Inside a stately William Lawrence Bottomley-designed home in Windsor Farms, past a chintz curtain tied to the side and through double doors, a long dining table is dressed to the nines. And our hostess Pam Reynolds is, too. You may recognize Reynolds. She’s an active arts supporter, having sat on the board at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, on and off, for years; currently, she’s the board president. Reynolds is one of few in town with a truly unique sense of style. She dresses with panache, always crowned with her signature blunt, blonde pageboy haircut. Richmond’s own Anna Wintour — with more flair (and less attitude). Her dresses hang in storage at the Valentine Richmond History Center with other legendary Virginians’ threads: Dolley Madison’s hat, Lady Astor’s coronation robe, Frances Lewis’ Mondrian-inspired suit, and Reynolds' gown worn to the 1996 VMFA Fabergé Ball — a Russian-folk-costume-inspired extravaganza made of silk scarves with Fabergé egg motifs.
Bill Martin, the Valentine’s director, says Reynolds’ dress hangs in the historic collection because, as chairwoman of the ball, she set a fundraising record — and also because of her sense of style.“She has this very personal vision of how she wants to express herself with her clothing,” Martin says. “There is a ‘Pam Reynolds look.’ ”On this day, we’re at home with Reynolds to talk tabletop. Similar to her love of fashion, Reynolds has a passion for plates … and compotes, teacups, soup bowls and other pieces of fine, hand-painted porcelain. Just like her wardrobe, she loves to mix and match on her table; she finds treasures from consignment shops, antiques fairs, Bergdorf’s, wherever she may be. She loves the hunt and the art of arrangement. On her table, place settings are never uniform and guests never share a pattern with their neighbor — she wants the table as lively as the conversation.“To me it’s like a painting, being able to put together an outfit or a table,” she says. “That’s why it’s so fun being at the museum, walking through the galleries and being inspired.”Reynolds shies away from revealing the make of her plates (or the labels on her clothes). Workmanship and style are what she’s after; brand is not important. And although she displays much of her large collection behind glass-fronted cases or hanging on walls, this is a working collection. “If you have pretty things, use them,” she says. “They’re not going to break.”
Setting Pam's Table
In porcelain, Reynolds favors florals and pastels; her home leans in the same direction, and her clothes are often full of lively pattern. “I think I dress the way our house is … and the way I set the table,” she says, adding, “Fashion and art and food — all of that works together in my life.”
“It’s fun to look around at objects that you have and add them to your table,” Reynolds says. “You can put books with porcelain on top. You can layer your table the way you layer your house.” She also likes to decorate with figurines, toys, cabbages and radishes.
Victorian glass flowers appear throughout the house — on mantels, side tables and often as centerpieces. When their tabletop service is done, they return to their spots in the house.
Reynolds is studious about seating arrangements, preferring to place guests next to one person they know and one they don’t, to mix things up. She also keeps a supply of M&Ms and nuts on the table to give guests something to reach for if conversation is tight. The mixed place settings also help to spark discussion.
Pam's Favorite Places to Find Porcelain
• Sheppard Street Antiques
• Willow Place Antiques
• West End Antiques Mall
• Antiques Extravaganza Show & Sale (Oct. 3-5 at The Showplace)
• Motley’s Auctions
• Various consignment shops
• Bergdorf Goodman’s Seventh Floor Estate Collection, New York