A table, a plant and a memory

September 05, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

My friends often wonder how I can write a column every week on the same topic. Where do the ideas come from?

I tell them, first of all, that I don't write on the same topic. One week the column is about color; the next week it focuses on furniture; then it will be lighting, window coverings, bathroom fixtures and so on.

Occasionally, too, I will be inspired in unexpected ways. Here's an interesting example.

This photo from the Baker furniture company recently arrived in my mail. At first glance, it seemed as if it might provide the basis for a story about how to use step tables. But something held me back -- probably because I've never been greatly enamored of step tables, not even when they're as lovely as this mahogany piece, with its unusual reeded and finial legs and its ebonized line inlay. I simply don't regard these kinds of tables as having the gracefulness and the beauty of line that automatically attract my eye. I do recognize, however, that their sturdy rectilinear shape makes them very appropriate for traditionally furnished rooms, such as libraries, that require a sort of stately elegance.

This particular table is nothing if not solid and functional. Note the lift-top on the second step, which offers storage room. And see how many items the piece can hold, including a cachepot with flowing ivy.

And that potted plant is what really motivated me, subconsciously at first, to write about this step table. Gradually, as I looked at the photo, a dim memory grew brighter.

I now remembered vividly that we had a similar table with a flowing ivy plant on one of its steps when I was a child. At one point, I was given the job of watering that plant. After a few weeks, however, water began to seep through the ceramic bowl, leaving permanent stains on the table. Oh, how clearly I can now recall my own and my mother's distress over what had happened to the table.

Ever since then, I have never watered a table-top plant without taking it to a sink and letting it drain before putting it back in its place.

Perhaps, then, this column should have been about houseplant care. Unfortunately, though, I am not an expert on that topic. Instead, I'm afraid, this week's story has taken the form of summertime nostalgia, which can perhaps be justified as an explanation of how a columnist sometimes develops an idea.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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