Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Table that Charms

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL October 1 1924
Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Table that Charms

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL October 1 1924

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Table that Charms

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL

THERE is a tang of Fall in the air. Our

neighbor rakes his leaves and makes little bon-fires at the curb stone, that send up long, lazy spirals of sharpscented smoke.

These are the days which turn our pursuits very largely

such

back within the walls of home. Our careless out-door days are past; we settle down again to a less informal mode of life. The sailing party becomes the tea party; the picnic backet is supplanted by the dinner table, in all its dignity.

It is the table that interests us at the moment—the table dressed in its exquisite best of china and fine linen, or arrayed for the familiar rite of the everyday meal.

Table-setting has become delightful art, of late! A whole new code has grown up, that governs it with unrelenting strictness; but it is a charming code and really allows for any amount of individuality, so long as the fundamental rules are observed. It is quite safe to say that the dining table, either in its gala or ordinary dress, was never so definitely pleasing and at no time in its previous history made quite such a definite contribution to the charming effect of the home.

With modern changes has come a much greater informality, and strangely enough, a much greater restraint. The informality is most apparent in the matter of the cloth and the decoration. It is not so very long since the large white cloth of linen damask made its appearance three times a day. On Feast Days and Holidays, it was longer and heavier and handsomer; on ordinary days it was immaculate so long as it was lucky, and it was always cumbersome. How much its loss of the longenjoyed monopoly had to do with the impractical nature of the big cloth, and how much it was due to the desire for a different effect, it would be hard to say.

We are quite happy in the results, however, for the advent of the place doiley, of a size sufficiently generous to carry everything for one place, has proved a real emancipation to the housekeeper and has added immeasurably to the variety and charm of the table. Doileys are now considered correct, even for dinner—a change, indeed, from the trite formality of former times.

The fancy cloth, for luncheon and dinner, is also good form and the most elaborate and beautiful of cloths, rich with Italian cut-work, real laces and loveliest embroideries, grace the table on special occasions.

IN THE matter of table decoration, we -*■ are only limited by the extent of our fancy. Everyone has given some thought to the matter recently. The craftsman in gold and silver has made exquisite lacy ornaments that make no pretence of being useful; the potter has turned his attention to the fashioning of lovely colorful birds, gay as the flowers they hover near; the glass-makers of Venice have made us flowers and sprays so delicately beautiful that only the living blossoms might rival them. Even the confectioner has turned artist, and provides sweets in the most delicate colorings and decorative shapes.

If such decorations are to replace the flowers and fruits ue have so long relied upon, however, they must De very, very fine; and in most cases, that means that they will be costly. So most of us look over our cherished belongings, to see if perchance we have already some lovely bit which we might turn to this new role

of table ornament; and should we fail to see just the right possibilities in any of our familiar pieces, we content ourselves with the old reliable decorations,

using them in the approved modern way.

We have learned to use flowers well; we know that they should never mask the diners, making cross-table conversation difficult; so we mass them low, or use an airy arrangement of blossoms. The bowl in the centre is always good; so is the use of two or four small vases arranged about the low centre or placed well toward the corners of the table. Candles we may use much as we please, too—so long as we do use them. No light is so quietly friendly, so conducive to a pleasant frame of mind, as the “yellow ease of eyes.” Our preference has swung rather to the unshaded candle —especially when it is of the tall variety that carries the flame above the eyelevel. Candle shades are still good, however, and will sometimes help materially in the development of a decorative scheme. Small individual shades should be used if the flame is on the level of the eye.

Fruit has proved itself a delightful medium for the decorator to work in— its colors are so rich and contours so varied and delightful. The simple bowl of vivid apples, pears and oranges; the low mass of fruits, festooned with grapes with all the richness of a gorgeous old polychrome panel; fruits happily grouped with deep-toned autumn leaves, vines trailing informally upon the cloth—no artificial beauty, however truly it is art, can surpass the effects that can be achieved with such easily obtainable materials.

,We have such a succession of festal occasions in the offing now, with Thanksgiving almost here and Christmas and the New Year just over the rise, that if no formal entertaining is on the calendar, these suggestions may be worth for the

family dinner on these important occasions. And in their simpler arrangements, we make everyday use of flowers and fruits, to centre our tables.

To turn from the subject of decoration, where we may take all the liberties we like and follow no set laws, let us look a moment at the strictly prescribed side of table-setting—the correct arrangement of china, silver and glass. Here there is little opportunity for deviation, if we are to follow the correct mode—and nothing seems more flagrant, somehow, than a breach of table etiquette. The correct setting of the family table at all times, seems so worth while, if from no other point of view than the instilling of correct ideas in the minds of the younger members of the household. And a well-set table does set off a well-cooked meal.

The crowded table has disappeared completely from the kingdom of good form. The board may no longer “groan beneath its weight of good things”—not even at the Thanksgiving season, symbolic as it is of the plenty with which, as the old chronicle runs, “it hath pleased God in comfortable measure to bless us.” Confusion of

any kind is anathema; the restraint and repose of clear spaces is better than any unnecessary dishes, however beautiful to the eye or appealing to the palate.

Salt cellars, pepper shakers, condiments or relishes that are designed to accompany the first courses, are about all that should

appear on the table beyond the individual places. And as each course is removed, any etceteras that belonged to it are removed also. When salted nuts and sweet-

meats are being served, they may

be put on the table at the beginning, but

even these small dishes must be placed in a balanced manner or the table will be thrown “out of kilter.”

A nice balance is always: important, and this, too, is easier to achieve when there is a complete absence of “cluttering” objects. The centrepiece should never seem too heavy; there should not be too much in the way of small vases, candlesticks and so forth. If four of either seems too many, try two; if the table is small, perhaps you will combine centre decoration and candle lighting, by using a single candelabrum with three or four branches. Your own sense of proportion will be your best guide.

As

S TO the setting of the places— precision seems to be the allimportant factor. Each smallest spoon or fork must be placed with an exactness that is mathematical. There are a few short and simple rules which it becomes a habit to follow—requiring no extra time or effort.

First, every knife, fork and spoon at a place must be exactly parallel to its fellows. They are placed in soldierly rows, about an inch from the table’s edge. Looking down one side of a square or oblong table, all the flatware on that side will be seen to lie in absolutely straight lines. There will be_ a straight row of glasses, for each one is placed a little to the right and just off the tip of the dinner knife. At dinner, it is correct to place a roll on the cloth or doiley at the left of the place. These, then, will also be in a straight line, as will bread and butter plates, when they are used.

This may seem to be a lot of emphasis to place on a small detail, but as a matter of fact, unless this rule of similar objects in straight lines is strictly observed, no amount of beautifying will make a good-looking table.

The English rule for the placing of the knives and forks has become the accepted standard, and where it is followed, the most timid and inexperienced diner-out need have no worry as to “which fork next.” The rule is very simple—work from the outside in. In other words, the first fork that is required, will be found at the extreme left; the second one needed will be placed second from the outside when the table is set and will be found at the extreme left when its turn to be used comes. _ So with the knives. If the fish knife is the_ first one you will want, it will be the outside knife; the knife you require next will be just inside the fisn knife, and so on. Spoons are placed, by preference, to the right of the knives, and they likewise are put in the order in which they will be_ wanted —beginning always at the outside.

A formal dinner of many courses calls for so many knives and forks, that each

place would look rather overburdened if they were all laid at the beginning. It is the practice, therefore, to lay only three forks, and the knives, etc., to correspond. Whatever may be needed for some of the less important

^courses, is brought in when the course is 'served. This does away with an overpowering array of silver on the table.

The first glass is placed just off the tip of the knife and a little to the right; others beside it. A roll or cube of dinner bread is correctly placed on the cloth or doily at the left of the forks. Butter is not required at dinner, therefore, bread and butter plates are not needed.

So much for the fundamentals of table-setting.

PART of the successful effect lies in the serving of the meal, as well as in the setting of the table. Given well-

cooked viands, in pleasant variety, and | a table that sets them forth in tempting fashion, the final effect can still be marred by any confusion or fussiness about the

service.

After the main course, when everything pertaining to it has been removed from the table, the crumbs should be brushed up with the usual little tablebrush or a table napkin, before the dessert is brought on. The sweet course and coffee are enjoyed at a table that is almost clear—a fact that adds to the leisurely enjoyment and sense of wellbeing that should put the seal of approval upon a good dinner.