Thursday, January 10, 2013

Copycat French Tablescape

After forty-one years I still love my wedding china, crystal and silver.  Wanted to share something I learned in actually reading one of my coffee tables decorating books instead of just looking at the pictures. Am I the only one that is guilty of doing that? 

I love all things French and enjoy learning things about France. In Betty Lou Phillips book pictured above I was intrigued that French tablescapes differ from the typical american tablescapes in several ways.

Did you know the french place the tines of the fork face down and why? Betty Lou Phillips says," that custom developed to undercut the fork's ability to snag ruffled lace sleeves." She also states that some think this custom began to draw attention to engraved initials on the backs of the silver. I thought this was interesting. I love the engraving on the back of my silver pattern, Buttercup by Gorham and on the back of the spoon it actually says buttercup.

I think the silverware turned down is a custom in fairly all of europe.

Something else I found interesting was the water and wine glasses are placed directly above each plate instead of above the knife and spoon as done in the United States.  Might that too evolved because of billowing sleeves that might catch on a glass? I don't know but the old adage, form follows function comes to my mind.

The silver charger, or" underplate" is called "Beauhamais." Pictured here is an inexpensive faux charger. At my niece's bridesmaid's luncheon,  seen here , we used silver trays as chargers on the main table. If I had thought about it I would have used a favorite sterling tray as a charger today.

The french are known for their beautiful linens and dining elegance. Reading Secrets of French Design inspired me to dig out a beautiful tablecloth my mother-in- law gave me that her brother brought back from the Philipines many years ago and set a table the french way. It was fun to learn about these subtle differences simply by actually reading a wonderful design book.

You can google Betty Lou Phillips and see a list of her great design books and other blog posts about her work.

I snapped this pic in Bon Marche in Paris in 2011. Didn't think about the way the glasses were placed just thought it was very pretty. I actually ran across it after publishing this post and decided to add it because it fit.

Linking to Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch. Thank you Susan, your blog was the first blog I discovered four years ago and I was thrilled and smitten from then on with reading blogs and getting to know people like you with similar interests to mine.


  1. Hi darling, you've set a warm and welcoming table. Love your choice of books. hugs ~lynne ~

  2. My silver pattern is also Buttercup. It was started by a close friend when I was born. My parents and friends added to it each birthday and Christmas. It was finally completed at the time of my wedding. I have added antique pieces over the years. Did you know that only the modern pieces have the name stamped on the back? Or that the amount of silver in three modern teaspoons is the equivalent to that in two of the old ones? Buttercup is one of Gorham's older patterns, but one of the most beautiful.

  3. Hi Bonnie, I love your French inspired table. I didn't know about the silverware being turned down. I'm your newest follower :)

  4. Bonnie,
    What elegant china and exquisite linens you've used for this amazing tablescape!!!
    I, too, have seen many tables set in this fashion while we lived in Europe! Still today, I must re~align the crystal stemware to above the knife. Ritual becomes habit!!! I never agreed with the flatware turned upside down, though!
    Thank you for your sweet comment and visit today!!! Was pleasant meeting you through Susan's Tablescape Thursday!

  5. Gorgeous table! I had heard that the tines down was to show off ones wealth via the pattern. :)

    Have a very Happy New Year!

  6. Your wedding china is gorgeous and your did a lovely setting with it too. You're so lucky you didn't break a piece, since! I just learned something about the silverware been turned down like that. Your flatware and stems are beautiful too. Thank you for sharing. Have a great weekend my friend. Thank you for your sweet and kind visit.

  7. Having been raised in France, I've always seen tables with the silverware face down. However, European silver is much prettier on the backside, as is yours, than most American silver. Now I know why.. Beautiful table.. Love love the china pattern and your silver is outstanding.. xo marlis

  8. WoW... it seems I am in your table, huh?

    I live in Sweden and French is just a stone throw away and your tablecloth is from the Philippines, where I originally came from, §:-) and in my country, we use to set our silverware face down. What a coincidence!

    Very pretty table and so frenchy. Job well done, lady?

    Thank you for sharing and knowing you have a treasure from the Pearl of the Orient (that's what we called Phils) make me inspired. Inspite of.

    Happy TS & a great w/end ahead.

    Greetings from an icy Stockholm,
    /CC girl

  9. Beautiful and thank you for the mini lesson!!

  10. beautiful and elegant, bonnie! and, i enjoyed the interesting differences between american and european settings. ;)

    your "little princess" is absolutely adorable, as is her room! blessings ~ tanna

  11. WOW! Not only is your table gorgeous, I love the French tips. Of course, I think you can do a table any way you want to. Think we should write a book making up our own rules?

  12. Your table setting is beautiful and I loved learning about the French way of setting a table. Dianne

  13. Bonnie, there are not many folks who can say they still love the china/silver/crystal they chose as a bride. You chose well...beautiful, timeless, classic design. I love your silver pattern! I've been eyeing some silver on eBay lately and I noticed a good bit of the monogrammed pieces are monogrammed on the back. Wasn't sure why but it's interesting that it's done that way sometimes.
    Thanks so much for you sweet was so much fun getting to meet you in person when you were in ATL. I had to laugh when I read your mention of just looking at the pics in the design/decor books. That's normally how I do when I first get a book, then I go back through and read...sometimes just the parts I'm most interested in. Loved your beautiful table setting!

  14. How interesting! Do you know I have that same book and did not read it? LOL! Glad you shared what it said. Your table setting is very pretty and elegant. How neat to see your own pic proving they really do set the tables that way still today.

  15. There's no question in my mind why you'd still be in love with your wedding china. It's beautiful! The design is classic and fabulous. I have long been a fan of the European style of table setting. I do it on occasion, especially when we have our "fancy friends" over...the ones who have actually been across the drink and on whom it would make a big impression. Their stemware placement always kind of made sense to me. MUCH less chance of getting knocked over by ruffly sleeves or just careless men in a button down shirt! :-) I've never been to Europe (too scared to fly over water!), but I love their style!!!! You captured it nicely...especially since you have that beautiful design on the underside of your gorgeous flatware!!!

  16. Bonnie, what a fun, fun post! I have never heard of the flatware being placed like that or the glasses either. This is just gorgeous and your china is so timeless. I love the photo from Bon Marche too.

    I just took a peek at the nursery. What a fabulous place to have a baby. I have to show my daughter!

  17. Oh Bonnie, I am really swooning right now! What a beautiful and elegant table!! Your wedding china is one of the prettiest patterns I've ever seen -- just gorgeous! Your silver is amazing with all the detail on the back, and I'm glad to learn the reason for setting a table this way. Very interesting. From what I can see of it, your silver water pitcher looks like mine, and I love the flowers in the silver cup. And last, but not least, your tablecloth is just lovely. This is truly an impressive table.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Oh, before I forget -- ROLL TIDE. :-D



  18. Very pretty table! I will have to check out that book as well. (and more than just the pictures...I totally do that too! haha) =) Have a great weekend!

  19. I can see why you still love your china, crystal and silver. It is gorgeous!!

  20. Bonnie, what a pretty and informative table. Your sterling is sooo decorative on the back and looks pretty on the backside. I was not aware of this custom. My silver would not look pretty that way as it is not that decorative on the back. Love your chinia too, it is so elegant. Such a pretty table. Joni

  21. Thanks for sharing the information. I have some European silver and the initials are engraved on the back of the fork but on the front of the spoon (and it's a huge spoon -- great for soup!) and I sometimes set my table the European way. I also like how they set the dessert cutlery -- fork and knife at the top of the plate.

    Your table is really pretty!

  22. Thank you Bonnie, I learned something new about table setting. I knew the French put their fork tines down, but not why. It all makes sense now.
    Your wedding china is so beautiful! ~Delores

  23. Guilty! I'm always amazed if I go back through a favorite coffee table book and find a tidbit I didn't see before! Beautiful wedding china Bonnie! I adore the flowery detail on the back of your silver :)

  24. Great Collections! This looks so fantastic collections of silver pieces. This is amazing table setting. ! Investment is an important consideration when buying antiques silver tableware and the idea of handing down a legacy of fine and valuable objects is an attractive one.


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