We’ve all experienced those deflated moments in life. Whether it’s a rejection from a bank loan application or waiting for permission outside the immigration office for hours and so on. There are times when we feel we are merely a numeral, that our individuality doesn’t count in other people’s formula. And how do we heal from it and live on? The answer can be a hot bath with sea salt, a nice bottle of Burgundy, or even better, a gathering with close friends and families around a beautifully set dinner table. Then I came to realise that most healing process happens in our home.
And who knows home better than my friend Julia Berger? Coming from a fashion background, she founded one of the most refined and beautiful homeware brands, Julia B. Casa, over twenty years ago, driven by her passion for artisanal crafts and vintage linen. Most of the objects in her collections are made by Italian artisans by hand, and the rests are one-of-a-kind vintage pieces she discovered in travelling. As an incarnation of living a life with a sense of celebration, Julia is the person to go to for wise advice on building a beautiful home or setting a mesmerising table for a memory to last.
In our latest film about table setting featuring Julia inside her exquisite boutique in the heart of Florence, she reveals the essence of setting a beautiful table. It’s all about evoking a mood.
Julia started setting the table at the very early age of six to help her mother, a skilful chef, to prepare the cooking lessons. And table setting has become a hobby of hers ever since. In her dining room, she embraced an 80-20 rule, where 80% of what she dines with is vintage, and 20% is from her collections and some contemporary pieces. As a vintage collector, much of Julia’s inspiration for the ceramic and porcelain collection at Julia B. Casa comes from vintage pieces she found in her travels. She loves to mix and match high and low, formal and informal. Yet she is emphatic that everything needs to be pretty and unique, nothing cookie-cutter. She seeks the perfect balance between functionality and beautiful form, from the salad server to the goblets and utensils.
Occasion definitely sets the tone for a table setting. “I think the seasons speak to people differently; occasions speak differently as well.” A Friday dinner with a roast chicken with friends will be arranged differently from a Saturday night cocktail party where everybody gets dressed up. But on all occasions, formal or intimate, Julia believes taking care of the guests’ comfort level is always important. She prefers warm candlelight over harsh lighting and always pays attention to details, like serving cocktails on a silver platter to evoke a sensation of elegance.
“Whimsical” is the word Julia used to describe her creations. “I think whimsy is a common thread throughout everything that I do…You know, it’s not serious. It’s spontaneous and doesn’t conform to anything”. She likes to see things differently and reinvent usages with a sense of playfulness, which imparts character and specialness to the table. On her garden table, she transformed a set of hand-blown Florentine perfume bottles into personal olive oil containers allowing each guest to pour their own portion rather than have a chunky communal bottle on the scene.
Julia told me, it’s all about making people dream: