Ever since I purchased a beautiful tablecloth, embroidered with olive branches, I’ve been wanting to create a Greek tablescape.
Last September, while on a Visit to Amazing Ancient Athens, I noticed shops selling cotton clothing and linens everywhere. Later, on an excursion outside the capital to Delphi: Center of the World, we saw cotton being harvested. Lining the road, on both sides of the highway, were little cotton balls that had escaped during baling and transport. It actually looked it had snowed in Greece!
Our guide explained that Greece is a major producer and exporter of cotton — accounting for more than 80 percent of European production. Neighboring Turkey, imports over a third of the cotton. Making up eight percent of Greece’s agricultural output, high-quality Egyptian cotton is very important to the economy.
The evening before boarding a Small Ship Greek Island Cruise, a tablecloth embroidered with black olives, caught my eye. I knew it would go perfectly with my china back home. And, linens were one of the few souvenirs that would also fit in my luggage!
It’s taken me nearly a year to style a Greek tablescape, and it’s got me longing to return there!
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It’s Greek to Me!
We were on our way to dinner, walking through the ancient Plaka neighborhood that sits at the base of the Acropolis. That’s when I spotted the tablecloth and matching napkins that are the foundation of this Greek tablescape.
I think the friendly shop owner was as determined as I was to get linens into my suitcase, LOL! And, Mr. Buzz really liked the pattern and color scheme too. Problem was, I couldn’t remember what size I needed! My mahogany table is uniquely wide, and I wanted the cloth to fit with one of the boards inserted.
Don’t you love the Greek-style urn holding the olive branches? And I think the wheat-like images embroidered in the cloth actually represent cotton?
There’s also a thick border with the classic Greek Key pattern surrounding the edges of the tablecloth. My biggest concern that border might hang awkwardly. Hmm, I just realized none of my pictures show the lovely four-inch edging. I’ll bee sure to share that in a follow-up post on the Greek and Roman influences in my home decor.
Metric vs Inches
Complicating matters was that the linen pattern came in a zillion sizes and shapes, including; placemats, runners, toppers and napkins. Retired engineer husband was in charge of converting metric measurements into inches for me. Still I fretted on the size. I knew I had to go longer to account for the width of the table.
So, even though it was closing time, the helpful owner spread out size after size for me to examine and try to visualize in the dining room. Thanks to hubby, we ended up getting the smaller of two tablecloths I was stuck between. It fits the dining room table at home perfectly!
I hate haggling over price, but the owner wanted to bargain and started making various offers. It’s what they do in Greece. In the end, I was pleased with the price that included eight matching napkins.
Setting the Table
My china is the now-retired pattern, Lenox Eclipse; a wedding gift from my parents. I chose it for its ivory color and ornate black and metallic gold-decorated rim.
For the Greek tablescape, I layered the dinner plates over ornate gold chargers for the host and hostess settings.
You’ve seen the dishes and serving pieces in other formal settings, including; Thanksgiving Horn of Plenty Table.
Raise a Glass
Smoke black wine goblets were purchased specifically for the Greek Tablescape. For the past several years, I’d been looking for black stemware, without success. Can you tell they are from Dollar Tree? If you order a case of 12 online, you can pick them up at the store in a box suitable for storage. Handy when you are a dish addict and your cabinets are already stuffed full! And, I love that they fit in the dishwasher.
For serving ouzo, Greece’s national drink, I chose these tall, cylinder-shaped glasses, which remind me of Greek columns.
“Ouzo is a sweet, strong alcoholic beverage similar to a liqueur, which is made from the by-products of grapes after they’ve been used for wine-making (mainly the skins and stems). It’s then distilled into a high-proof alcoholic beverage that’s flavoured primarily with anise, which gives it a distinctive liquorice taste.” cctalents
Originally, I used the glasses for drinking iced vodka for a Russian theme dinner.
But, for this occasion, I raise my ouzo glass and toast, “ymas!” — “to your health” or “cheers” in Greek.
No Plate Smashing Here!
“Opa!” is a common Greek emotional expression. It is frequently used during celebrations such as weddings or traditional dancing. In Greek culture, the expression sometimes accompanies purposeful or accidental plate smashing.” Wikipedia
For the other four place settings, I incorporated another pattern of Lenox plates — ones I haven’t shared with you before.
A couple of years ago, when downsizing, mom gave eight-settings of her Lenox Hancock dishes to my niece. Newly married (see Hand Painted, Wedding Flutes), she has no space to store all the china. Temporarily, the dishes are residing in boxes at her parents’ home.
Rather than sell-off the remaining four dinner plates and several serving pieces, Sistah B helped mom to send them to me for safe-keeping.
I layed the Hancock plates on a different style of gold charger, and added an Eclipse salad plate on top. Can you see the difference in the border design? Don’t you think the two Lenox patterns work well together?
Go for the Gold?
Flanking all six place settings are great-grandmother’s sterling silver flatware. Not exactly ancient like the Parthenon, but pretty vintage in our family, LOL! When I opened the lined silverware drawer, I was dismayed by how tarnished the flatware was. Ugh! Several hours of polishing later, it now reveals a beautiful patina.
Of course, gold-color flatware would look spectacular on a Greek tablescape. I found some with a Greek Key pattern I’m considering from Amazon (see link at end). Should I “go for the gold” or be content with silver? Do you have gold flatware? I worry the gold might fad or chip off?
Put a Lid on It
Replacements, Inc. offered a fair price for the Hancock teacups and saucers that my niece didn’t want, but peanuts for serving pieces. Perhaps because the Hancock pattern is still available (find it on Amazon at end of post)?
Since the covered vegetable complimented my wedding pattern, mom gifted it to me too. Someday, I’ll pass it down to my niece.
Here’s the matching lidded dish; a server I don’t have in the Eclipse pattern. It did require me to reorganize the entire china to find room for it though! Worth the effort, don’t you think?
Besides the black border pulling in the black olives embroidered on the tablecloth, I was excited to see sets of five gold rings around the plate rim. Can you make them out below?
In the Olympic flag, the five rings symbolize the five continents of the world; united in the games.
On our first day in Athens, we visited the Panathenaic Stadium; the only one in the world built entirely of marble. It is also where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
That inspired me to try my hand at folding a napkin to resemble the torch for the Greek tablescape. What do you think, can you see a resemblance to the flame shape?
I also arranged the napkin so that the embroidered olive was in the middle of the flame.
Flame Fold 101
If you’d like to try your hand at the fold, it’s pretty straight-forward. All you need is a large napkin and a gold napkin ring. Begin by folding the napkin in half, and then in half again — so it looks like the image in the upper left corner below.
Fold in the two upper edges to meet each other in the middle. Make sure these are the ‘open’ edges of the napkin, rather than the folds. Next, pinch the napkin in the middle as shown above.
Have a ring handy to slip over the napkin, and position in the spot gathered together. Finally, take each of four upper napkin layers and fan them to the left; to resemble a flame.
Check out more fun to fabulous ideas at 12 Napkin Folds for All Seasons, Holidays & Occasions.
How Sweet it Is!
For the napkin ring, I used a gold one decorated with a bee — a generous gift from my buddy Kem. I’ve shared them once before in, Meet Me at the Eiffel Tower Table Valentine. There, they represented the Napoleonic bee and my French ancestry.
What’s a bee got to do with a Greek tablescape you ask? Because, bees make honey and honey is the “nectar of the gods.” According to mythology, Zeus was raised on honey.
“Honey was the first sweetener used by the Greeks in their diet for the preparation of sweets and delicacies which made honey very popular in ancient Greece. Honey, grapes, and olives formed the beginning of Greek gastronomy.” Matt Barrett
Greece has more bee hives per acre than any other country in Europe — that means a lot of bees buzzing about!
Take a Seat with Apollo
Once I spread the tablecloth on the dining room table, I shopped my house for decor to create a centerpiece.
Who else to grace the Greek tablescape than Apollo? He was one of twelve Olympians in Greek mythology.
Last fall, we visited Delphi: Home of the Oracle, where the sanctuary and temple were dedicated to Apollo.
However, I’ve had the Apollo head planter at home for years. You might have seen him sprouting flowers out of his head in, Independence Day Decorations on my covered porch. He spends much of the warmer months outside; getting a little greener over time.
For the Greek tablescape, I filled the concrete planter with faux greenery.
Apollo is flanked by two gold-rubbed pedestals I often use at Christmas to hold a pair of cherubs.
For the Greek tablescape, I topped each with a crystal candlestick and gold candle; reminiscent of the columns at Zeus’ temple in Athens.
Greek Tablescape Set in Olive Grove
I was so excited to find little olive trees at Michaels to add to the Greek tablescape.
Like the pedestals, I used some metallic gold paint to glam them up a bit. I also wanted to soften the terracotta orange coloring of the pots.
How perfect are these olive trees with the embroidery on the tablecloth? A green glass urn will hold a olive oil-based vinaigrette for the salad.
Time to begin preparing the meal to accompany the Greek tablescape. There will be honey in both the main lamb dish, as well as the baklava for dessert. It’s been years since I’ve made baklava, so wish me luck!
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