Your grandmother’s table was pretty.
But ask yourself this question: was it fun?
I was pondering this after picking up a partial set of a Fostoria Glass pattern, the Versailles, in blue, at the Joshua Thrift Store at The Lord’s Place in West Palm Beach.
Versailles, one of the so-called elegant Depression-era glass designs, has an etched design and the glass is hand-finished – a process that sets it apart from other glassware produced in series at the time.
Made between 1928 and 1943, it was the type of glass reserved for Sunday dinners and formal functions.
You would never associate glass with casual dinnerware, for example, although my grandmother tried and failed.
Grandma laughed as she told me how she was shocked by the judges for pairing elegant pink Tiffin glass rods with her Pink Castle transfer material in a table decorating contest held in the early 1950s by his garden club in Connersville, Indiana.
“We don’t use fine crystal with heavier dishes,” sniffed the judges.
A 1950s housewife wouldn’t have mixed designs on her table either – everything had to match. It was decades before shabby got chic, so maybe grandma was ahead of her time.
Maybe this table wasn’t perfect, at least in the eyes of the judges. But it was fun.
Mixing and matching is one way to make table settings fun.
Not everyone needs service for 12 in all.
But using Grandma’s patterned salad plates with dinner plates or chargers injects freshness into something that seemed old or tired.
Example: My new Fostoria.
One of the reasons I bought the Versailles set, in a color of Fostoria blue dubbed “Azure,” was because it had flat plates, a rarity in one of the sleek models. Then as now, most people tended to use glass for dessert and salad plates and use china or earthenware for dinner plates. This is partly because glass plates scratch more easily. These plates have utensil marks, but they haven’t been horribly abused.
The plates are just over 10¼ inches in diameter, so I paired them with Fiesta lunch plates and Fire King jadeite casual bowls of a similar vintage, and a 1950s linen printed tablecloth , mid-century modern Bryce El Rancho cobalt glass stemmed tumblers, Grandma’s needle-etched Fostoria tumblers from the 1920s, and Reed & Barton Art Deco silver from the 1930s. I think these all work well together in a fun mix of casual and formal. New pieces from discount stores also pair well with old plate sets.
Replacements Ltd., the North Carolina company that offers a china, glass and silver matching service (www.replacements.com), offers tips for matching models on its website and through its Instagram posts and Facebook. Worth checking out.
Who knows? You might find yourself loving Grandma’s dishes and glassware all over again. ¦