Monday, July 22, 2013

Dining with the Decorators

It seems a good time for another tablesetting post, especially considering that  these photos might be the closest I get to an elaborately set table for the next month or so.  Who knew that summer would turn out to be so busy and that I wouldn't have time for any proper entertaining?

The photos seen here, which ran in the September 1977 issue of Architectural Digest, feature the stylishly-appointed dining tables of top designers including Angelo Donghia, Albert Hadley, Thomas Britt, and a few others.  Overlook the not-so-great photographic quality and study these tables, because I think you'll find that most of them look pretty swell even today. 

(I do hate to say it, but the exception might be the table set by J.P. Mathieu.  Those dining ottomans are best left in the late 1970s.)  

Photos at top: In the living room of Donghia's New York townhouse, a table was set with a Haitian cotton cloth and striped napkins, antique crystal soup bowls, Wedgwood plates, and Chinese pear boxes, which held condiments.  The table's undercloth was antique, while the raw silk slipper chairs were by Donghia/Martin Associates.  Donghia was a master editor, and I think this table sums up his style perfectly.

Los Angeles designer Val Arnold set a luncheon table on the patio. His table was set with a terracotta-colored felt cloth, 19th century crystal plates, antique salt shakers, and Gorham flatware.

Albert Hadley also set a luncheon table, this one located in his Manhattan apartment. The ceramic plates were custom made, while the French pitcher in the form of a female was 18th century. Note the classic Van Day Truex-designed Baccarat decanter.

Don't you just love Thomas Britt's tortoiseshell table? If any of you have a boring brown wood dining table (reproduction, not antique), consider having it decoratively painted in the spirit of Britt's table. Those crystal plates, by the way, were designed by Rose Cumming.

Photographed at the San Francisco home of designer Billy Gaylord, a table was set with guest trays wrapped in antique Chinese texts. My favorite accent is that mass of green onions, placed on a white platter.  That head of cabbage in the foreground is pretty chic, too.

The table that unfortunately didn't age as well as the others. In the home of Pepe Mathieu, an acrylic and glass table was adorned with Japanese gold lacquer chargers, Chinese Lowestoft plates, and French Richelieu flatware.

All photos from Architectural Digest, September 1977.


  1. Thomas Britt's tortoiseshell table is amazing + now I want one of those.

  2. Wow this was very exciting Jennifer! Loved seeing Tom Britt's (A former Kansas Citian) Sumptuous Dining!

    2013 Designer Series

  3. I do love the Mathieu table, with the exception of the seating and the fact that the guests would be talking to one another through a wall of flowers! It's remarkable how well these settings have fared over the decades. Inspiring me as I endure the triple-digit Phoenix heat and monsoon rains while I dream of setting my Thanksgiving table!

  4. I think that sitting on one of those ottomans for a few hours would be torture on one's back.

    It is impressive how timeless these tablesettings are!

  5. Britt's table has a real top but just a standard metal banquet table base. As hinted in the photo, the space was once part of the grand townhouse entrance hall, now partitioned off to passageway dimensions.

  6. I love all the vintage table settings you find, and I try to pick apart what makes them so fantastic. Is it all that wonderful abundance maybe? So inspiring.

    1. Cynthia, I think you hit the nail on the head. The tables are set with so many delightful pieces- china, linen, candlesticks, etc.- that really please the eyes!

  7. I used to have my lunch at Tom's tortoise table...!

  8. Love the Thomas Britt table! Have a great summer!!

  9. Thank you for this rarefied peek into the private worlds of these late legendary designers. It's a treat to still be able to discover new "old" images in the fast-paced, image laden world we live in today. I, too, am smitten with the onions-as-flower-arrangement!