather than the consultant or the best friend/mother. I know, I've been that "friend". Searching for patterns and pieces that you will love for the long haul takes time, and if you go to a department store, which seems like a great idea, you are actually limiting your choices as to what will define you as a couple for hopefully a very long time. You are at the mercy of the buyer who has made the major decisions for you and narrowed the field to what they think are "popular". Many times, these choices may be perfect. I think Bethenny really likes her Monique Lhuillier Dentelle china she and Jason picked out. But make sure it's your choice, not the department store buyer's. Think how you live now, and how you will want to live with your new spouse. If your table has only four chairs and you live in a studio with no storage, don't request a service for 12 thinking that one day you will have the huge formal dining room with a refectory table. You can add to your set later with matching dishes, or complement your set with a different pattern. There is no law saying everything must match. That way, you won't be tripping over boxes of unwrapped wedding gifts that aren't being used. And that's the point of all this: using them. And, if you can take a little time to find the right patterns that speak to you and reflect you as a couple, you will use them a lot!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coming clean

"Hi, my name is Bob, and I am a citrus addict." Okay, maybe it's not an addiction, but as I mentioned a few weeks back, I do love me some limes and lemons! I found these glazed ceramic pieces two years ago at Maison et Objet, in Paris, which is the best home show on the planet. They are produced by a fabulous company in Cologne, and when they finally arrived, I placed them on the peninsula next to the bar (tabletops come in many shapes, sizes and locations!), and there they've stayed, kind of like the world's biggest cocktail garnish! We will be making our second sojourn to Maison et Objet this coming January, and there will be lots to share, as they have 10's of 1000's of square feet of exhibition space devoted to Tabletop. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Here, here!!

So, I was cruising through some of the blogs I like to follow, and got to decor8, Holly Becker's blog. Her sign off for the weekend was, " I need to connect with my friends because though I love to be in exciting places like London and Copenhagen there is still nothing sweeter than sitting around a table with those you care for to exchange ideas, share a glass of wine and enjoy some fresh, delicious food!" I couldn't have said it better myself! We had a great weekend connecting with both old and new friends, and I have been finding out that with the hotter weather, our kitchen peninsula, and not our dining table, has been getting the bulk of the action, especially for these casual get-togethers. Tabletops are in every room in the house, and sometimes you have to go in the direction the horse is running, and this weekend, it was the kitchen. The peninsula becomes both bar and buffet and people can either pull up a stool or do the 'stand and lean' on two sides, while we're manning food and beverages from the kitchen side. The cocktail choice this weekend was the Scorpion, which is easy to mix in a large pitcher and then serve over ice in individual glasses (there's no dilution, that way!) It made appearances here Friday with sandwiches, and Saturday with mini quesadillas hot off the iron griddle on the stove, chips, salsa and guacamole, and sliced mangos, and then was brought by us to our friends' tonight as a warm-up for a terrific grilled salmon and the NBA Finals game. It's really good, but it ain't called a Scorpion for nothing... it can have a sting!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Telling stories

I might be preaching to the choir, but if you are among those that don't know this, your favorite design magazines have really beefed up their online presence. While coasting through House Beautiful online, I ran across a series about their style director, Newell Turner, and his country house in the Catskills. There are room by room slide shows and videos taped by him as he explains his design process, and the choices he made building his home. I paid particular note to his dining area (duh!). He made note of his grandmother's fish plates that are displayed on the back wall, and how he constructed a narrative with these old plates and some new ones he added in. I love when people tell their stories with the things they love and live with. It makes rooms come alive, and while it may not be "your style" you can certainly respond to the stories being told. By the way, I zeroed in on the new John Derian decoupage lemon plates he used. For those that know me, I have a slight obsession with lemons and limes (more on this later...) Of course, I would use them as dessert plates rather than hang them, but they do add a fresh twist (pun intended) to the antique fish plates.