Have you always wanted to have elegant Thanksgiving tableware and decor? Would you like to have a look that’s all your own? Want to turn it into a really classy event? With these tips and some antique store treasures, you’ll have everything you need to express your style, and impress your guests all while being easy on your pocketbook.
Tableware to Create Your Look
Choosing a style of dishes helps to create the whole atmosphere and set the scene. Evoke a Norman Rockwell feeling of old-fashioned, homey Thanksgiving with a familiar pattern such as Franciscan’s “Desert Rose” or a lovely set of Depression glass. Aiming for a more Victorian look? Try some flow blue or transferware dishes. A mid-century modern look is easy with patterns such as Franciscan’s “Starburst” or Norleans China’s “Mystic” pattern. One caution — sets of vibrant, colorful Fiestaware show up in many antique stores, but pre-1986 pieces used uranium in the glazes, more in earlier pieces and especially the red ones, so you shouldn’t eat directly from them. You can, however safely use them for colorful contrast underneath a separate dinner plate, or as festive decorations.
Complement your dishes with an attractive vintage tablecloth and matching napkins. For example, a more elaborate set of dishes, such as a floral or transferware pattern may look best with ivory, damask linen so the designs don’t compete. Mid-century modern table linens are often available in antique stores and add a clear, fun style to your table. Cloth napkins add an extra, special touch with little added expense.
Dress your table up with the plentiful centerpiece elements so common in antique shops. A mercury glass vase filled with wheat or sprays of winterberry looks lovely with a vintage style, while all colors of art glass centerpieces can be matched with your mid-century dishes and linens. Older Victorian looks can benefit from silver or silverplate pieces filled with fresh flowers or used to chill wine bottles. Trivets and salt and pepper shakers can also be easily found to coordinate nicely.
Set the Table
Emily Post, long a beacon of good manners and propriety, provides excellent guidance on how to set a dinner table properly. If you don’t have a full set of stemware service, lovely sets in countless styles can often be found in antique shops for a fraction of what you’d pay in a department store, and can add an extra level of class to your Thanksgiving dinner. Full sets of silverware are also frequent finds. Rogers Brothers and Reed & Barton were popular in bridal registries of the 1940s, while makers such as Oneida and International Silver gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Many finds come cased and include several serving pieces as well.
Serve Up the Food
While some serving dishes have remained in vogue, others have fallen by the wayside, or are used so infrequently that many of us never bother to purchase them. Gravy boats, flow blue compotes, and transferware tureens match well with earlier, Victorian style settings, while relish trays, corningware casserole dishes, and handled tidbit trays fit nicely into mid-century modern meals.
What if you can’t settle on a style? Antique stores are absolutely the best place to set yourself up with a memorable, eclectic Thanksgiving style. Find table linens and flatware that work well together, then enjoy wandering through the shop choosing special plates for everyone. Does Uncle Herbert love dogs? Find him a transferware plate with a canine scene. How about Aunt Rose? Choose for her a lovely Limoges plate with hand painted roses. There’s sure to be something perfect for everyone.
Be Nice! & Final Tips
Don’t forget to bring out some old-school, fine dining skills and match your manners to your style. Keep those elbows off the table and don’t talk with your mouth full. And a final note on being kind to your new vintage tableware. Remember that all of it was probably made before the advent of dishwashers and microwaves, so avoid those, wash by hand, and expect them to be a bit more fragile than their modern counterparts.
However you decorate for your Thanksgiving meal, remember to choose the pieces that speak to you, and after you’ve set everything perfectly, sit back and enjoy the ambience you have the privilege of sharing with friends and family.