A table set with Caspari's Spring-Summer 2020 Collection

The story begins in 1945 with European Christmas cards and a man of great style, H. George Caspari. Through his namesake greeting card company, he established a tradition of fine art publishing, sourcing original artworks from museums around the world and seeking out a Swiss printer to adorn his cards with a luxurious finish—gold bronzing powder.

Today, with a boutique in Paris and a flagship store in Charlottesville, Virginia, Caspari’s publishing endeavors have leapt from the stationery box to the tabletop, sustainably producing high-end paper plates, napkins, and place mats, as well as lacquered decorative accessories for the home. President Lisa Milbank (who joined the company just out of college in 1981 when Doug H. Stevens, owner since 1977, hired her) shares how Caspari brings art and ease to our tables and lives.—FLOWER

Behind the Designs of Caspari

Caspari blue and white table with palm fronds and hot pink flowers

‘When I joined Doug at Caspari, we had a vision that can best be defined by the French phrase ‘trompe l’oeil’—to trick the eye into thinking that what you are looking at is real, such as a paper napkin that looks like cloth, or a paper plate that looks like porcelain.” — Lisa Milbank, President

Each and every one of Caspari’s designs begins with original, handpicked works of art. To find them, we dig through extensive collections of rare books belonging to the museums, libraries, and historic gardens and houses with whom we partner. We also collaborate with artists who typically paint from the actual plant or en plein air.

After editing the concepts and designs to focus on four seasonal collections a year, our design team goes to work. They often combine pieces from multiple documents, rotating the direction and overlapping different pieces to create something wholly new, and select the colors to style all the designs within a collection.

Fact: While Caspari began printing paper napkins that looked like textiles in 1983, paper plates came later, following an auspicious dinner party in Greenwich in 1990, where a fellow guest asked Stevens what he had against paper plates, noting he evidently did not do the dishes in his house.

Meet the Artists & Partners

Every artist and archival collection Caspari licenses has a story. Here, we’ve edited our collection to illustrate some of our exciting collaborations. Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more.

botanical artwork

Royal Horticultural Society

The Royal Horticultural Society serves and inspires all those interested in horticulture and gardening in the UK. Along with the famous Chelsea Flower Show and the magnificent gardens in Wisley, RHS is responsible for the Lindley Library in London, which houses botanical illustrations dating back to the late 1700s. These illustrations are an endless source of inspiration for many of Caspari's products.
Caspari playing cards

Royal Horticultural Society, continued

For Caspari's English Country Garden design, featured here on a Bridge Gift Set, we took a collection of botanical prints, reduced the scale, and added a small repeat pattern of leaves to give a feeling of a small textile print that is often seen in British fashion.
Caspari paper, hydrangea print

Karen Fjord Kjaersgaard

From her farm in Denmark, Karen Fjord Kjaersgaard painted her glorious vision of nature’s beauty for over 60 years. Caspari has long published her work on cards, napkins, and the like, sharing these delightful images for us to enjoy every day.
Caspari artist, Karen Kluglein

Karen Kluglein

Beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Karen Kluglein has created art for everything from food packaging to magazine covers and a billboard. After seeing an American Society of Botanical Illustrators exhibit, she knew her work and style of painting would fit right in; after all, she had long been painting tomatoes, berries, and herbs for clients. In the years since, she has painted many botanicals, exhibited, taught botanical painting at the New York Botanical Garden, and made tutorial DVDs.
peony die-cut placement

Karen Kluglein, continued

Caspari's White Peony Die-Cut Placemat, handmade in our Connecticut bindery, brings Karen's lovely artwork to your table. Her work also graces the table setting pictured at the top of this story.
John Gould hand-colored lithograph of hummingbirds and flowers

Chatsworth House

Set in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire, England, Chatsworth is the historic home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The regal, art-filled home and extensive gardens, which include a working farmyard, is a magnificent place to visit (chatsworth.org). Its collections include John Gould's hand-colored lithographs, used in Caspari's Hummingbird Trellis design.
Table styled with Caspari Hummingbird Trellis napkins and coasters

Chatsworth House, continued

A table features Hummingbird Trellis Paper Napkins and Lacquer Coasters. Caspari designers added the trellis backdrop for the birds and flowers to twine through.
Caspari

Gertrude Hamilton

Born and educated in Belgium, Gertrude Hamilton studied graphic arts in Paris and art in New York. She balances a historically infused style influenced by works of Dutch and Italian masters with a modern sensibility, while her technique of combining watercolor and pencil renders expressionistic stains of color. She paints her subjects with distinctive personalities as well as scientific accuracy, so that her works are more like natural history portraits than simple studies.
botanical artwork

New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden is an iconic living museum and, since its founding in 1891, has served as an oasis in this busy metropolis. As a National Historic Landmark, this 250-acre site's verdant landscape supports over one million living plants, while its archives house prints of Redoute’s hand-painted botanicals.
Redoute Floral Lacquer Square Tray in Black

New York Botanical Garden, continued

Caspari has taken a group of Redoute’s prints and turned them into an all-over pattern, seen above on a Lacquer Tray. The design honors the art's integrity but creates an exuberance of color that comes from the mixing of flowers in a garden.
Caspari artist, Catherine Weisz

Catherine Weisz

With a love of vibrant color, artist Catherine Weisz pulls us into her world of watercolor flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Pictured above: Geraniums Gift Wrapping Paper.
art of Katharine Barnwell

Katharine Barnwell

Katharine Barnwell is a classically trained artist living and working in New York City who once studied in Florence in the studio of Signorina Nera Simi. Barnwell paints a full-scale original oil painting of flora or fauna on wood, has a high-resolution scan made, and sends it to her carpentry studio. There, the painting's silhouette is laser-cut out of wood. Each season, the painstaking process yields a small batch of beautifully made objects, including fire screens, umbrella stands, and freestanding decorative paintings.
Caspari

Katharine Barnwell, continued

Inspired by her mother’s Sevres porcelain collection, Katharine painted a variety of delicate primroses and colorful chinoiserie cachepots. The Caspari team combined them to create the charming design featured on Primroses Dinner Plates, Salad & Dessert Plates, and Napkins.

Bringing It All Together

Our design shops in Paris and Charlottesville carry the full range of Caspari products, along with European glassware, flatware, and tableware accessories from around the world to enhance the trompe l’oeil effect. Seasonal store displays combine these items into visual feasts to inspire our guests.

Caspari store display

The brick-and-mortar shops also bring the opportunity to partner with communities. Since Caspari opened its flagship in Charlottesville in 2005, we have enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia to support and promote Historic Garden Week. Every year we host a cocktail party in the shop prior to the start of the garden tour in our area.

In its 87-year history, Historic Garden Week of Virginia has been cancelled only once before when the country was in the midst of World War II. This year, due to shelter in place advisories around the coronavirus pandemic, Historic Garden Week was cancelled again. As we missed this very special springtime tradition, we thought we would sign off by sharing highlights from the 2019 event, when we invited local designers and vendors to create “Little Chelsea” in the shop, inspired by England’s illustrious RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

At this point in time if you cannot get to see us in Charlottesville, please visit us online at casparionline.com.

With our warmest wishes for everyone to stay healthy and enjoy art,

—Lisa and Doug

Lisa Milbank's signature

owner of caspari, Douglas Stevens' signature

Lisa Milbank
Douglas Stevens


Historic Garden Week at Caspari

Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more

garden house
Alison Carabasi at Hillbrook Collections custom-designed a garden folly  in a classic French style, complete with double French doors and copper pineapple finials. After a dramatic delivery through the narrow streets of downtown Charlottesville, we situated our brand-new garden house in the center of the store.
Caspari store display
We furnished the garden house with a small table and chairs, Fortuny pillows, and a ceramic garden stool as an elegant and relaxing hideaway. It was a dream come true—a private space filled with all our favorite things! We wanted to be sure to include architectural pieces in our exhibition as this is such an important part of the Chelsea show.
Caspari store display

The merchandising and gardening departments of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello joined forces to create a beautiful display of pots, flowers, ferns, and mosses—everything grown on the grounds of Monticello using their heirloom seeds. Historical specimens have been featured in the Chelsea Flower Show since its inception in 1913.

floral design by Catherine Boltone

Catherine Bolton arranged flowers, urns, and statuary on a long table, mixing her floral arrangements with textiles and glassware to evoke an outdoor garden party. Entertaining in the garden is a focal point for Caspari, and Catherine entertained us all with such elegance and panache.

Caspari store display
Leslie Harris of LH Gardens set the stage with our three-level metal plant étagère, which we designed with a conservatory manufacturer at the Chelsea Flower Show in London 15 years ago. She arranged dozens of potted hydrangeas, foxgloves, and other spring flowers in varying sizes and dressed wooden mannequins in gardening coveralls “working” at the potting bench.
Caspari store displays
Townsend Landscaping’s amazing “Hotpots” team filled urns with plantings and brought in potted 10-foot-tall maple trees to flank our garden house and adorn the entrance of the store to add grandeur and scale.