Fine Cut Crystal, Elegance & Plastic?

High tea. Afternoon tea. Call it what you like. I love the tradition of it! Seems everywhere I go, if afternoon tea is on the menu, I am making a reservation and looking forward to it. Done it in New York at The London. Stuck my pinky out at The Empress in Victoria, BC. Closer to home it’s usually the Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara on the Lake.

Decorated like an old English manor home, The Prince of Wales boasts lots of chintz, sparkling crystal, elegant silverware and beautiful fine china. The tea parlour and conservatory are a throwback to a more refined era. A time when immaculately dressed and proper women had tea in the afternoon. They say it was to stave hunger between lunch and dinner. I personally think it was an invitation to complain about their husbands and to gossip.

Although I felt more at home at The London, the Prince of Wales is more like my mom’s living room. Minus one little detail - the plastic covers (…..insert shudder here). Safe from tea spills, champagne drops and scone crumbs. It would lose a bit of that elegance and refinement, but the owners would save thousands on replacement costs and reupholstering.


As a first generation Canadian of Greek parents, I know the trend did not originate in the old country. The hot temperatures throughout the summer months would make this furniture virtually unusable. If you have not had the pleasure, think leather car seats that have been baking in the sun for hours. Ouch!

My mother, the woman who purchased fine cut crystal, fine china and was meticulous with her appearance decided that plastic covered furniture was the way to go. An oxymoron, it ever there was one. It didn't matter that it was uncomfortable. It was irrelevant, that the plastic made rude noises on the way up or down.

On a summer holiday, we all gathered to watch some television. During a commercial break, my then boyfriend asked if anyone wanted anything from the kitchen. It turned out, that he wasn't going alone. A sofa cushion had attached itself to him with surgical precision and wasn't letting go.  Within days, the plastic covers were out. It seems fate is not without a sense of humour.

The living room furniture survives, albeit with a couple of scratches here and there.  The sofa cushions may be a little soft but the upholstery looks like new.  I think women of my mom's generation didn't believe in disposable furniture. They found pieces they loved and then took care of them. Sometimes love was a plastic cover.

Furniture was a lifetime commitment. Not until the next fad came along.  However, as fads go, some are better left untouched.