willowbrook farm

historic yellow springs


Thanksgiving Table Decor with a Past

As you can tell from my dining room, I have a penchant for vintage china along with anything… as you know by now… vintage. It’s a good thing when we moved into Willowbrook Farm, thirteen years ago, that the dining room was large enough to hold this awesome and sizable hutch. I found it in a place that no longer exists but was a treasure trove of damaged and overstock cast-off objects. It was called the Moms Oulet Mall in Morgantown, PA and I cannot tell you how many bargain pieces I found there before it shut down. Had any of you purchased a piece or two from there as well? When our kids were small, I swear they thought it was an amusement park for we went there so many times for a “night out”. The furniture mall had a pizza place and a small arcade comprised of two games, a gum ball machine and more furniture to “test out”. What more could you want for 5 kids under the age of 10? My how times have changed! Regardless, the reason the hutch was so appealing was the amount of space it offered for the display of dishes!

Every time I visited this furniture bargain mecca, I saw it sitting in its place, time and time again. Each visit brought me closer and closer to the idea that it needed to come home with me. I watched it over the course of a few months and as it continued to sit, the already discounted price began to drop and drop and drop until the day I could resist no longer. It was a beast to move and get into it’s proper place but it totally grounded the dining room which had a large very high ceiling and it held the slew of china that I had been finding at flea markets and antique stores for years.

These pieces are at the core of how I set my table, especially at this time of year, when many of the pieces that I take out for the occasion have been given to me or were from my grandmother, great grandmother or my mother’s collections. All of whom also share or shared my china addiction.

Given that fact along with my love of vintage, it is hard for me to depart from using vintage elements when I entertain or create a tablescape. The memories elicited from using these pieces often bring us back to gatherings in the past, some going as far back as to our childhoods. Do you ever feel this? Some of my favorite vintage pieces to integrate into a table setting aside from china are vintage piano player rolls, vintage family photos, old letters and manuscripts, spools of vintage yarn and thread, vintage books, and tarnished silver. Below I will show you how I integrate these pieces, always with a sprinkling of mother nature’s gifts. But first, I choose a color palette. For Thanksgiving this year, I focused in on a very natural color palette, somewhat monochromatic with some deeper natural shades. Many of the vintage elements add depth and texture.

When vintage photos are added as place cards, the people whose faces are gazing back at you, become forefront in your memory, some no longer gathering with you for these celebrations, but still ever present in their spirit.

You can use either the originals or photo copy the originals onto sturdy cardstock and cut out. They can be placed simply on the plate with a clothes pinned name tag that can be written on a manilla tag.


tucked into the silverware bundle. We carry these little muslin bags at our barn sales and I love tucking the silverware into them and placing them to the left of the plate. This time I rested them on the inside of a leather book cover which had the same shades of creams and browns as some of my other pieces.

I also like to think outside of the box when planning a tablescape, especially for the holidays. One of those outside the box elements that I love to use on the table are vintage piano player rolls. The cut holes on the natural aged paper create pattern and texture in a monochromatic way. They can be picked up inexpensively and they are something that we always carry in the barn.

I especially love the rolls whose ends contain the information about the musical piece in vintage fonts!

Old manuscripts and letters give character and interest to a tablescape with their age and patina that in this Thanksgiving tableau, tie right in. I wish I was fortunate enough to have letters from my family members but at this time I only have the stories penned from other families as missive to their loved ones. These too link us back to the depth of life that we give thanks for during this holiday.

A sprig of bittersweet strung across and sprinkled here and there as well as the balls of vintage thread, lend texture to the wood topped table but could also add interest and texture if you had a cream tablecloth. In that case though, I would bring wooden elements onto the top of the table on top of the pale linens to add texture.

Along with the vintage china, I added vintage glassware in this midcentury drink pitcher and martini glasses that I received from my brother and his family one Christmas. He knows what I love! The slate grey color ties in with the black and white photos which work well with this color story.

You could also use clear vintage martini glasses and fill with a beverage whose color works with the table scape. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon these Sparkling Apple Izze bottles whose sparkling soda is the perfect color for this table setting! I know this sounds crazy but it really is the little things that elevate your entertaining. Finding and pouring a matching beverage is fairly easy to do and is a pretty way to really add color into and create a harmonious scene when your guests sit down at the table. All of the little touches that are not what you would normally see add interest and become conversation starters, particularly the photos. If you have younger children, for their places or for the kids table, you could make copies of photos of them in black and white and set them at their places. The photos do not have to be antiques for some of the people at your gathering will not be!

The bottom line is that families, friends and gatherings are what the holidays are all about. If you are gathering with a small group, your own family or a huge extended group, it is the relationships, the love and the shared stories and history or the new history that you are just now creating that gives the meaning. These gatherings can be simple or elaborate. It is WHAT WORKS for you and yours that matter. Decorating is near and dear to my heart but does not mean that it should be to yours nor should make one feel badly if they do not. Love is shown in a plethora of ways. Do what brings out the love in your family.

All of us though have little added elements in our homes that can be brought out onto the table instead of stuck in a photos album, or on a dusty shelf. Bring them out and embrace them as you embrace all those who enter your gathering!

From all of us here at Life’s Patina to all of you who are reading… we wish you bountiful blessings of gratitude this Thanksgiving. We wish for you football games, traditional Thanksgiving dinners, love, laughter, the desire to add your own specialness to this world which others can be thankful for. If you are not with family this year, or members are missing, may you set a place for them in your heart if not at your table. May you gather together at another time… for every day should be a day in which we are thankful.

~Blessings and with gratitude for all of you~

Meg and the team at Life’s Patina

Including our animal helpers!

P.S. Our next barn sale is December 6th, 7th & 8th so don’t forget to mark your calendars! Click here to learn more. Hope to see you in the barn soon!

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  1. Janet says:

    Love your blog post! I too use to enjoy going to the “Mom’s Mall”. I have gotten so many still cherished prices there. But you did make me smile remembering the pizza place and the different rides they had for the kids to enjoy( or we they bribes for us to use to go shopping).
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Looking forward to attending your winter barn sale…..

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Janet!
      Thanks for reading and yes, I still have most of the pieces from “Mom’s”! My kids have vivid memories of their visits there. I hope that you had a beautiful Thanksgiving with your family and that your Christmas season is all that you hope it to be! Did I miss you at the sale? So sorry if I did!

  2. Barb Helpin says:

    Thank you for your beautiful sentiments, Meg. They bring warmth and sweet memories to me in this season.Wishing you and yours a loving Thanksgiving. You are special!

    • Meg Veno says:

      You are quite welcome Barb! It is my pleasure and I am so very happy that you read and enjoy!
      I hope that you had a beautiful Thanksgiving and that your Holiday season shines just as brightly!

  3. Cindy Gill says:

    Meg = Do you toss the piano rolls if they get soiled at the table?

    • Meg Veno says:

      Hi Cindy,

      I don’t toss anything… that is my problem! I actually cut out the soiled area and then use the rest to either put on the table again OR I use it for filler in silver or glass containers. Especially during the Christmas season!