A Chadds Peak Farm Christmas
Chadds Ford, Pa. couple, Vincent and Elizabeth Moro, embrace antiques and nature when creating their holiday tablescape.
At Chadds Peak Farm, the epicenter of a holiday celebration is the table, the place where family and friends gather to share meals, memories and gratitude.
Entertaining is a passion for homeowners Vincent and Elizabeth Moro, who are in the process of restoring a farmhouse that dates to the mid-1830s. While the house is being renovated, they need a space for entertaining—and their barn is the perfect spot.
“For us, the biggest thing is bringing people to our table,” says Elizabeth. “We’ve learned that you can put tables in many different places, and the result is magical.”
Located in Chadds Ford, Pa., on land that was once a ski area in the 1970s and ’80s, the barn at Chadds Peak is large and rustic, replete with wide-planked floors that show the character of passing centuries. The high-pitched ceiling is the ideal place to hang a chandelier crafted from antlers. The visual centerpiece is a harvest table nearly 11 feet long, made from oak salvaged from a barn in Chester County. It was commissioned from Annie Joyce at Springhouse Furnishings in Chadds Ford “I wanted it to be 11 feet long because I’m the 11th of 12 children,” says Elizabeth. “I was on my own and hoping that some day I would have someone to share it with.”
Today, she has someone to share that table with it, and its settings reflect that. Hand-painted English Staffordshire plates, used at their wedding in 2017, line the table, a reminder of their past and shared love of antiquing.
“When [my husband and I] met, we found we’d been looking at the same things in the same shops,” says Elizabeth. “Now, we enjoy hunting together to find great things with some age to them. They’re souvenirs when we travel.”
The table setting here reflects their commitment to avoiding single-use plastics and papers. There are two glasses at each place setting, a long-stemmed wine glass and a champagne saucer with a hollow stem that keeps the bubbles circulating. White linen napkins, pitchers, flatware, and a soft shimmer of silver in candlesticks round out the settings. “People keep giving us silver flatware because they don’t want it any more,” says Vincent. “We have fun with it, mixing the patterns.”
Food is part of the décor, too. Desserts sit on a sideboard, a feast for the eyes. Elsewhere, a live-edge cutting board is adorned with cheeses, nuts, grapes and more. It’s made from a fallen tree on the farm. “Fruit is edible art,” Elizabeth notes.
More than 10 feet long, the bench by the table was their first antique purchase together. They found it in an Amish barn in Lancaster. It’s just the right length for the table and “can seat lots of bodies,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Vincent are both old souls—the only kids whose hands went up when members of the previous generation asked if anybody wanted sentimental pieces from the past. Vincent’s aunt saved a cocktail shaker, which now sits on the bar, set up on what was once his grandmother’s kitchen table. Elizabeth’s mother passed along her decades-old Christmas balls, now threaded with twine and transformed into napkin rings.
In Touch with Nature
The couple has repurposed and reinterpreted architectural artifacts to create unique vignettes, like a feed trough filled with white birch logs and pine boughs. The metal brackets that hold votive candles on the wall above the buffet were originally snow guards, forged in 1923 and installed on a store in central Pennsylvania. “They took off the guards when they redid the roof, and my father put them in a bucket and saved them,” Vincent recalls.
A circa-1963 wooden boat, bought on a trip to Vermont, is destined for the farm’s expansive pond. For the holidays, it’s docked upright in the barn, an oar’s length from the Christmas tree, a balled spruce that will be planted on the property. Boxwoods displayed in decorative urns also are earmarked for the garden.
The tree keeps with the theme. It’s bedecked with dried hydrangeas from the garden, gold antler ornaments, and pheasant feathers. “I saw a huge batch of feathers—pheasant and peacock—at a going-out-of-business sale and bought them all,” says Elizabeth.
An extravagant centerpiece of roses and lilies from her favorite market sits atop the large table, the blooms arranged in an antique cast iron garden urn.
Past Meets Present
Like their antiques, there are other reminders of the past—albeit their own. A wooden sled, sleigh bells and a bright yellow snowboard owned by Vincent’s son are just a few of the winter-themed memories on display. There’s also an Ironstone bowl bought on a trip to Michigan, filled with the pinecones it came with.
Shutters discovered in the farmhouse attic were relocated to the barn, framing a large window with a view of the pond. “They have character,” Elizabeth says.
That section of the barn is furnished as a lounge, with a leather settee, a brass chandelier and a Hoosier cabinet passed down by Vincent’s grandmother. A stack of hay bales is crowned with a creche made over 100 years ago by his grandfather. “See how he wired the thatch to the roof ?” Vincent muses. “I think of all the time he must have put into making it—and we’re still enjoying it today.”
Deck Your Halls
1. Begin with bubbles. At Chadds Peak Farm, that means champagne, plus an effervescent attitude. “Start with joy in your heart,” says Elizabeth. “You’re coming together to have fun.”
2. Get creative with your seating. Instead of individual chairs, pull up a bench to one side of the table. Try settees at the head or the foot of the table.
3. Have authentic table settings. Bring out linen napkins, silver flatware, china and crystal. Avoid paper or plastic. “It’s not good for the environment, and it’s not good for the mood you want to establish for your guests,” Elizabeth says.
4. Mix and match. Flatware doesn’t have to match; blend various patterns. Set out serving pieces in china, cut glass and silver. Add unexpected touches—like a flower arrangement in an antique garden urn.
5. Be spontaneous with your menu. Use local, seasonal ingredients as a springboard for your dishes.
6. Incorporate vintage pieces. Use a cocktail shaker passed down from a favorite uncle, wine goblets from a resale shop, the platter you discovered at a flea market. “They were cherished and loved by someone, and now they’re in your house,” says Vincent.
7. Ban phones at the table. Gather mobile devices in a basket as guests enter and distribute them on the way out. “Nothing is as important as spending time with each other,” Vincent says.
Flowers: Janssen’s Market, janssensfinefoods.com.
Garden urn: Brandywine View Antiques, www.brandywineview.com.
Table: Springhouse Furnishings, countrycoolcollection.com.