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Looking back, I guess I have always been enamored by the dining table.

Some of the most profound moments in my life have occurred around a table. To me it is a sacred place. A place where many special times have been shared with friends, family, and even strangers – connecting over food with deep conversation, having a laugh or sometimes shedding a few tears.

As you might imagine, one of my favorite things to do when I was a little girl was to play with my treasured miniature tea set. I vividly remember enlisting the help of my uncle (who is only four years my senior and more like an older brother or cousin) in the setting up and  “hosting” of many pretend tea parties with my grandmother’s dishes at her looooong dining table (my grandparents had eight kids – so we needed a very large table!)

At home, I would frequently put on one of my stepmother’s vintage aprons (I wish I knew what happened to those. What I wouldn’t give to have them today!) and practice what little I knew about setting the proper place setting. Even some of the reading I did by choice was Emily Post table etiquette.

I haven’t outgrown it. As an adult, I have a growing tabletop collection (and along with it, storage issues – go figure!) and a very healthy apron fetish. Recently I was invited, along with some other local bloggers, to the West Elm Store in Seattle (South Lake Union) to tour the Spring collection. I missed the grand opening of the store due to a scheduling conflict, and then the Handmade Holiday Workshop, an Etsy Craft Holiday event that I had been invited to, because I was sick. I was not about to miss this. You may remember that I also did a fabulous giveaway from West Elm this past Christmas. I have pored over the catalog and the website, but there is nothing like visiting the actual store. With the winter doldrums setting in – I was so happy to see all the crisp, clean, displays of white in the store. So looking forward to spring! And there was plenty of white… In the kitchen area (oh how I adore citrus juicers!)… And much to my delight, even on the table! Now here’s the section of the store that really gets me into trouble… I am a firm believer that everyone should have a good set of white dishes as a solid base to set off other colors on your table. A splash of color just pops off the white! These plates would go great with the green and gold color scheme I have going on for the St. Patrick’s Day table that I am planning. I found these blue monogram plates in the bath section but I think they would work well as an accent against my white dishes on the table! Wouldn’t they be perfect for a book club gathering?

Get them in your guests’ initials and use them instead of place cards. They would make a sweet little take home for the guests :-) For more selection, you may have to order online – I wasn’t able to find a “K” or even a “P”.

Of course, the most enjoyable part of the tour experience for me was taking in all the tablescapes – Yes, they have a very talented group of employees at West Elm Seattle! Plenty of inspiration in this store! Oh! These mercury mushrooms would look fantastic on a table set for a foraging-themed meal! And isn’t this the most darling cake stand? West Elm’s take on the Easter table. Are you drooling yet? I love what they did with that egg platter – another one of my favorite things! I have a white one just like this but I’ve only ever used it for eggs. Now that I’ve seen this, a billion ideas are going through my head! There’s that cake stand again. Another one of my obsessions! This hammered steel one is so unique! One of the things that I find so appealing about cake plates is their versatility.

They work well for cakes or cupcakes but can also be used for an appetizer display, candle decor or even a cheese plate. What other ideas would you use them for?

What struck me in this store as soon as I walked in the front door was the welcoming atmosphere that extends from the decor to the warm, wonderful staff who are helpful but not hover-y, as in some stores.

Leslie Kendall, the store’s General Manager, told me that she just loves it when customers come into the store and make themselves at home. This table, she said, was occupied one night by a couple who sat here and talked for hours.

What a testament! I was ready to sit down and have my dinner party at this very same table, right then and there! Oh, by the way – what’s in the bag? Are you dying to know what I bought?

An apron of course! Being Norwegian and all, I was coveting these Scandinavian Tree aprons at Christmas time! And I found the red and green one on clearance so it was definitely going home with me!

AND…

What else? :-)

I can’t wait to use this in a tablescape, but for now, maybe this handsome presentation will encourage the boys to eat more fruit!

You may not have the obsession that I do, but if you are the least bit inspired by my madness to get your tabletop on, West Elm is serving up a sale right now with 20% off (their already unbelievably affordable prices!) at their Mix, Match + Mingle sale!

Hmmmm…what shall I go back for? ;-)