Dinner at Gump’s

In an age of dining out, the American tabletop speaks sadly more of ‘desk’ than ‘dinner.’

The lost art of tabletop presentation has been rediscovered and glorified through a Chinoiserie-themed celebration at Gump’s, San Francisco.

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All this month, the ever-stylish team at Gump’s showcases six Bay Area interior designers and their sometimes playful but always decadent visions of an imaginary China, each installment so breathtaking that food seems almost irrelevant.

Our hearts are aflutter with the beguiling tabletop of San Francisco’s Fisher Weisman.

“We wanted to create a table setting that wasn’t too serious, that felt like a party,” stated Jeffry Weisman. “For us that means whimsy and fantasy.”

Their clever solutions and fearless poppy palette aroused our own creative cravings for at-home elegance.

“The theme of Chinoiserie drew us to think about places and films that have inspired us including ‘The King and I,’ ‘Auntie Mame,’ Brighton Pavilion and Doris Duke’s Shangri-La in Honolulu,” he said.

In lieu of flowers, Fisher Weisman give their own romantic yet unorthodox nod to nature with a lavish centerpiece of golden butterflies clustered in a manic flurry.

“The glitter-dusted butterflies and the ivy just add to the sense of delight and fantasy,” Weisman said.

Picture 325.pngAnd all this enchantment beneath a custom chandelier of sparkling beaded pagodas.

“Pagodas, a form we love and have used over and over in our work, became the leitmotif for the setting,” Weisman said. He continued, “We have a passion for making fantasy chandeliers and we devised this open pagoda as more than a chandelier; it creates the room around the table.  It encompasses the guests, and the cascade of smaller pagodas and red Indian beads draws their eyes upward.”

The versatile bamboo-style dining chairs in coral red are from an outdoor collection created by Fisher Weisman for Michael Taylor Designs.

But these rebellious designers brought the outdoor furniture inside, with hot pink upholstery and a sequined table skirt from Gretchen Bellinger, Inc. “to add a bold dash of drama,” Weisman stated.

“Gilded pagoda salt and pepper cellars and napkin rings from L’Objet,” Weisman said, “are the icing on the cake.”

Picture 317.pngThe Far East Fantasy by Tucker & Marks is all-out opulence, featuring an outstanding French gilt bronze and coral chandelier circa 1920, on loan from Objets Plus Inc., and an impressive eighteenth-century, 12-panel Coromandel screen from a private collection.

“Certainly my inspiration came from China and the colors of China, the nature and the aspects that you see: the creative Chinese textiles, Chinese artifacts and of course the 12-panel Coromandel screen,” said Suzanne Tucker.

The imposing screen creates an air of exclusivity and intimacy, an opulence that encases the display. It’s a true treasure.

Made from Chinese Elm wood during the Kang Hsi period, “that Coromandel screen has wonderful Bay Area prominence,” Tucker explained. “It was formerly from the Tobin-Clark estate. It comes from a private collection and belongs to a client of mine, who may be willing to sell it.”

Another unique element is the fragile coral chandelier, brought in from New York, adding unprecedented luxury. “I just love how quirky and exotic it is,” Tucker stated.

“Your eye goes to the table, but then it goes up and finally to the screen,” she said. “There’s a visual delight for the senses in the whole vignette.”

The intriguing chandelier imparts the most elegant glow on the eighteenth-century Italian settee and chairs which create an unexpected seating arrangement, a conversation piece in itself.

“My vision was to actually have a little bench and two chairs. So a little bit of a different setup,” she noted.

New York colleague Carlton Hobbs contributed the set, “and it’s exquisite. It’s eighteenth-century Chinoiserie pieces beautifully painted and depicted, and of course the color palette is so soft and complimentary,” she said.

That third defining decorative element sets the stage for a dramatic table, which bursts with fresh chartreuse and lacquer red linens, “truly wonderful tonalities evocative of Chinese elements from centuries past,” Tucker said.

Picture 326.pngInspired by an eighteenth-century English watered silk, the tablecloth is Tucker’s own Pagoda fabric in Citrine and depicts a play of fanciful Chinoiserie palms and pagodas, swagged floral vines, vertical stripes and a hint of strie.

“And then there’s a sort of exoticism–a little whimsical tiger in the Meissen china,” she said, “so I used the Scalamandre tiger stripe silk as the underskirt and my own red velvet (named Dolce, in Chili) for the upholstery,” Tucker explained. Another one of her fabrics from Suzanne Tucker Home, the velvet is luxuriously thick and luscious, made of cotton and alpaca.

With regard to the flowers, Tucker wanted something a little exotic that would also complement the colors of the vignette, so she chose chartreuse and chocolate brown lady slippers ensconced in a beautiful Buccellati silver centerpiece of shells, which echoes the theme of the ocean in the chandelier.

The final touch is a tall and regal gold pagoda tucked into a corner. “It is just saying, ‘Here we are, we’re envisioning China and the magic of it all,’” Tucker said.

Stay tuned for more table talk next week when Beauty Shall Save the World reports on the other four stunning Gump’s installments, now available for viewing through October.

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