Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Entertaining with Charlotte Ford




I love to read old articles on hostesses and their styles of entertaining. Sometimes, I glean practical tips, while other times, the sheer elaborateness of their dinners and parties provides me with moments of escapism. Try as we might, duplicating some of these old parties often requires the patience of Job and a bank account worthy of Croesus.

One hostess who seems refreshingly practical is Charlotte Ford. I found this article about her in a 1977 issue of House Beautiful, and at the time the article was published, Ford was a busy working woman designing a line of clothing. With her hectic workday schedule, Ford admitted that she was only able to entertain about once a month.  Taking a more casual (for that time) approach to entertaining, Ford eschewed long, laborious dinner parties of numerous courses.  Instead, she said that she preferred to serve an appetizer, an entree of turkey (according to Ford, men particularly seemed to love turkey) and a vegetable, and, to end the meal, either a salad and cheese or dessert.

What especially caught my eye were Ford's lovely dining tables.  Preferring to set two round tables for six, Ford laid her table with French-made china designed especially for the Ford family, Baccarat crystal, and those lovely Porthault embroidered mats and napkins.  I think Ford's table linens are my favorite part of the entire article.  You'll also notice the little cigarette holders, an accessory that, at that time, were practically a requirement on well-set tables.

Times may have changed, but a beautifully set table never goes out of style!





All photos from House Beautiful, June 1977

14 comments:

  1. The chairs and tables look as if they could be from a magazine today - that mix of Louis XVI with glossy upholstery paired with a modern pedestal table. And I wish I could see that sideboard with the metal mounts better - are you able to tell what it is?

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    1. I have stared at and studied these photos, but unfortunately it's so hard to really make out the room's details. The quality is a little fuzzy. I do agree with you that the mix of antiques and modern pieces is really snappy and still looks smart today.

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  2. Hi Jennifer,

    I once was a "cater waiter" for Ms. Fords catering business, called "Charlotte's" It was fun!

    Dean

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  3. Personally I adore the linens. And by the way, Ms Ford is right, Men do love turkey! xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  4. Anonymous4:06 PM

    .. you should have seen how well the ford family lived/lives in grosse pointe, MI; been to numerous terrific parties at various family members homes .... WOW !

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    1. I can only imagine! It must have been something else!!

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  5. Hasn't Charlotte Ford had her dining room done up by Miles Redd, using those Louis XVI chairs?

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    1. As I recall, Markham Roberts decorated her apartment a few years ago. I believe you are right that the Louis XVI chairs are still in situ.

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    2. Forgive my senior moment, Jennifer.
      Of course, it was Markham Roberts! Well at least I got his initials right.

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  6. I hate to admit I think I might actually remember this article - for one of the very reasons you cite - those charming Porthault linens!

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  7. Jennifer, your wonderful article makes me pine for the good ole days of yore...when people entertained with good food and wine, set a pretty table, and welcomed guests who dressed appropriately! I even remember the days when we sat at table for hours, conversing. Remember conversation? Sigh...

    But enough grumbling. I very much enjoyed meeting you yesterday at the Cathedral Antiques show, as well as Miles Redd's talk on design. He's the sweetest man, as well as the most elegant one! I'd love having him over for dinner!

    April

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    1. Dear April, It was so nice meeting you at Miles' talk the other day!

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  8. In reply to the comment from "quintessence"....I am 27 and even I remember this article, because MY MOTHER saved it for YEARS! (literally. she uses a form of the dewey decimal system for her EXTENSIVE magazine collection dating from the 50's.)

    Charlotte Ford's style is eternal....just look at that necklace! Many thanks to Jennifer for shedding light on one of MY favorite hostesses!

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