If you need a kick-start when it comes to holiday entertaining, you might find your inspiration at the Town & County Club on Woodland Street in Hartford Saturday. Because the ideas go from the whimsical like the unexpected tangerine and apricot “Bohemia Rhapsody” décor featuring the governor’s residence state china to the elegant University of Hartford’s “A Shakespeare Fantasy Tea” to the theatrical like the death-masked decorated “Ghost Who’s Coming to Dinner” table by Hartford Stage.
It was a feast for the eyes at the opening reception for this year’s “Set to Celebrate” tablescape event sponsored by the Connecticut Valley Garden Club. The club invites designers, artists, florists and organizations to put their best table, mantle or staircase forward, and then uses proceeds for a special project, this year, a handicapped accessible Heritage Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park.
“I just loved a time when you went out a danced and parties were parties,” said famed restaurateur Ann Howard whose “deconstructed” New Year’s Eve party theme was translated into an elegant party table reminiscent of the 30s and 40s. Howard, whose family now runs the Bond Ballroom in Hartford, showcased the original china from the hotel, adding buckets full of champagne, glasses of bourbon, elegant cigarette cases, masks, sheet music, and instruments, all as an ode to some of the most famous musicians who performed in Hartford including Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and Count Basie.
One of the biggest surprise table settings was the one featuring the china from the governor’s residence. And there to enjoy was Greater Hartford Arts Council CEO and Connecticut’s First Lady Cathy Malloy, with well-known Hartford attorney, Jim Wade and his wife, Lainie Wade.
“It’s gorgeous,” said Malloy about the conservative china set that was featured on the brightly colored contemporary table featuring orbs, roses and polka dots.
Those attending the opening night reception had the chance to channel their Scarlett O’Hara, Daisy Buchanan or Dolly Levi and strut down a staircase with style thanks to designers and master florists Ruth Loiseau and Bruce Valicenti. The two decorated the mansion’s main staircase with ropes of fresh greens and dozens of white orchids.
“We were a little panicked on Tuesday,” grinned Loiseau, noting that at the last minutes a New York supplier said he could not provide all of the orchids the two needed for the display. “So we went to Boston to get the rest,” she said. “I don’t think there is an orchid plant left between the two cities. They are all here.”
Barbara Kiefer, who along with Beth Montgelas, co-chaired the third annual event, received more than a lot of praise from guests who were both impressed and inspired by the display that continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
She was the winner in the opening night raffle for a gold Judith Lieber minaudiere.