Your grandmother’s table was pretty.
But ask yourself this: Was it fun?
I was pondering that question after picking up a partial set of a Fostoria Glass pattern, the Versailles, in blue, at The Lord’s Place’s Joshua Thrift Store in West Palm Beach.
Versailles, one of so-called Elegant Depression-era glass patterns, has a plate-etched design and the glass is hand-finished — a process that sets it apart from other mass-produced glassware of the time.
Made between 1928 and 1943, it was the type of glass reserved for Sunday dinners and formal entertaining.
You’d never pair the glass with casual dinnerware, for example, though my grandmother tried and failed.
Grandma laughed as she told me how she was dinged by the judges for pairing elegant pink Tiffin Glass stems with her Pink Castle transferware in a table settings competition hosted in the early 1950s by her Connersville, Indiana, garden club.
“One does not use fine crystal with heavier dishes,” the judges sniffed.
Nor would a 1950s homemaker have mixed patterns on her table — everything had to match. This was decades before shabby was chic, so maybe Grandma was ahead of her time.
Perhaps that table wasn’t picture perfect, at least in the judges’ eyes. But it was fun.
Mixing and matching is one way we can keep table settings fun.
Not everyone needs a service for 12 in everything.
But using Grandma’s patterned salad plates with plain dinner plates or chargers injects freshness into something that seemed to be old or tired.
Case in point: My new Fostoria.
One of the reasons I bought the Versailles set, in a color of blue Fostoria dubbed “Azure,” was because it had dinner plates, a rarity in any of the Elegant patterns. Then as now, most people tended to use glass for dessert and salad plates and use china or earthenware for dinner plates. That’s partially because the glass plates scratch more easily. These plates have utensil marks, but they’ve not been horribly abused.
The plates measure just over 10¼ inches in diameter, so I paired them with Fiesta luncheon plates and casual jadeite Fire King bowls of a similar vintage, along with a 1950s linen print tablecloth, mid-century modern Bryce El Rancho cobalt glass footed tumblers, Grandma’s needle-etched Fostoria goblets dating from the 1920s and Art Deco Reed & Barton silver dating from the 1930s. I think it all works well together in a fun mix of casual and formal. New pieces from discount stores also pair nicely with older sets of plates.
Replacements Ltd., the North Carolina company that provides a china, glass and silver matching service (www.replacements.com), offers tips for pairing patterns on its website and through its Instagram and Facebook postings. It’s worth checking out.
Who knows? You may find yourself liking Grandma’s dishes and glassware all over again. ¦