What makes a Thanksgiving table stand out to guests? You might think it's the turkey or other holiday fixings, but it is all in the atmosphere that you create. Despite what you might remember from helping your mom set the table when you were a child, Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a formal affair, with each plate flanked by a platoon of flatware. Instead, your table can highlight your personal style. Choose colors, textures, and patterns to set the scene in a welcoming homecoming for family and friends.
It's important to have a plan in place for a common Thanksgiving conundrum: You have more guests coming than matching china or linens, or your inherited pieces feel too old-fashioned. To make your table setting work for you, take another look at what you have, then take a new approach. Combine patterns and colors. Pair modern with traditional. Supplement store-bought with some handmade—and add autumnal flower arrangements, of course. Tablesetting problems solved, beautifully.
1. Natural Pumpkins and Gourds Tablesetting
A mixture of gourds and mini pumpkins running down the length of your table makes for a charming, autumnal table display. Flank your pumpkins with navy blue plates, linen napkins, and natural wood-accented silverware for a different take on Thanksgiving tablescapes.
2. Indigo Table Setting
Take a break from fussing with formal floral centerpieces and display wispy dried branch stalks in different vases instead. For a snow-kissed look, lay them on paper and spray them with white floral paint before arranging them. Block-printed linens are costly to buy but surprisingly simple to make using little more than textile paint, muslin fabric, and woodblock stamps.
When block-printing napkins, mix colors and patterns to add to your table's eclectic vibe. A unique combo of colors and a loose mix of materials make a dining table feel relaxed and inviting but still celebratory. Here, vintage yellowware pie dishes serve as unconventional dinner plates, and individual cutting boards hold bread and salt dishes; for a stylish touch, wind ribbon around their handles. Vintage and reproduction Dutch tiles offer personality—and cover lots of bases. Arrange them in clusters or in a band down the center of the table, and use them as trivets, or place them individually as coasters.
3. Dried Flowers Table Setting
If you didn't have time to traipse through a meadow to forage fodder for your tabletop, this setup is the next best thing. The key to its breezy but modern feel is to stick mostly to one variety per vase (the mashup of white stoneware also stands out nicely on a rust tablecloth), and line them up loosely. The spare palette will work all winter; for a change of scenery, just swap out the vessels.
4. Fall Harvest Table Setting
Many people say grace at dinner, but you'll feel thankful well before if you prep an easy yet eye-catching, wilt-proof centerpiece. Simply place candles on small glass dishes and cover them with curvy lamp chimneys (which you can find for dollars at hardware or antiques stores). Fill in spare spaces with fruit and foliage, and when guests arrive, light the wicks and bask in the glow.
5. Cozy Rustic Table Setting
Feelings of gratitude come naturally in autumn, peak season for ethereal light, rich colors, and happy homecomings. This Thanksgiving, play up those elements with a simple yet special table that celebrates great food and close-knit company. Pull up a cushioned bench to a spread of easy earthly delights.
Our take on a pared-down Scandinavian scene (no flowers necessary) gets its warmth from raw linen and the glow of beeswax candles. An informal arrangement of mottled gourds, leather-trimmed hurricane lanterns, and whole nuts ready for cracking makes a casually gorgeous centerpiece.
6. Barn Table Setting
The Nordt family of Charles City, Virginia, host their Thanksgiving feast in the barn. In lieu of 20 chairs, the Nordts arrange bales of hay along their table and drape them with handwoven blankets, which offer warmth and softness. The main table is set with various candles and glasses and antique 1920s Theodore Haviland china that Dianne Nordt, matriarch of the family, has collected for years. Nut wreaths (made by drilling holes in pecans and sweet-gum seeds and stringing them onto wire rings) adorn a reclaimed barn door. Above the buffet, there's a leaf-threaded magnolia wreath that hangs on the wall.
7. Foraged Table Setting
Look to earthy, natural, and plant-based elements for this holiday table, such as a few of these lichen-covered blueberry branches and velvety red spikes of staghorn sumac. Forage for centerpiece materials in your own backyard. Sculptural twigs and branches provide a surprising alternative to flowers and convey a natural beauty that's in keeping with the season. An important occasion can be both chic and casual. It's perfectly okay, for instance, to use beautiful but everyday earthenware and forgo a tablecloth or placemats. Napkins don't even have to match—just use related colors or fabrics.
Courtesy of Martha Stewart.