The build-up to Thanksgiving is truly visceral — you can feel the crisp air, taste the spices that abound in cooking and smell the fallen leaves. Every sense is awakened, and the season is almost tangible. There’s also a greater sentiment that goes along with this time of year: Being thankful and taking the time to recognize those things in our lives that we are grateful for — both large and small.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, people often ask me how to decorate for the evening without coming across as overly thematic, or even kitschy. I wanted to share some of my tips for decorating your holiday table that might inspire you.
As with much of my interior design, I like to start my tabletop off with a neutral palette. Sure, a brightly colored tablecloth can be fun and eye-catching, but once it’s layered, it often looks too busy, or takes away from the other decor and centerpieces that you put so much time and effort into. So instead, I recommend using something neutral as your tabletop base — maybe a classic, crisp white, perhaps a warm ivory, or even a deep navy for a punch of moodiness. This will act as a foundation for your decor, rather than competition.
This season is full of natural wonder. With the leaves falling and the abundance of autumnal veggies and fruits, I find that Thanksgiving instills an innate gratefulness for the natural world around us. In this spirit, I encourage you to use natural items to decorate your table.
If you have a beautiful old farmhouse table, consider forgoing the tablecloth all together and embrace the warmth of the wood. Look to natural fibers like linen — or even paper at a kids table, to double as both a covering and an activity — for your tablecloth.
Find beautiful still-green leaves and branches (I love olive, eucalyptus and pine) to use in glass vases, or even laid out horizontally, as your centerpiece. Select squashes in uncommon colors — pale oranges, mottled greens and yellows, and even white — to place down your table to contrast with the green branches.
Finally, at each place, wrap every napkin in a strip of burlap, leather, or twine, and secure a piece of greenery or stick of cinnamon underneath; this added touch will be both fragrant and reminiscent of the season.
Layer, Layer, Layer
It goes for your home and it goes for your Thanksgiving tabletop — layer! Especially when it comes to place settings, a lot of people shy away from layering plates because it might look too formal for a family gathering, or seem too old-fashioned for their modern home. However, there are ways to layer your dishes that won’t look dated.
First, choose a great, unexpected base — maybe a textural rattan charger or placemat, wood boards, or even a slab of marble or slate.
Second, don’t be afraid to mix and match dishware. Maybe you have two amazing sets of white dishes — one with tons of embellishment, one with less — or a great set of white dinner plates and black or navy salad plates. Play around with combinations, but keep each place setting the same as the last, so you don’t leave your table looking too haphazard.
Lastly, have fun with your silverware. Just because “silver” is in the name, doesn’t mean it has to be made of it. So many companies are coming out with fun alternatives — brass, copper, even matte black. And most of these won’t break the bank (and they’ll give you a great alternate set for parties).
Just remember that no matter what your table looks like, or what decoration you have around your home, the people around you are the most important part of the holiday. Give thanks for those you love — for those celebrating with you, and those unable to. A home is not defined by what’s inside of it, but rather by who’s inside of it.