Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family Museum Room-by-Room - The Dining Room

Yesterday we visited my House Museum Living Room. Today we will tour the Dining Room. How many of you grew up with having a Dining room in your house? This was by far one of the most important rooms in the house because it was where the family gathered for special occasions. Sadly, this room as been reviewed as an unnecessary room by today’s needs. No longer do families gather around a commodious table and share a special meal.  They are now regulated to the big eat-in kitchen or family rooms where buffet tables are set up to offer the food and then everyone finds their own seat to enjoy the meal. Perhaps one day the Dining Room will regain its importance in the home as well as in the customary practices of family gatherings. But for now, I will gladly share all the pieces that are in my dining room that have be inherited, purchased and enjoy a premier spot in our House Museum.    
The dining room buffet, hutch, table and chairs came from my Italian Grandmother whom I called Nana. As the story goes, she had purchased this entire suite from Sears Roebuck in 1920. It could have been via the mail-order catalog or directly from the store since she lived in Chicago. At this time there was a colonial-revival period of which this extraordinary rich mahogany set was inspired by. Six chairs with Chippendale backs, table with built-in extension leaf underneath, buffet with plenty of storage and china cabinet with Chippendale-pane windows was really something in its time. When Nana passed away, the set went to her daughter, my Aunt Viola. I recall many holiday dinners being eaten at this table and how all the relatives sat around it. But of course, all the cousins were regulated to sit in the kitchen. The furniture traveled among family member and eventually came to me. I had all the pieces restored and feel very proud to have Nana’s furniture in my home.

The English Bone China with its castle motif was also very popular. These dishes were used for special occasions only. Perhaps that is why I still have them. Also because my mother inherited the dishes, then passed them down to me. I was thrilled to have them for the furniture and dishes must stay together.  

Over the buffet is a large mirror my mother purchased sometime in 1980. I love the monochromatic white. The pineapple is a sign of hospitality and what better place to hang the mirror than the dining room.

On the buffet are two lead-crystal art deco lamps I had purchased from an antique store in Chicago. Heavy, you bet. And you wouldn’t believe how I got them back home. Each lamp was wrapped in newspaper and a brown paper bag tied with heavy string. No lampshades; they came later. I hulled these lamps with my on to the airplane and placed them in the overhead baggage compartment. Can’t do that today!   

          On a silverware chest sits an Italian porcelain compote with matching candlesticks. This set was purchased by my mother in 1980 as well. The three-piece set was always in the center of the dining room table. I use to do the same until one day while moving it, the fragile basket almost fell off and gave me a fright, so from now on it sits immoveable on the chest.    
This beautiful sofa has a long story to tell. Again, purchased by Nana back in 1920, it has two accompany chairs that are in my bedroom. This set has been in many homes and by time it came to me, it was in bad need of repair and reupholstering. The only unfortunate aspect of this set is that when it was originally purchased, the sofa and chairs had camel backs. Then one day some ignoble interior decorator convinced my mother to have the set update by cutting off the camel backs, and off they went. Oh how sad is that!
Next to the sofa are a pair of fancy pink French lamps that were given to my mother. She didn’t care for them so she gave them to me. Again, they needed repair and new lampshades and look great next to the sofa.
On the wall is a small painting on wood of a gentlemen sipping wine and reading a letter. I found it at an estate sale and again, it needed a good cleaning and new frame. This scene is so apropos for the dining room. I just love it!
When I started to collect Nippon porcelain, I had no idea that the vase that always was displayed somewhere in the living room had belonged to Nana and that it, too, was a Nippon she had purchased back in 1920. And I also remember the day my father broke Nana’s vase and how extremely angry my mother had gotten. I never saw my dad plead for forgiveness like he did then. That night I watched him painstakingly glue the broken pieces together.  
Somehow this eclectic gathering of many different period styles of furniture and accessories share the same space, giving the room a sense of history and more importantly, family history. How many stories can you tell from what is in your dining room?

Next post will be about the Family room.

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