Home & Design

The Food’s Just a Footnote

HILLWOOD, the Washington DC estate of the late, great Marjorie Merriweather Post—she of more fancy china than Louis XIV, XV and certainly XVI—needed an excuse to break out the good stuff. So it invited half a dozen designers to show how that fussy old Sèvres and Lomonosov porcelain can be made to feel of-the-moment.

I fear the moment was sometime back in the early 1950s. Back then you might have glimpsed your grandmother or great-grandmother’s gold-rimmed Limoges-porcelain dishes at holiday dinners. (Otherwise it was Homer Laughlin’s  “Majestic” all the way, Fiesta ware if Granny was hip.) Sèvres and Imperial Porcelain were for the rich and cultured few.

Still are.

So the designers went to Hillwood and gussied up some tabletops, making reasoned arguments for mixing the “good stuff” with wild new touches to sound a contemporary note. Sob! Just when I put my gold frog placecard holders in storage. (No, that’s not a joke: You can find them at Bethesda Security Storage; don’t remember the unit number.)

The results are predictably over-the-top and delicious. But let’s be clear about one thing: Many, many people, especially the young people museums and manufacturers are trying to court, do not have any “good stuff.” How many times have I heard friends lament that their kids don’t want their dishes/furniture/linens, you name it? People in their 30s and even 40s are navigating an interior world determined by Pottery Barn and CB2. Some cute stuff, but not the message this museum exhibit wants to send.

Nonetheless, there’s wonderful eye candy to be savored at Hillwood, through June 10. It’s worth a visit to get an idea of how people, at least some people, used to live.

—Nancy McKeon

“The Artistic Table: Contemporary Tastemakers Present Inspired Table Settings,” at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens at 4155 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington DC. Through June 10, 2018. Tickets are $18. For more information, go to hillwoodmuseum.org.

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