Monday, March 28, 2016

How To Design a Garden & Nature-Inspired Spring Tablescape with Marchesa by Lenox Collection

Spring tablescape design featuring Marchesa "Sapphire Plume" Collection for Lenox 

Happy Easter / Happy Spring. It was a happy holiday weekend filled with the promise of the season: beginnings. It was indeed also a first of a very special kind -- the first of an inspired tablescape design: the budding of a what I know will be an enduring love affair with my new, Marchesa fine bone china collection for Lenox.

I first heard the siren song of this Peacock, rather Peafowl, (more on this in a bit) Lenox, “Sapphire Plume” tabletop collection at the recently-concluded, exceptionally-inspiring Architectural Digest Design Show 2016 that brimmed with craft, bespoke, quality creations for the discriminating homeowner and his or her distinctive home. The Lenox Sapphire Plume collection is a poster child for this aestheticHappy Easter, Happy Spring. It was a bright, happy weekend, filled with “spring fever” and with the prom, marrying the acclaimed fashion designer georginachapmanmarchesa - that’s Georgina Chapman (three cheers for me; I have two of her dress designs, as well) - whose refined glamour pairs with the exceptional quality of America’s only maker of bone china: Lenox.

How did this star-crossed pair - meaning me and the peafowl -- come to “mate?” Destiny is the short answer. The tad longer version makes the story… By way of background -- after falling hard for this beauty, I did a bit more research on the peacock to learn more about why I am so passionate about it. I discovered that “peacock” is the male and “peahen” is the female, together they are peafowl. Have to get it right and respect these symbols of love, refinement, resurrection, and renewal. So it was kind of perfect that their association with resurrection landed on my table for Easter, given this holy day’s promise of redemption and resurrection. Coincidence? I’m too spiritual and superstitious not to consider the karma of this plumed peafowl landing in my home.

I have long been enchanted by this noble bird; their glamorous and iridescent blue hues, their history, and inspiration to artists throughout the ages. It’s said if one is feeling “blah,” the colors alone can put us in a mood to embrace our own nobility - encouraging us to show off our inner proud-as-a-peafowl! (AKA “proud as a peacock.”)

And just when I think the connections of color, season, symbols and renewal couldn’t get more cosmic, I found the collective for the peafowl is: a “party!”  A group of heretofore "peacocks" is a party.     How perfect is that for a table-top collection tailor-made made for dining celebrations?! Just this side of nirvana when you consider what that sage Robin Williams said: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, "Let’s party!"

So, The Party Was On
After the press tour of the nearly 50 “stunning table vignettes by top designers” for the show’s annual Dining by Design, I rather uncharacteristically stopped to peruse the items on display for DIFFA’s silent auction. But I thought to myself, ‘Let me see what’s here and I can report on it. After all it’s a fundraiser with all monies supporting the organization’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.’ That’s when the soft blue and white Lenox - and the pattern of gentle, elegant peafowl and exotic feathers seduced me. I know I shouldn’t have but later that night I thought, why not bid? I cringed. Not only do I love our Royal Doulton wedding china and its classic design; I had just recently added to our everyday collection with the vibrant, colorful, wild animal Palace Thai Dinnerware Collection from Williams-Sonoma. In the end, I was powerless to the pull of the peafowl. I bid more than I should have -- but it was meant to be.

Things came together quickly in a good way not long after it was confirmed I had the winning bid for the Sapphire Plume china. I was keen to use the new collection for Easter, and there was only a few days to go before the holiday weekend. Nevertheless, DIFFA and ultimately, the Lenox team, rose to the occasion in splendid fashion and managed the process with elan. Thank you, Steven, Joanne, Sherri, and Karen, Nancy, Yolanda, Daryl, Effie, Stephanie- (It takes a village!). While I was hoping for a Friday delivery - (pushing it to Saturday if need be as a nail-biter hard stop), the Lenox team had the entire 8-piece tableware collection delivered on Thursday: one or two days after setting the process in motion. How impressive!

In no time, my husband Bill and I had the individually boxed 8-piece servings out of their travel nests -
and into their bath (dishwasher) and that night I began musing the tablescape composition.

I couldn’t wait to use the new peafowl Sapphire Plume  - so before launching full steam into the presentation concepts the next morning, I enjoyed a mid-morning coffee break with some fresh-from-the-bakery, Good Friday Hot Cross Buns. A truly sweet confection, combination…

Entertaining Design Elements: First Steps 

Entertaining design is very much top of mind for me, especially now - both when I'm awake and working what seems like 24/7 and in my dreams - as I’m in the throes of writing a cocktail and garnish book with tips on presentations, in addition to working on an artful entertaining book, “The Eyes Eat First.” As you know, I am also a garden designer - therefore it stands to reason that nature -- and her keen eye for color, texture, form, shape, and composition - informs how I approach the beauty and imagery of creating a seasonal and themed tablescape. Details matter. So does perspective. Whimsy and elegance are critical to layering a tableau that is captivating. The special world you create within a tablescape should draw your guests in - and delight them with an aura of discovery. Tablescapes, like menus and gardens, should be composed and designed with the seasons…

You’re conjuring a mood and a memory with lighting: natural and added - such as candles, votives, sparklers and more - along with other sensual items including, objects (fine art and found nature art such as stones or pebbles or driftwood), music, flowers and plants, as well as fragrance. Table art is compelling, original, and personal. The possibilities are endless. 

Think about the tablescape not just as a static thing; rather as theater, unfolding in a series of acts or chapters. The table shouldn’t be “set” just for a special event, either. We should accessorize the table for everyday use. It’s important to cherish the tablescape -- after all, it’s where friends and family come together - to share not just food and drink but each other. Good tablescape design fosters convivial conversation and no small amount of joy.

Just as we add various courses throughout the entire meal; so too, check out your menu and think how the elements of the table will change or unfold throughout the entire meal or dining experience. Consider the intermissions for drink and serving presentations; as well as gift-giving, not to mention the  changing time of day and lighting…

At the same time, the design elements shouldn’t get in the way. I’ve long been an advocate for the low vases and packed floral design look. At our home, we are lucky to possess a dramatic view of the New York skyline - so besides keeping the airspace above the table free of towering urns or floral displays in order to see table mates, I want to keep those views of the glorious blue of the bay and the twinkling lights at night open and accessible. In addition, flowers are de rigueur; however the blooms and candles should not possess such a heady fragrance that interferes with the meal and its ingredients’ natural aromas.  Most often I have lilies - Casablanca, as there are here, or Star Gazer, in the floor-standing vase away from the table -- just so its rich fragrance can waft and discreetly perfume the air.

Premiere Peafowl Table Art
I put one leaf into the dining table, then set out a service for eight. I decided to use tulips as the flower of choice because it’s spring and they’re a classic rite of the season. I wanted it to be all about soft colors - not the jelly-bean bright blooms - rather sigh-worthy white tulips and bouquets of white with a stripe of a “Broken Tulip,” featuring a lavender color to complement the china.

Plus I was thinking we’d be serving a kind of French 75 champagne cocktail with a lavender, violet liqueur. So there was a nice pairing there, too.

I looked through my inventory of home decor accessories that I store in an antique “pie safe” or cupboard, located in our Laundry Room. There's beauty everywhere if you know where to look… There I saw what would work. I figured two glass bowl vases with some blue glass stones in the bottom to anchor the white tulips, and three aqua blue-ish forcing vessels I could use for the Broken Tulips.
How much do we love these tulips?  Tabletop jewelry! 

The blue and white ginger jars from our bedroom could anchor the floral centerpieces at three points; a classic element that tipped its hat to the collection's visual narrative. I set small glass bunnies and one mini bunny snow globe around the center vase and the bigger glass bunnies at table ends. All the glass was reflecting the natural light - creating gleaming, light prisms. So far so good!

I used two, mini, green-heart topiaries from my writing desk / secretary that added a kind of “earring charm” - meaning just enough subtle bedazzle.

The place holders for the name tags are garden ornaments and topiaries with a greenish patina. I also used the handmade, blown-out and dyed eggs with their etched on names as the seating place holders - perched in pretty egg cups.  (Egg cups come in a variety of creations that can be used in many tabletop designs - and not just for eggs.)  
Lastly, I had a few dozen robin egg blue decorative “eggs” that I scattered, er, placed, throughout the tablescape. The blue linen napkins with painted light-blue butterfly napkin holders and beaded, azalea pink/purple dragonfly for the host and hostess settings retained the glamorous, nature mood. And the cocktail napkins repeat the blue and white ginger jar motif; with birds - as seen in the photo with Chandon Carol Lim designed champagne bottle.
 (more on this in related post; for now please note it's so very pretty and festive, yes?!)  

Overall, the blue hues and green shades with a whisper of lavender are redolent of a peafowl’s glorious tail feathers. Nice… At each course, the Lenox Sapphire Plume revealed itself: a layered nuanced tablescape fashion show.
All agreed the collection's sculptured coffee cup is the sophisticated way to drink the end of meal coffee (or tea) rather than the HUGE mugs that all too often accompany a service setting. Too often, I feel like I slipped down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass with those too-big to manage vessels. Thank goodness our Easter, signature coconut cake (from the local James Beard Award winner, The Flaky Tart didn’t come with any “Eat Me” instruction. Ha.  But we did enjoy our version of “wonderland” - with a truly wonderful meal, family and friends, and a sophisticated, elegant tabletop design featuring our new Sapphire Plume collection.

Our guests delightfully oohed and ahhed about the tablescape, with one vowing to own a Marchesa by Lenox design for herself. Let’s see which one it will be.

I hope you agree that Table Art design is a wonderful way to express your entertaining style.

Be sure to experiment and have fun. Remember, the authentic ingredient that makes it all special and artful - whether it’s the tabletop design or creating the menu -- is love.

So glamorous…

Happy Spring 

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