Table Makeover: What’s Old is New Again


It’s time for a jail break. It’s time for the vintage china dishes, silver serving pieces and old glassware to bust out of our china cabinets, where they have been held in solitary confinement far too long, and finally take their rightful place on our tables.


In my book, two of the best things in life are antiques and dishes. So you can imagine how crazy I am about tableware from days gone by. Old silverware, plates, goblets and trays not only have timeles styling, they have a story to tell. They take a table from generic to personal, and give you a way to not only celebrate the past, but to add a new chapter to the story.

So, why aren’t we all using our vintage and antique tableware? One of the reasons we hear a lot at Nell Hill’s is that people think their patterns are too dated. Maybe you remember how grandma used the china on her table, and it’s just not your look. Or you can’t imagine a way to give these old pieces new energy, to help them assume a brand new personality. If so, all you need is a table makeover!


When Donna, a member of our visual design team at Nell Hill’s, is creating inspiration tables at the store, she often features the vintage and antique china we carry. As she is styling the tables, she says people stop and marvel at how completely different these old beauties look when they are put with new table elements. Donna says people often share their stories about the china, silver and glassware they never use. Then she shows them how to see these familiar friends with new eyes.


We encourage people to bring in a place setting of their china so we can do a makeover. What happens when you pair your plates with a new tablecloth or napkins? Or slip in an unusual charger? Are there other dish patterns you can mix in, like a salad plate with a contemporary pattern or a white dinner plate with an interesting edge? How about finishing the place setting with colored goblets? Or a sweet cut glass dish?

My friend Sandy was in this same predicament with the china she inherited from a family member. She only used it a few times a year because she thought the pink, green and orange floral pattern would only work for spring. Sandy lives just down the street from me, so after work one day, I loaded up a bunch of tableware goodies from Nell Hill’s and headed over to her house to see what we could create.

Check out how completely different the china looks, depending upon what it’s paired with. Just starting the table with a tablecloth in plaid or buffalo check makes the dishes look right at home for winter. Instead of only using the matched set of china in our re-make, we mixed in a few different kinds of dishes, like a majolica cabbage leaf charger and a few different options of white dishes. Sandy couldn’t believe the difference. And, best of all, she fell in love with her family china all over again.

Use your imagination when trying to find new ways to incorporate your vintage pieces into your daily life. I like to plant paper white bulbs in antique celery jars to give my home some spring cheer during the dark winter months. Old glasses and bowls can hold office supplies. Trays can be used to host decorative displays. Dishes can become artwork. Platters can corral your mail. Toothpick holders can become vases for petite bouquets or tea lights.

This coming year, resolve to open the doors of your china cabinet and set free all the beauties inside. Invite them to your table, where they can warm your heart every day and be a part of a new chapter.