17 Jun

All About Toile

Everything old is new again as the saying goes.  So true with design trends.   Floral is out; floral is in.  Brown is the new black; gray is the new black.  Change all your brass finishes to satin nickel; now change them all back again.  Some classics survive the test of time, and toile is certainly one of them.

Toile fabric

We have a large variety of toile fabric patterns and colors to choose from.

Toile was introduced in the mid 18th century by an Irishman.  He used an engraved copper plate to transfer drawings onto white cotton and linen cloth and repeated that pattern both horizontally and vertically throughout the fabric. At the time, only one color could be transferred, producing the monochromatic designs we associate with classic toile.  In the late 18th century, craftsmen began using inked wood blocks to add other colors.

Toile became  popular throughout Europe, especially in England and France.  When we think of French country, a toile design certainly comes to mind.

toile lampshade

Lampshades in toile are a bright way to display these classic designs.

The types of toile designs are endless.  There is the classic, countryside scenes which depict various bucolic settings.  Also, historical, mythological, and exotic images were designed.  Almost any theme or story was reproduced.  One of my favorites is botanical toile, which is just floral without any people or animals.

There are usually two distinct ways to decorate with toile:  either go all out and put it everywhere — think the great Charles Fadre — or weave it here and there for a charming touch.  Most of us choose the latter.

Put it on the back of a chair, sneak it in with pillows, wallpaper the powder room, use it on a valance or bench.  And please don’t think you need to embrace French country or Colonial Williamsburg to pull it off.  Look how it works with modern fabrics!

Toile pillows and curtains

Modern or traditional - you decide.

I read somewhere once that toile fabrics celebrate life.  How true.  From the everyday farm or hunt scenes to those depicting great battles, toile chronicles the past and makes us smile.  I hope you think so, too.

12 Jun

Vintage barware


Cocktails are all the rage, and collecting vintage barware has become popular.  Setting up a home bar is fun to do, especially if you mix in some interesting pieces from the past.

Among our collections, we have a great martini pitcher with silver overlay from the 1940s.  Silver overlay was a popular decorative process used on glass and china up through the mid 20th century.

You don’t have to have a bar or bar court to set up your own home bar — a simple tray will work beautifully.  Cheers!


08 Jun

English Toast Racks

At some point in the 18th century, it became fashionable to serve dry toast in England.  Silversmiths responded and created charming toast racks for the aristocracy.  These inventive devices allowed each piece of toast to be separated from the others, which created the desired crispness.

The idea caught on and toast racks were produced in silverplate and china, in addition to sterling silver.  They were both plain and fancy — souvenir, commemorative, whimsical, collapsible, decorative — there was a rack for everyone.  They are still made today.

They are fun to collect; I use one on my desk for correspondence.

03 Jun

Blue and white: a love affair


I’m not sure I can explain all the reasons I love blue and white.  The combination is both  fresh and timeless.  When I’m flipping through the pages of a shelter magazine and come to a photo spread like this one from Kravet, I just stop and immediately experience a sense of calm.

We’re celebrating this beloved combination this month with products and displays throughout the store.   This English Staffordshire pitcher is a classic.  Pitchers or jugs of this age were often unmarked and usually displayed a bucolic scene.

Certainly they would be perfect for flowers.  The one in my kitchen is used  for cooking  tools.


07 May

Haviland Limoges

The journey of Haviland Limoges china actually began in America.  In 1839 two of the eight Haviland brothers began selling imported and domestic china in a New York storefront.  When a customer brought in a lovely, delicate cup — looking for a match — David Haviland was so taken by its beauty, that he set off for France and arranged to import the china from the Foecy factory in Limoge, France.  Eventually, he moved to France and opened his own factory.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Over 60,000 patterns were produced, and Haviland china has graced the tables of kings, presidents, your relatives and mine.

If you have Haviland china, you may notice two different marks on the back.  One backstamp, often in green, identifies who made the white ware or undecorated blank.  The other mark identifies who decorated the piece.  Many different companies decorated pieces made in Limoge; not all are Haviland.  While all are lovely, Haviland is the most sought after.

What do we love about this china?  The lovely delicate floral sprays tug at all our hearts.  The shapes add to the allure.  And many of the pieces — ramekins, covered butter dishes, sauce boats — are sculptural beauties.  And who doesn’t love the often-found gold gilding added  either by brush or the artist’s thumb.

As you probably know, we love to mix patterns in a tablescape.  It’s easy to use the classic white and gold Haviland pieces for any setting and fun to weave the floral designs in with other patterns and manufacturers.  Mix in salad plates with more contemporary dinner plates.  Use creamers or pitchers as flower vases.  Hang a platter on the wall.  So be creative and add some of these beauties to your table.  The Haviland family left a legacy of truly exquisite china for all of us to enjoy.


11 Nov

Caster Sets

Caster or cruet sets were standard items during Victorian times.  They ranged from simple, pressed glass electroplate types to grand sterling and cut glass examples.  Proper hostesses had one type for breakfast, which had four cruets, and  larger ones designed for dinner.

Oil, vinegar, hot sauce, mustard and other condiments were presented in these sets and placed in the center of the table.  Households could purchase the holder and bottles separately depending on need and budget.

Value comes from having all original cruets with their original stoppers or lids.  Watch for marriages which lowers the value.

They are fun to collect and to use!

17 Jul

Friendship cups

English bone china cups and saucers were mass produced in the 30s – 50s.  Often referred to as Friendship cups, they were a popular collectible.  Either as part of a set or just a single cup and saucer, you would find them in almost every household.  The quality ranged from beautiful, handpainted wares from Aynsley, sculpted beauties from Shelley, and whimsical motifs from Paragon to knock-offs and copy cats from numerous manufacturers — and the values then and today reflect the difference.  Luckily, the bone china was durable and collectors can find many options to add to their collections.

05 Jun

Collecting Knife Rests

Knife rests were introduced in the 1700s to keep tablecloths from being soiled during meals.  They were popular because of both practical and whimsical reasons:  laundry was tedious and difficult work; and during the 1800s, Victorians loved anything fanciful for the table.  It was the Victorians who introduced larger knife rests for the carving set.

They were made from glass, silver and porcelain, and collectors today seek unusual shapes.  They are fun to collect because they don’t take a lot of room, are relatively affordable and they are fun to use.

We have several kinds in the shop…

28 May

English Wine Glasses

In Victorian England, wine was served in glasses typically holding just a couple of ounces.  The height of the glass was only around 5″.  And unlike today, the bowls were often colored glass such as green, cranberry, blue and amethyst.

We love the colors and how they grace a table setting.  We have a nice collection in the shop now.

10 Apr

China Cabinet

This is a beautiful cabinet.  The mahogany grain is so beautiful and the wood carvings and applique are stunning.  What a great piece for any room; storage on the bottom and display on top.  Dining room, for sure, but also would be a great addition to a living room or study.  It is American in original finish and dates from around the 1930-40s.  It has a bit of French influence with the styling and is part of a larger suite we have, but is sold separately.