Friday, 6 August 2010

This summer it's high time for high tea!

Yorkshire Post Life & Style Section - 4th Aug 2010


When it comes to eating on a beautiful summer day even the most fashionably decorated dining room seems stuffy and overbearing. Dining al fresco has to be the option on days like this, but you do not have to skimp on style when dressing your table for the garden.

With the school holidays in full swing, dressing a table for lunch or even afternoon tea can be the perfect family activity to while away a few hours – create the essential “Alice in Wonderland” experience with table clothes, napkins and fresh picked flowers displayed in jam jars to cheer up even the plainest of patio furniture.

If you want to avoid breaking your everyday dinner service (as eating outside always seems a little more precarious), then scour the charity shops and boot fairs for a wonderful array of mismatched patterned china. Nothing says tea party more than china and with retro, eclectic chic at it’s height an array of clashing items has never been trendier. Minimum investment means no worries about breakages and a patchwork of patterns ensures easy replacements.

If you need some inspiration consider the Pretty V&A Cake Stand which has a design taken directly from their archive – high fashion and a perfect centre piece to display cup cakes and sandwiches (£25; – 01536 207 710).

For the more accident prone or those with small children, melamine and plastic tableware is the best option, but you no longer have to skimp on style to create a breakage free environment as plastic versions of firm High Street favourites abound this year.

Fans of Emma Bridgewater’s well known ‘Black Toast’ design will be delighted to find her new melamine picnic range which includes a bowl, cup and dinner plate (from £8; – 0844 243 9266) and if you are looking for something stylish to drink out of Asda have the Swirl Tumbler and Wine Glass at £5 each, which have a hint of designer crystal about them ( – 0203 003 6555).

Personally, I avoid using stem glasses outside and serve everything out of tumblers – they seem much more robust and it feels very continental. I have a selection of old Duralex tumblers, but Berry Red are introducing a range in melamine featuring patterns such as the two tone animal print that will jazz up any table (£4.50; available from 30th August at – 01432 274805).

Of course, when you are traipsing across the garden to get a fresh bottle of wine, it would be terrific to have a mini-fridge to hand like Richard Branson has on his private island. Failing that there are a couple of more down to earth options. How about filling a large galvanised tin bucket with ice to provide a super alternative that is practically and stylishly cool? Alternatively, consider a little home luxury on the cool bag front such as a Champagne Cooler in Tan or Olive Green sturdy canvas with chestnut leather trimmings (£75; – 01488 71236) – perfect for the garden, a picnic or York Races.

Iced water is an essential item to have, but you can avoid the mess of a jug using the Eva Solo Water Carafe with a jazzy neoprene coat in a range of colours which has a flip top lid to stop ice cubes splashing out whilst you are pouring (£49.95; – 0844 888 9522).
For the finishing touch, add some sparkle and comfort to your chairs with a selection of brightly coloured cushions. Fashion shawls from heavy fabric off-cuts and drape over your chairs to complete the English eccentric look (and provide practical warmth once it gets a bit chillier). Finally, settle back to enjoy a long and leisurely meal. My idea of heaven!

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design and one of the region’s leading designers. Contact him on 0800 0321 180 or visit his website

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