Sunday, 6 March 2016

Festive and Sunday linens

It was not until all that long ago that women and young girls to be married were very proud of their trousseau. My mother's huge mahogany linen cabinet, with facetted mirror door, was a feast to open up, the linens nicely folded up in size and colour and everything in numerous numbers. It was a  'no go area' - we were not allowed to take anything out without her supervision. She cared much about everything put away in it. Treasures, costly linens, her grandmother's jewelry in a drawer, and who knows: secrets?! Today I wonder what on earth they were thinking on having a trousseau? That they were going to live for a twohundred years and use it up in time? Even my sisters had a weddinglist with wishes for 12 items of tea towels, 12 items of this, 6 or 12 items of that. Our roles changed, easy living was the recipe, combining family and working life with no time for tedious ironing of damask table linens and coarse bed linens. Coasters, table runners, place mats, duvet covers arrived on the scene in all shapes, colours and sizes to make life easy. When worn and torn, or being well used and discoloured, it was not painful to discard one or two things, having not paid the earth for it and being no precious inherited linens from our ancestors. Happily replaced by the vast choice of cheery and affordable items on the market.

Chinese hand embroidered and appliqué serviette, Villeroy & Boch dinner service - my private collection
Even in my mother's days the precious linens would only come out of the cabinet for festive days and Sundays. For every day use bright table linens cheered up the table, together with an 'every day dinner service'. Her hospitality has been a great example for me. For just my husband and myself  I also splash out on different table settings. It is a passion and so easy to do. A beautifully decorated Sunday breakfast table makes it such a wonderful start of the day. A fully decorated dinner table is so inviting for one's guests. Mixing and matching makes the choices endless, using a plain linen serviette or an embroidered one, it quickly sets the mood.

My friend Wanda from Canada visited Hotel des Indes in The Hague on her trip to Holland. When she showed me the picture of her visit and the table setting I gasped: 'Hotel des Indes?!! No linen on the table?!!' No, just this bare table - glasses and all put straight on. It could have been any quick hamburger restaurant's table, or a brown café. Really bad and unbelievable. Being chauvinistic and wanting to be proud of Holland and its culture, this was a very poor show and a sign of how one has left certain habits and culture, even in this very known luxury hotel. The cost of personnel and laundry maybe being the quick and easy way?

Banana leaf place mats, colourful table runners, hand embroidered table linens, damask, it is all part of whatever mood I am in to surprise my husband and my guests. It is fun and a challenge to do this, together with flowers, ivy and other things from the garden.

Now, I did something strange at IKEA's last Thursday. Having the spring fever I just had to get myself something new and decided (with my collection in mind) to get a yard of material for a new table runner on our modern Italian dinner table. The most boring stripe, very plain, very precautious. More is less, is the expression, but I just did not understand my choice once at home.
A few try outs with my various plates did however trigger my creativity and once I get going on it no doubt it will end up with either nice colourful and floral ends on both sides, maybe added by nice full length trimmings. The 'blues' were the best match, not the floral plates.

Royal Pip plates - last year's birthday gift from a friend
usually used as under plates, best used on white linens
This story takes me back to  Slot Zuylen and our tour of the castle. The linens are not always on show, the guide opened up this linen cabinet, wearing white gloves. Light and dust are forever big enemies of such precious textiles. The upcoming agenda of the castle shows there will be 'Open Cabinet Days' from 14-16 May. I hope there will be more details on show, as the red ribbon cards leave so much to the imagination: 'damask Chinese linen', 'guest towels', 'flowers', 'grapes', 'insects', 'stripes and squares'.

The website has a new feature. You can glimpse through photo albums and get an idea on how and when things were used. The era and the families surely come to life.

Our guide explained the story on the 'Chine de commande' and how complete the dinner set still is. The family would sing hymns and say prayers before their meals together with their servants.
The huge table linen holds a pretty and busy pattern.

Belle's brother, Willem René van Tuyll van Serooskerken, baron de l'empire, in his green outfit, smiles at you when you pass the corridor and go down the stairs. The story goes that he rented out the castle and sold its furniture. Maybe he did not enjoy festive moments at the dining table, living elsewhere?

Happy Sunday dinner, bon appétit!

1 comment:

  1. What a pretty choice of fabric for your new table runner Jacoba. It will look lovely with those dishes. I remember the china and napkins from our first visit to your served us lunch in your glorious garden! Have a great week ahead.