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Setting a summery table with pottery, fresh flowers

"Choose something charming, French faience, for instance, or something very modern, when it comes to adding color to your table settings. "Pottery in the spring and summer somehow always looks right with flowers. Of course, it's all in how you put it together," says Mrs. Margaret Reif of Cooley's, one of New England's best known stores for fine china.

"Build with place mats or tablecloths to bring out the colors. I like to set tables with all white china, too, and then have real wild place mats and linens.

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Britain, which has produced some of the world's most durable table furnishings over the centuries, has come up recently with a new pattern which might well prove especially desirable for bird watchers.

Called Birds of Britain by Portmeirion, the colors are those of the birds themselves with a band of soft green edging the design. Ideal for a summer table and a bright note at any time of year.

Today Japan's Noritake and Mikasa are putting out patterns that speak to the heart. Often fashioned after famous European traditional lines, they sometimes incorporate an authentic Oriental touch.

Noritake in Blue is one such, a clean white design decorated in what might well be the familiar plum blossom of the Far East. This, on a blue tablecloth, would echo sunny skies at first sight.

A pattern that would also make the transition from spring to summer gracefully is Geranium by Villeroy & Boch. It features gold-to-soft-red wreaths of flowers with green on a white background. With yellow flowers as a centerpiece, on a yellow cloth, this china combines the sprightliness of spring with the simmer of summer.

At another of New England's leading stores for china patterns and ideas, Shreve, Crump, & Low consultant Mary Beth McAteer greeted the season with a table laid with blue, white, and yellow Quimper.

Here is something sunny, a complement to bright blue days and warming temperatures. The table also epitomized another idea. The usual thing is to use flowers as a centerpiece. And, of course, they are a joy that focuses the intent of the setting.

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But there are other ways to add a fillip to a table, perhaps without spending a penny. The Quimper table had a small group of French peasant doll figurines as its eye catcher to carry out the theme.

Most households, even newly made ones, have a favorite figurine, or a bowl full of rose quartz or jade grapes, or a suitably sized plant that will look fresh and seasonal.

This might also be time to lay an all-one-color table -- bright leafy green, perhaps, with a grace note of yellow marguerites or white freesia. Candles at night, but not for midday, of course, could blend or contrast.

If the present china holdings are more basic and leave something to be desired in color or pattern, this might well be the season to add more.

Once the yearning for outdoor living takes hold its time to think about our indoor surroundings, too. So this is a good time to choose a new china, stoneware, or ceramic set, the pattern of which calls to you as soon as you see it.

But keep in mind that the new acquisition will need to be useful all year and should mingle well with what is already in the china closet.

Sango, for instance, puts out its Carousel pattern stoneware, rimmed with distinctive shades of blue, brown, or white. Their large plates can be used with smaller floral bowls, or with contrasting solid shade pieces for a bright, new look.

Most department managers think out appealing seasonal table designs to entice customers, so a look at what is shown in the stores often sparks original ideas.

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