Monday, March 21, 2011

Flowers for the Table

Last Friday, I had to break down and turn on the air-conditioning. That's kind of obscene considering that it's only mid-March, but living on the eighth floor of a high-rise when it's 80 degrees outside (and surrounded by floor to ceiling windows mind you) equates to one HOT apartment. In addition to keeping me cool, the air conditioning made me excited about Spring and Summer and thoughts of white jeans, cold suppers, potted geraniums, and crisp Rosé. Oh, and floral table linens too.

When I was growing up, we used to dine out on our back patio during the Summer. What I remember vividly were the floral cloths and napkins with which my mother set the table. There was a Vera floral print quilted cloth similar to that above. (That's a Billy Baldwin room at top, by the way.) I also remember a violet print tablecloth and a floral Porthault cloth and matching napkins. I'm assuming that my mother also used solid cloths and napkins from time to time, but truth be told, I have no memory of them whatsoever. It's those cheery, colorful floral prints that have stuck with me through the years.

Looking through my linen closet, I realized that I have a lot of solid hemstitched linen. Yes, it's beautiful, timeless, and always appropriate. But you know what? It doesn't put a smile on my face the way that those exuberant Porthault tablecloths or vintage Vera napkins do. Seeing that Spring has sprung, I think that I need to remedy this situation by buying a floral cloth or two. I think, though, that Billy Baldwin's words sum up the allure of these floral prints best: "In the end, decorating is all about color. Think about colored flowers on bright white cotton and, in the same room, right next to this celebration of color, is more color- fresh flowers, lots of them. To each of you I send a huge bouquet of brightly colored cotton flowers."

How nice would it be to have Porthault's classic New York Mille Fleurs print fabric made into a cloth and napkins? Alternatively, I could just buy a sheet in the print and use it as a cloth.

I'm thinking of ordering these Botanical napkins from Sur la Table. They come with matching laminated placemats, and while I would prefer cloth ones, I'm not opposed to laminate. If you use them for everyday dining, they're certainly easy to clean.

Now this vintage Vera tablecloth and napkins on Etsy really make me smile. They remind me of my favorite geraniums. If I had a larger table, I would snap this set up in a heartbeat.

An equally charming vintage Vera tablecloth on Etsy, though this one is bit more subdued than the previous one.

In the vintage Tiffany Table Settings book, floral table linen seemed to be a favorite amongst the featured designers and socialites. As the book mentioned, "The magic of background color and pattern provides a whole new dimension in table setting design...The colored and patterned cloth makes an interesting background for the display of objects. It can establish an entire mood for the setting."

Image at top plus Billy Baldwin quote from Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator by Adam Lewis; last photo from Tiffany Table Settings.


  1. Getting in the mood for Spring is something that I miss living in Palm Beach. Great post reminding me how wonderful that season is.

  2. Thank you for the bouquet of color. The color seems to explode from that marvelous Chinese bowl!

  3. This reminds me that my mother had a great floral late 60s tablecloth by Vera that I loved, the splashes of yellow with fluid black lines drawing the big flowers (sunflowers?).

  4. I just love those old Vera prints! So cheery.

  5. I love vintage floral tablecloths. I haven't bought any but I see them around my local antique shops.

  6. Porthault!! I wish they'd have a giveaway somewhere!! I just purchased wonderful hand embroidered linens in the Otavalo market in Ecuador. $35.00 for a dining cloth and 10 napkins.

  7. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I just gave my daughter a round Vera Cloth from the early '70s. White ground with abstract red hearts! I purchased it as a Valentine cloth, but really, why use it once a year?

  8. I do have collection of table cloths because I own a restaurant. Every week we change our place’s motifs. Those floral table cloths were perfect for my place. I will going to see if there are available on the market.

  9. So pretty! I love that Porthault print.

  10. oohh lovely I need a couple of these books thankyou i have a Vedura book but not this one fay xx

  11. Carmie1:47 PM

    You can almost smell the the fragrance of those lovely blooms and know spring is here!