Growing up, one of my fondest memories was having dinner every night with my dad, mom, and older brother. It wasn’t just a tradition – it was more like a family rule. No matter how old we got or what was going on in our lives, we were required to sit together at the table every night. Period.
Even now, I can still hear the clinking of dishes, the laughter bouncing off the walls, and the stories we shared. Years later, we lost my mom to a stroke. There was a long period of time where her absence silenced those sounds. And if I’m really being honest, reminiscing about these memories is still extremely tough.
It’s one reason why Bob and I never registered for fine china or truly beautiful dishware for our wedding. In many ways, the idea of it just brought me back to that table, those conversations, that loss.
But recently, I’ve chosen to come back to the table – resurrecting those past happy memories and embracing new ones in the process.
Coming Back to the Table
Over time, I’ve learned that grief has a peculiar way of teaching us about the permanence of things, and in some small way – the continuity of objects that outlive us. As I come back to the table, I am taking the decision about our tabletop items very seriously.
You may think, “really, Jenn? Tabletop pieces?”
Yes, very much yes.
It’s not about the items, but more about finding pieces I sincerely love that will carry this cherished tradition forward for generations to come. Investing in tabletop is more than just about me and Bob, but about building a collection to last.
Enter MacKenzie-Childs. For years, I’ve seen MacKenzie-Childs products readily featured on Instagram in several friends’ homes. After all, you can’t really miss their checks, you know? Those iconic black and white or their royal blue and white checked pieces filled my feed for years.
But to be super transparent, I never really understood much about the brand or its heartwarming history. Sure, the items look stunning in images and videos. But I never really thought they would be a part of our lives or home.
Then something changed.
Where Every Check Tells a Story
For our Sail to Sable x Style Charade Holiday 2023 collection, we were whisked away to the lush and lovely Inns of Aurora in Aurora, New York. Little did I realize that this wonderful visit wouldn’t just be about the holiday dress collection launch nor the beautiful hotel, but an unexpected visit to the MacKenzie-Childs headquarters.
Bob and I chose to visit on our own after seeing a brochure about it in our hotel room. After passing through the ornate gates, it felt like we’d stepped into a living storybook. The vibrant gardens and the serene backdrop of Cayuga Lake – our welcome committee.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the whimsical charm of the estate and its majestic Second Empire farmhouse, with rooms exquisitely adorned in MacKenzie-Childs creations. In the dairy barn turned studio, I witnessed the company’s talented artisans at work. Each brushstroke on the ceramics was a silent testament to the brand’s dedication to craftsmanship and beauty.
Without sounding too cheesy, it didn’t feel just like a visit; it was almost an invitation to become a part of something much larger than ourselves.
Pleasant Rowland’s Home
If a visit to their headquarters wasn’t enough, the Inns of Aurora surprised us with opening the doors to Pleasant Rowland’s private residence. In case you didn’t know, she’s the former owner of MacKenzie-Childs. She’s very much the reason why the brand still exists today.
They let us spend three(!) days photographing in her home with unfettered access. I’m still completely struck by the generosity and kindness in allowing us to do so.
Pleasant, whose roots extend deeply into Chicago – the city that also holds a piece of my own origin story – had transformed her residence into a living archive of elegance and inspiration. Moreover, Bob’s Wisconsin roots mirrored Pleasant’s own – especially in the world of academia. Pleasant received honorary degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison (Bob’s alma mater). In so many ways, there was an immediate affinity to her story and shared connections to the Midwest.
As I wandered through the corridors of her meticulously restored home, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Pleasant. This was a woman who, much like the city of our mutual beginnings, had built something grand from a bold dream and unyielding determination.
After all, not only did she literally revive the MacKenzie-Child brand, she’s also the founder of the American Girl brand.
Yeah…she did that thing. Pretty wild, right?
Pleasant. Is. Amazing.
Pleasant’s MacKenzie-Childs Tabletop Pieces
One of my favorite spaces in her home was the dining room, with pops of pinks, florals, and sparkly chandeliers. The employee of the Inns of Aurora who originally showed us around specifically showed me Pleasant’s MacKenzie-Childs tabletop collection. Friends, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen – the perfect blend of art and functionality.
The whimsical patterns and bold designs showed how to weave a legacy through the artistic expression in your home. I was stunned (and sincerely wish every single one of those pieces was for sale). Frankly, I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.
When I left her home, I was not just inspired but came away with a clear vision: to build a collection that would carry our stories, celebrations, and memories, just as Pleasant’s collection did so eloquently in her home that I had grown to love.
Building a MacKenzie-Childs Collection
Those visits solidified my decision – MacKenzie Childs would become a part of our family’s everyday life. A collection that will not just sit on shelves but would become a living testament of all things family.
MacKenzie-Childs Review – Check Mate
One of the hardest decisions was picking the color way. How does one pick?! Their Royal Check and Courtly Check are extremely popular, and I can see why! However, the soft and regal Sterling Check Collection spoke to me.
After perusing their collection online, I immediately fell in love with fluted pieces. The Sterling Check Fluted Breakfast Bowls and Sterling Check Fluted Dinner Plates are divine. The beautiful wave detail had me at hello. Just gorgeous! They also have a more round edge option in the Sterling Check collection, but the fluted detail feels so feminine. In countless ways, they perfectly aligned with my personal style.
Since I love entertaining, I quickly chose the Sterling Check Hors d’Oeuvre Tray and Sterling Check Medium Fluted Serving Bowl. Friends, these are incredibly stunning in person. I sincerely can’t even describe the beauty of each item, as they will transform every tablescape I create moving forward.
Since we just started building our collection, there are several items we’ll need to wait to purchase in the future. Rest assured I’ve already got my eyes on the Sterling Check Serving Platter and Sterling Check Three Tier Sweet Stand. My mom and I used to do high tea together. I’d love to continue that tradition with our niece). Gah – they’re so lovely!
MacKenzie-Childs Review – Organization Pieces
Another exciting new addition are these gorgeous Sterling Check organization pieces. Storage is essential in any home, and this Sterling Check Canister Enamel Set is a must. They’re already filled to the brim with products, along with this Sterling Check Sweets Jar, which are now full of Mint Oreos, lol.
A few other must-have items included this Sterling Check Spoon Rest, which comes in handy every single time we cook. Plus, it makes me smile every time I place a ladle or spoon on it. We also chose this GORGEOUS 3 Quart Sterling Check Tea Pot that will be put to good use (plus a stunning display item). It’s a work of art sitting on your oven.
Finally, we opted for this Sterling Check Utensil Holder to keep all of our spoons and ladles organized.
MacKenzie Childs Review – In Closing
Today’s blog is so much more than just a MacKenzie-Childs review. This is more than just tableware—it’s about building legacy with items that can be passed down from generation to generation.
As we part ways today, I hope you have a great understanding of the MacKenzie-Childs brand and handcrafted artisan creations. I’m excited to continue to collect and invest in new pieces.
But above all, I’m thankful the sounds have reemerged – the clinking of dishes, the laughter, the warmth of shared stories.
Our dinner table continues, piece by cherished piece.