388 Carlaw Avenue #202F
Toronto, Ontario, M4M 2T4
I love to entertain. In fact, I have been gathering friends and family around my table to feast and laugh for almost twenty-five years. I'm not a chef by any means, but I have learned that the key to a great dinner party is to keep the menu fresh and simple so one can focus on engaging one's guests, to serve the main course on platters so people can choose how much and what to eat (I'm always cognizant of vegetarians, allergies - my own allergy list is unfortunately enormous - or dietary restrictions), and to never deny a guest's offer to help (it makes everyone feel more comfortable when participating and hey, it makes the experience more easy breezy for me and who wants to see their host even slightly stressed out? - plus I hate loading the dishwasher!).
Oh, and make sure you have dimmers on all your light switches, oodles of candlelight and a music selection that is upbeat over cocktails, demure while dining and then cycle it back to upbeat during dessert and beyond to keep your dinner fete swizzling!
For several years my dining zone has consisted of two teak tables. One, an authentic Danish Georg Jensen, was borrowed from my dear friend Marilyn who had owned it since her wedding day to her first husband sometime last century. The other, a cheap knock-off I bought second hand for $200, was similar enough to be a suitable match though it was far from gorgeous. Call it the ugly sister (you can even tell which is which in the photo below). Still, I adored having these two tables for they both had two leaves that pulled out from underneath, allowing me to expand the tables to hold up to 16 people. If I was cooking for six I could move one table aside, or I could keep them combined for ten diners or more. For visual continuity I bought 16 stackable cream bucket chairs from Structube for $70 a piece 13 years ago which have been serving me well ever since.
Here's a photo:
I've been keeping my eye out for replacement tables for several years now but I could never find anything suitable. The closest I came to making a purchase were two glass-topped steel-legged tables with leaves from the old UpCountry Home Furnishings location on King Street East. I liked them but hesitated because I despise how glass-topped tables show dust and finger-prints so easily. If you live in a dusty downtown like I do you'd have to wipe them down every day which, for a self-confessed clean-freak, is way too much of an obligation. So I passed on them which ultimately served me well....the next week the store was bankrupt and everyone who had outstanding orders lost their deposit money.
Then, a few months ago, I was admiring the dining table at one of my client's fab residences and she mentioned she purchased it from Snob. Snob is one of a collection of great retailers located at 388 Carlaw Avenue in Leslieville, some whom I have blogged about here (look under Retail for more!). The purveyor is South African native Denise Zidel, who fills her showroom with furniture and home decor imported directly from her native continent. Her aesthetic is pretty remarkable. Call it modern with an African twist.
The table which caught my eye was a thick slab of Kiaat wood on two steel-webbed pedestals that seated eight comfortably. Kiaat wood has a gorgeous reddish brown hue with a dynamic rich grain, and is abundantly native to the savannah forests throughout Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia and South Africa. It's simply stunning. But how does one make a table for 8 have the versatility to serve up to 16?
After much design rumination, an idea was born to have Snob make four custom tables that could be added at each end of the Kiaat wood table depending on the number of guests. Working with my designers Costantino and Jessica, and Jill at Snob (I love you guys!), we decided to contrast the Kiaat wood table by making two of the tables a cream lacquer with a complimentary style of legs, and two of the tables with stainless steel legs hot-rolled-steel powder-coated tops to protect them from the elements. This solution provides an enormous amount of versatility. The two lacquer tables (similar but not matching my new kitchen cabinetry) currently sit on either end of the Kiaat table but could easily be used as console tables or writing desks elsewhere in a residence, and the two hot-rolled steel tables are located outside on my dining pavilion but can be added on the ends to expand the table to accommodate 16! How brilliant is that?
Here are some pics:
The total cost for all five tables was $6000. It was more than my original budget but, after some reflection, I realized that I will own these pieces for at least the next twenty years. I consider it an intelligent investment in my social life!