Thanksgiving is easily my most favorite holiday. Food, friends, family, and did I mention food….what’s not to like!
For me this has customarily meant putting a 26-pound turkey in the oven beginning at eight in the morning and then taking so much pleasure in setting the table for 30-40 friends and family members.
For the last several years preparing Staunton Antiques Center & The Artisans Loft for my holiday customers occupies the majority of my pre-holiday time. So aren’t I the lucky one that now both of my sons live in Staunton and I can get homefront holiday help from them?
And when one of your sons is a chef, like my son Ian Boden, well…it sure comes in handy when it’s his turn to cook for both of our families! You see, my incomparable daughter-in-law, Leslie Boden, calls Thanksgiving her favorite holiday as well.
Either way, whoever hosts, whoever cooks, whoever pulls it all together, my favorite part is sitting around the table, after a fabulous meal, and asking all present (including the young ones) to say what they are grateful for. It’s this spirit of gratitude that is at the heart of the Thanksgiving celebration.
Still, I take every opportunity to host occasions when I can. And when I do it all, I know just how much fun that can be, especially the decorating!
If you can’t tell already from my antique shop — and you should be able to — I like to decorate. My home is the heart of my antiques and art world, really, because these are the things I’ve bought that never made it to the shop or were brought from the shop after I looked at them, yet again, and said, “You’re coming home with me!” I suppose that part of my love of these wondrous, lovely items from times past is the fact that sadly I have few precious items passed down from my family.
So suffice it to say that when it comes time to decorate the table (and sideboards and side tables and coffee tables and even the powder room) for a houseful of happy and hungry guests, well, I relish that time.
I break out the table runners and platters, fine china and serving ware, loveliest linens and prettiest tea cups, most fabulous soup tureens and most sparkling crystals wine glasses and most shapely decanters and then sit back (after all that cooking) and enjoy the heck out of so much beauty!
And what thrills me at the Staunton Antique Center is that you can have access to all this too!
It never ceases to amaze me that some of the loveliest, most unique, best-quality goods that have been made over the past couple of centuries are often very affordable, brilliantly well-made, absolutely gorgeous (or cool if we’re talking Art Deco or Mid Century Modern) and are so much better — and greener — than anything from the big box or department stores today.
And best of all they’re locally-sourced and support local businesses and local vendors.
So what should you look for to decorate your table, or to put your food in to take to a Thanksgiving feast? I always say, “Start with what you like and adventure beyond from there.”
So here are three approaches to decorating and supplying your Thanksgiving table — or that of a host you’ll visit — that can give you ideas, confidence, and enjoyment.
1. Your Style, Your Way
This is the “start with what you love” approach.
If you like things very formal then by all means, look to traditional pieces like silver or silver plate serving ware or cutlery (surprisingly affordable), or blue and white Chinoiserie, wedding ring service (white china with gold rims), brass candlestick holders, or a floral arrangement in a porcelain bowl or cachepot.
But if you love funky — nothing matches but it all goes together — then simply focus on uniting your Mid Century Modern carving board with a vintage Danish coffee pot by Dansk and some Fiestaware in any and every color thrown in to give it some pow and zing. This works whether your style is modern or classic, country rustic or to the nines. Mix the pieces that work for you and keep them guessing.
The main thing with this approach, no matter the actual style or combinations of styles, is that if you love it, and play with it thoughtfully and artistically, your guests — or host — will feel that and that’s what will win the day!
2. One Power Piece
The one power piece approach counts on choosing a standout piece (or pieces) and letting them be the heavy lifters while everything else assumes a sort of background vibe.
A vase or set of vases, matched or simply alike in style or color, can do the trick here. Then if your plates and serving ware are a neutral white, black, or taupe tone, the vases and their arrangements pull the focus and set the tone of warmth or formality for your setting.
In the Staunton Antiques Center you can find Asian, East Indian, and African vases, porcelain, brass, glass, and crystal vases, and painted vases, too.
We have small bud vases, large almost urn-like pieces, and assorted cachepots for bowl-based arrangements. And even thought these are vintage and antique, they are surprisingly affordable when compared with their newly-made counterparts, but with so much more appeal.
Longstanding brands like Hall, McCoy, and the hyperlocal Virginia Metalcrafters among others, and other identifiers like Depression Glass, Carnival Glass, Bohemian Glass, and tribal or regional styles, begin to show you how much more selection you’ll find byb shopping antique and vintage. And this is to say nothing about how much more unique your find will likely be.
So whether you’re decorating, or bringing a hostess gift, think about creating a striking statement that acts as a standout to the dish or arrangement on hand!
3. Multiple Stages
You might embrace or bemoan that nothing you have matches. Maybe the plates are all alike, but the bowls don’t match those. The dessert plates might be charming, but they don’t go with the tea set.
Who cares? Or maybe you do care and want it that way. In this case, one way to give it flair is to come out in stages, possibly building up (or down) to a different style.
Think of it like a meal with palette cleansers, especially if you don’t have enough room for all your serviceware to be out at the same time.
You can start with an informal set of glasses and appetizer plates for when guests first arrive — things that are easy-to-hold, and not too precious for example. If they’re Plain Jane, it’s no matter, because a better act is coming with the soup course, where you can show off a set of 12 utterly mismatched bowls. If you’re perusing the antique shop for mismatched, well, you’re likely to find it!
But maybe you do score a full set of Lenox or Noritake Staffordshire or Spode dinner plates and who cares if they don’t match what came before or is coming after — like the act of a play, they’re the star right then!
This makes it all the easier when your floral Royal Copenhagen or geometric Limoges dessert plates come next, a completely different size but perhaps a similar color or shape, set off by a Reed & Barton set of dessert forks!
The point is that it all doesn’t have to seem to work together to, in fact, work well together! To make a splash, even!
So when you’re shopping the antique aisles* with this in mind, you can allow yourself the freedom to buy pieces that will work without being inhibited by not having a complete set…yet. Keeping in mind that it’s always great to keep your list on hand of what you’re looking for so that when you return to the Staunton Antiques Center, you’ll be able to easily access what you’re looking for.
Thanksgiving and Beyond
While these ideas will help set you up for a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a beautiful table, keep in mind that the same ideas work into the rest of the holidays and beyond. Any special occasion where you’re the host, or where you’re taking along a dish or hostess gift, vintage and antiques will be your best friend all the way.
We hope you’ll come in to see for yourself. And we’re happy to help guide you — just ask one of our friendly, knowledgeable staff members for advice.
And Happy Thanksgiving!
— Ellen Boden, Proprietress, Staunton Antiques Center
*For more insight into antiques shopping, download my FREE e-book guide to shopping antiques in our region: