Teatime with Elizabeth Swift Design


Tastemaker Questions: Betsy Lanphier, Elizabeth Swift Interior Design India Amory Linens used: Peony Tablecloth; Lavender Clover Cocktail Napkins
You’re originally from the east coast and moved to the San Francisco Bay area a few years ago. How do you think about your east coast sensibilities when it comes to entertaining on the west coast? It’s been so much fun to mix my East Coast upbringing with my new West Coast lifestyle. It’s the best of both worlds! Like with my design projects, I tend to bring a little “classic east coast” to entertaining as well by incorporating more traditional elements like heirloom silver or knick-knacks from past travels. My mother is a master entertainer, so I’ve been taught well! She’ll tell you that they key to a good party (of any size) is to have multiple bars! Unlike chilly winter cocktail parties back East where everyone is cramped, the West Coast allows for year round indoor/outdoor entertaining, so naturally gives parties a breezy flow & sense of ease, and it’s perfect for popping up that extra drinks station outside.
Tell us a little bit about how you approached using our Peony Tablecloth and Lavender Clover Cocktail Napkins. Of course I’m a huge fan of all of Julia’s designs, but was especially inspired by these sweet little cocktail napkins, so I started there. I’m a big “petite napkin” person (the napkins at our wedding were 8x8 fabrics samples!) and these are so cheery and fun. The pink of the Peony and purple clover seemed feminine and slightly romantic, and with Valentine’s day around the corner it had me dreaming of a more intimate setting, like a tea in the library!
Do you have a favorite go-to floral accent when arranging a table? I love flowers and exploring different ways to incorporate fresh blooms into tablescapes. I prefer loose and airy arrangements with lots of greenery and fewer flowers, or using one type of bloom in clusters. I tend to gravitate towards Ranunculus because of their texture, wild shape and bold color, so a little goes a long way!
What are you looking forward to in the new year? 2018 is going to be a big year for us as a family with the arrival of our second baby in the Spring! We are very much looking forward to being a family of 4. Design wise I’m so thrilled to be taking on some wonderful new projects, and I hope to see some bold ideas come to fruition (think lacquered walls, or dark contrast trim color) along with some custom furniture pieces and of course more wallpaper!
If you could design the next India Amory tabletop print, what would it be? Oh that would be SO much fun!!! Where to start! I always love a good classic stripe, whether a thin stripe or variegated, and the blockprint process makes it just a little “imperfect” which I like. I’m also drawn to small paisley prints which could be a fun addition. And I love a good detail, so adding a great trim to cocktail or dinner napkins would be a fun thing too! Think small pom-poms, tassels or fringe...
Do you have any favorite family pieces you like to incorporate into your tablescape design? I love to mix and match old and new. I am fortunate enough to have a full set of my grandmother’s silver and it’s especially dear to me as we share the same name, “Swift”. We also have lots of little table accessories that have been passed down to me, like the crystal salt and pepper dishes we used here for example. Whether I’m hosting a more informal get-together, like a tea or cocktails, or a sit-down dinner, I’ll try to pull out some fun family heirlooms or keepsakes from various travels for the table.
There are many talented interior designers and artists on the west coast, yourself included! Who are you currently coveting on the west coast for all things design and entertaining? Tough question!! I think Peter Dunham has mastered the mix of “California-cool” with a strong sense of classic design. Not only are his textiles amazing, but his ability to create interiors that are at once fresh & timeless is inspiring. He’s like a West Coast Tom Scheerer. And his shop, Hollywood at Home, is an absolute gem. For entertaining I am constantly picking up a new piece or sending a wedding present from San Francisco based Hudson Grace. Monelle Totah and Gary McNatton, the co-founders, have done an outstanding job of curating their collection which includes the perfect white serveware (like the bowl full of clementines here), everyday “china” and even found hotel silver and antique ceramics. HG is my go-to for all things entertaining!
What is one design element you’d love to see come back in style? It may have had its heyday with Mario Buatta and the old guard, but I’ve been drawn to some vintage chintz patterns lately and am wondering if I’m crazy or if we’ll start to see rooms incorporating bold patterns again, a la Bunny Mellon and her pink New York City living room—that sofa!
You have incorporated many beautiful china pieces in your table scheme. Is there a particular piece you are most drawn to? I love them all for their different functions! It’s really fun for smaller settings to use a variety of patterns and a variety of serveware that play host to different elements on the table. My mother recently passed down some beautiful exportware and that bold blue & white anchors one section of the table, and is big enough to act as a serving plate. Our more delicate Herend “Fish Scale” dessert plates hold their own with their not so typical orangey-pink colorway and gold rim, and I love how they mix with our Mottahedeh “Sacred Bird & Butterfly” in that orangey tone, seen in the teacups here. This Mottahedeh collection is surprisingly affordable so I actually do use these tea cups and dinnerware, and don’t feel like I have to wait for the Queen to come over! The dessert plates on the other hand...maybe if Princess Charlotte came for tea with our daughter Oakley.
In your opinion, what makes a beautifully set table? Less is more—and it’s all about the lighting! An overly cluttered table, while there are beautiful pieces, can feel too heavy. I break the “rules” and I actually prefer smaller sized plates when applicable, and smaller napkins, and usually just one glass for water (and have a sideboard for those extra wine glasses!) It creates a sense of ease for your guests but can still be beautiful and chic, just edited. Candlelight is a must, whether hurricanes, candlesticks or votives all around the room. That natural glow is what you want (and a dimmer switch!)