Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lady Clare Placemats

Back Yard Birds & Their Nests
Hardboard placemats by the British design firm Lady Clare hang on many walls in our house, inexpensive mementos of visits to England over the years. I have a special fondness for them. The designs range from "Shepherd's London", to "British Backyard Birds and Their Nests", "Pallas Tapestry", "Chinese Flowers" and more. 

Lady Clare has a placemat for every taste, from modern to rustic to traditional to ethnic, making them worth considering for a variety of decorative and practical uses. Because of their beauty, diversity and durability, I loved adding to my collection, preferring Lady Clare to all other placemats, including those by Pimpernel.

History of Lady Clare Placemats

The original place mats were not only a creative solution to a financial problem, they were a design inspiration. 

Pallas Tapestry
"The idea for a placemat decorated with a colored print was born out of the harsh economic climate of the 1930's. Lady Clare Pigott, the original founder of the company, created the first such place mat in Paris in 1932. She had collected antique prints from dealers in Berlin where her husband was attached to the British Embassy. Having to entertain diplomats during their next posting to the Embassy in Paris, Lady Clare became concerned at the laundry bills she was incurring for the starched white table cloths formality required her to use for dinners. As a result she created some place mats from shaped and painted hardboard with a flower print applied to the surface and several coats of lacquer. For her next dinner party she was able to remove the table cloth and lay the table using her placemats. Her friends were most impressed by this simple and attractive way of decorating a dining table. Inevitably the next question was ... can you please make some for me? From these simple origins, a business was born. "

from the
Lady  Clare Website 

In our house the placemats are strictly decorative, but they're also durable, should you want to use them as originally intended. Each is backed with felt and the design is covered with a durable lacquer that's said to be heat-resistant to 212 degrees F. 

Shore Birds

Current Placemat Designs 

Lady Clare still offers many classic designs, but also is keeping up with changing tastes and interests. Some of the designs available in the Traditional Collection include everything from tigers to tall ships, while the Today Collection features French shops, wine, golf and music, etc. etc. etc. There also are solid designs in a variety of colors, so that most people can find something they like.

Shepherd's London

Other Decorative Ways to Use the Placemats

In addition to hanging placemats on your walls, try some of these ideas, or better still, invent your own:

  • on a free-standing shelf
  • on the mantle
  • at the back of a bookcase shelf
  • in a stand on a tabletop, bureau or vanity

Lady Clare Placemats Given to Queen Elizabeth

Lady Clare placemats were in the news in December 2012 when the Cabinet chose 60 as a gift for Queen Elizabeth to mark the first time the meeting of senior ministers had been attended by a monarch in more than 230 years.  

The placemats are based on twelve images taken from paintings of state rooms within Buckingham Palace. I wish this picture showed the designs more clearly...

These are the luncheon size, and if we ever get invited to lunch at the Palace, maybe they'll be on the table.

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