Over the years, I have found myself drawn to the unique furniture living in the homes of my friends and family. When invited over for dinner, I often catch myself running my hands along a couch embellished with vintage fabric. I subtly trace the outlines of unique carvings decorating tops of tables or shelves.
The furniture draws me in, and before I am aware, my curiosity takes the lead, and I begin questioning the host about origin stories. I cannot help it. I need to know, and I find that that owner is often eager to share.
Last Thanksgiving, I found myself seeking out the story behind a familiar antique buffet table that resides in my mother-in-law’s, Lainey, dining room.
Here is what she shared about this sentimental piece:
PPT: So, tell me about this piece. I know that around the holidays, it transforms into a Thanksgiving and Christmas serving station. Still, it is distinctive that I know it must have a rich heritage. How did it find a place in your home?
Lainey: Well, in the mid-nineties, my second cousin started selling the things she had of any value to gain money for a fresh start in life. She had been in the antique business and mentioned this buffet that I had often viewed in her home. My husband at the time, George, negotiated with her and bought it for us. We had just moved into a new home, and it made for a great accent piece. Even throughout several moves, my daughter kept it for me before settling in Perry, GA, where I could find a suitable place to put the beautiful antique.
PPT: Several things about this buffet table catch the eye, but the size and carvings stand out the most. Can you describe those in detail?
Lainey: This buffet is at least 6 ft tall and wide when assembled. One of the intriguing and unusual things about the buffet is that it is solid oak and crafted to disassemble for transporting and reassembled for use.
I can only guess its origin. My cousin said she believed it’s a heritage to be from a European immigrant family. The drawers possessed unique hardware, but they are mainly embellishments. A characteristic of very old antiques with drawers is hidden carved out indentions for pulling the drawers for use.
The buffet has an ornate back that does attach with screws. A full-length shelf is balanced on four oak pillar dowels to support its weight. On this shelf is where I display some of my treasured items.
The majestic show of this buffet table is the intricately carved panels. The carved area on the boards is much darker than the rest of the piece. I did not know what the carvings depicted. I assumed the carvings to be of a type of vegetation. I asked many people their opinions on the designs as well, but no one seemed to know.
I finally discovered, while traveling to Israel in 2004, that the carvings are olive branches.
PPT: As part of your family, I know that this piece decorates every home you have created. Why have you kept it so long?
Lainey: From a practical standpoint, the buffet support “boxes” are deep cabinets with a roomy shelf. I use the buffet to store my china and serving pieces used when entertaining.
Serving guests using this buffet is the practical side of why I hang on to it. It also matches my style of loving “old” furniture that has a story.
PPT: You had me at “old furniture that has a story.” What special memories do you have surrounding this particular antique?
Lainey: One special memory, other than the love of decorating the buffet and serving numerous holiday meals served buffet style, is hosting a luncheon for the planning committee for a women’s conference hosted by my church. Florence Littauer, author of Personality Plus, and her daughter came to speak. I felt it such an honor to have them in my home for this special event.
PPT: I love that detail! Finally, what is a lesson that you may have gained from the “pretty” or the giver of the “pretty”?
Lainey: The lesson I’ve learned is that valuable, pretty things are never obsolete. From the first day I saw this piece, I knew I would use it with a thankful heart and that it could be a blessing to others.
The lesson I’ve learned is that valuable, pretty things are never obsolete.