Winter is treating us to a blast of icy cold weather for the next few days. It’s time for some warming counter-measures: flame-coloured parrot tulips to warm the cockles of the even the most frozen heart (or fingers).

The inspiration for this table bubbled up when I was pulling together the ideas for a Spring Refresh. Once I had the coral, yellow, green and pewter palette in mind, I went hunting around the house for coordinating pieces. A speckled scarf in shades of coral and grey jumped out at me.

Voila! instant runner.

Country Estate by Juliska was a natural choice. I’ve had the pattern for about a decade. Designed by Deborah Sears of Isis Ceramics, it’s commercially produced by Juliska in Flint, Blue and Ruby. We were lucky enough to visit with Deborah Sears at her Isis Ceramics studio in Oxfordshire on a previous trip to England. As you can see, they produce a lot of different pieces, largely custom made.

This ginger jar was made for HRH Prince Charles and features scenes from his country estate, Highgrove. Note the contrasting coloured detail around the bottom of the urn.

At the studio, they employ many more colours than are available on the commercial sets from Juliska. If I were ever to dip my toe in the water of a bespoke set, I think I’d chose either the plum or the green. How about you?

Here are some of the ladies at the studio, happily painting away! What a wonderful job that would be, and such a pleasant work environment, out in the country, surrounded by beautiful trees and working beside large windows with natural light pouring in.

I discovered Isis Ceramics earlier on the same trip when we visited Castle Howard. My attention was caught by this cabinet of green and white pieces. Please forgive the quality of this shot – it was hard to avoid the reflection. I was drooling at architectural details and wonderful ceramics in the house when I thought – wait a second – those pieces look familiar. At first, I thought they were by Juliska, but then quickly realized it was bespoke set by the artist for Juliska, Deborah Sears.

Well, I HAD to go and visit her! I tracked down the address and made an appointment to see her about a week later. She was lovely – both gracious and charming. She gave us the background to this bespoke set at Castle Howard. The family commissioned an extensive service for the current Earl’s 50th birthday. Each piece is individually designed and hand-painted, depicting scenes from the family’s life and objects significant to them. I love the mixture of shapes, as well as the deep green ink with touches of red for contrast.

The Flint coloured set I have features several different scenes. The dinner plate shows the main house on what I imagine is a fictional country estate.

The scalloped edge soup plate shows a fanciful structure, a boathouse on an island.

The canape, or appetizer plates, have four different scenes, all “follies” except for the last one. I love the medieval tent, especially.

The fourth plate is a Rapunzel-like tower. Love it.

All the pieces share a distinctive motif in the bottom centre, a kind of garden seat, though it varies with the objects placed on top of it, in this case fishing nets.

Once I’d settled on pairing the pewter coloured Juliska with coral/orange, it was natural to employ my Venetian basket glasses.

I thought these cane chinoiserie style napkins from Pier 1 were a good fit. They come in sunny yellow, clear blue and soft coral. (I was afraid it would turn out to be a vibrant orange, but my fears were unfounded). 

After that, it was just a case of tracking down the surprisingly elusive parrot tulips. The florist had only a dozen, so I added some orange and coral regular tulips to fill out the vase.

Some elephants with their chubby snouts uplifted joined in as salt and pepper shakers. I think the stylized trees on the plates provided them with some welcome shade.

The flatware is Cupola from Williams Sonoma – still available.

I’m a grass-widow for the next few days and will be engaging in a burst of house organization. I blush to admit the back basement storage room is still cluttered with Christmas decorations only half put away. I shoved the boxes and bins back there when we departed in haste for the Cape right after Christmas, and have averted my gaze from the neglected mess long enough. If the weather forecast is halfway accurate, we should be getting a warm spell next week and Glenn will be power washing the front porch upon his return. Time to get out the porch cushions. We’ve been known to sit on the porch of a late afternoon in March, wrapped in blankets, sipping brandy-laced coffee and valiantly telling ourselves it’s really spring. 

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.

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