Friday, November 9, 2018

Setting the Holiday Table

Browsing through my collection of tear sheets from glossy shelter magazines, I ran across a World of Interiors story on the oldest house in Leyden. It is preserved as a museum of the first life in exile of the community who became Massachusetts' Puritans. One shot in the article shows an eating table covered with a low thread-count white linen cloth, not ironed, and set with a miscellaneous collection of period dishes. There are wooden soup spoons, a treen-ware bowl old enough to be noticeably warped, a two-handled porringer that looks like pewter, and various handmade knives sharp and blunt. Lighting is natural, but a typical brass chandelier is set on one side of the table, presumably to include it in the shot.

Most of the elements of that tabletop are readily available today. I snagged a brass chandelier with period lines at the Habitat thrift store about ten years ago. I pulled out the wiring and used it with candles. The last time I visited the Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain, coarse white linen was excellent value. There was a lot of treen ware in circulation until plastic and inexpensive stainless steel bowls replaced it in the Seventies. Thrift shops used to be full of it, and of porringers as well. Any stainless steel flatware set into a molded plastic handle will resemble the historic thing. The Leyden table was free of forks and featured a metal vessel with a flat strap of a handle, like the cheapest of tin cups from the mid-twentieth century. I'd use an enameled steel camping coffee pot as a substitute.


I love recreating authentic detail that is not readily recognized as such by the contemporary eye. That coffee pot has the exact lines of high-end eighteenth century English stoneware. Emily Dickinson College Pottery recreates the traditional designs that are neolithic -30-

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