Friday, March 01, 2013
Something Old Looks New Again
Do you know what I miss seeing on tables? Hardboard place mats. Remember those? As the name suggests, these mats are literally hard boards that have a decal design on top and a felt underside. Perhaps they are still used often in the UK where the hardboard mat was once commonplace, but these mats have become a little tough to find over here. I can't figure out why, especially considering that they require no ironing.
The most prominent and popular brand of hardboard mats is Lady Clare. According to the Lady Clare website, Lady Clare Pigott invented these mats while living in Paris in 1932. Required to entertain often with her British diplomat husband, Pigott sought to alleviate the high cost of laundering all of her white linen tablecloths. The solution was a piece of hardboard upon which Lady Clare pasted antique prints and then lacquered the surface; the mat could then be placed directly on top of the table with no cloth underneath. These mats became a huge hit amongst her friends, and thus Lady Clare the company was born.
My mother used to buy her Lady Clare mats from Tiffany, including a set bearing fox hunting scenes that I now own. And Lady Clare hardboard coasters, a later addition to the line, became my go-to hostess gift during college. (Unfortunately, Tiffany & Co. stopped carrying Lady Clare mats close to twenty years ago.) If scenes of fox hunting, horses, and birds- all typically found on these mats- sound way too traditional, well, that's the whole point. Although Lady Clare and other lines have attempted to updated these mats with more contemporary designs, I say stick to the classics. After all, what's wrong with dining with a throwback?
I say that if hardboard mats are good enough for Marcus the Spaniel, above, then they are certainly good enough for us!
Scully & Scully.
Photo of Marcus from The English Dog at Home by Felicity Wigan; Eastnor Castle photo from The Regency Country House: From the Archives of Country Life by John Martin Robinson; Birr Castle photo from In an Irish House by Sybil Connolly.