Monday, December 16, 2013

A Decorative Remedy

When I see baskets in use in luxe interiors, I am reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the elegant international socialite who, when attending a party at the opulently-decorated Manhattan apartment of a nouvelle society figure, was said to have remarked, "It will take her a lifetime to understand baskets."

It could be said that baskets are decorative remedies that cure lofty interiors from looking too shiny and too rich. Whether they are used as cachepots or repositories for magazines or firewood, baskets add a down-to-earth touch in both grand and casual rooms alike. And the same could be said of baskets on dining tables, too.

Lately, I have been revisiting photos of elegant table settings which incorporate small baskets.  In most of these photos, the baskets have been put to use in their traditional role, which is to hold bread and crackers.  That's exactly what jeweler Jean Schlumberger did in the photo, above.  But there are also small, shallow baskets that have been employed in lieu of bread plates as well as basket-like sleeves, which cradle drinking glasses.  And then there is the elegant table setting, seen directly below, with its dramatic-looking silver candelabra and proper stemware.  Here, baskets were used as centerpieces to hold modest little mums.  Both help to tone down the formality of this table.

Considering that most of these photos were taken in France, I can only assume that the French must have good sources for such baskets.  Any thoughts on where we can get similar baskets here in the U.S.?

This majestic-looking dinner took place at l'hôtel Lambert and was hosted by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild. The table was set with "three Sèvres dinner services, Louis XIV glasses, eighteenth-century silverware, and vermeil dessert cutlery", all beneath a magnificent Le Brun ceiling. And still, there were baskets on the table.

The late Alberto Pinto certainly knew how to set a pretty table. Small baskets, which held bread, were placed at each place setting. Adding to the rustic charm were straw place mats.

I have shown this photo before, but it's worth showing again. For her working lunch table setting, Primrose Bordier used Philippine baskets for chargers and Japanese hot-towel baskets for bread plates.

In the South of France home of Dick Dumas. Note the small terracotta pots that hold cigarettes. Terracotta works just as baskets do by adding a casual note to one's table.

In the Paris home of Carole and François Rochas

Barbara Wirth set a charming, casual table that celebrated Summer's bounty. Baskets were filled with cherries, strawberries, and some delicious looking radishes.

Rochas photo from R.S.V.P. by Nan Kempner; Pinto photo from Table Settings by Alberto Pinto; the remaining photos from The Elegant Table by Barbara Wirth.


  1. Good morning, Jennifer.
    Love these tablescapes with baskets in use. I often find unique baskets at estate sales and resale shops.

    Scalamandre Haute Decor & Giveaway!

  2. I always appreciate good photos, but it's your posts that are so educational to me. I really enjoy your blog.

  3. these are beautiful + can't get enough baskets!

  4. Jennifer,
    These remind me of some photos from the Gourmet Cookbook Volumes I and II. I love them!

  5. PattyM12:25 PM

    Pottery Barn had some unique and beautiful baskets last fall, but they were expensive, in my opinion. I have to agree with Karen that estate sales and second hand shops may be the best source. A friend of mine brought back some wonderful baskets from Bali and the Portuguese island of Madeira is famous for their baskets. If you ever get there (I highly recommend it) you can tour their basket factories which have a wonderful selection. Maybe there is a way to order these on line now or through a catalogue.

  6. I think on this occasion I agree with the socialite. I don't mind a chunky weave basket in a minimal home - to take the edge off, as you point out - but overall they don't seem to quite chime with the elegance of some of the tables. I liked what you wrote about them more than the actual baskets themselves! I do like some of these pictures though :)

  7. I wonder if the baskets on the Rothschild table were vermeil as well. I have some silver-plated ones, similar but smaller.