Wow! The holidays are really upon us, and if you’re like me, then you have a load of family and friends that will descend on your house throughout these festive weeks. We have a long farm table that fits up to 14 people. But no matter how big your table is, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday dinner, now is the time to get your ducks in a row and figure out how to make the table look as cheerful and welcoming as possible.
But let’s retire the tired fake fall florals and turkey-looking ceramicware this year. Don’t worry! The turkey will be on the table, and the color of the foods you lay out will offer up all the browns and oranges you could want. But let’s set our table with something different. Something less old-fashioned and more “modern” farmhouse even if you live in an old original one. And let’s think of ways we can re-use some of the table decor from Thanksgiving and have it carry us into the December holidays!
Although I don’t love the term “tablescape,” this is in a sense what you’re going to be creating: “an attractive and often themed arrangement of tableware and other objects on the table.” (definition thanks to Macmillan Dictionary). So, what should you think about first?
Designers tell us that the textiles set the tone of the table. My main advice is that if you want to do double duty with your tableware this season for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and any other holidays, it’s a good idea to go with a neutral textile theme rather than something overly holiday-themed. White is an option (although you’ll likely need to bleach it pretty often), but I suggest an earthy cream, beige, or even a subtle gray. Stick with a fabric that is easy to clean and doesn’t require a lot of ironing.
This doesn’t mean you have to purchase new linens! Mismatched napkins on a neutral tablecloth can look lovely. Add a touch of homespun by cutting napkins from various bits of leftover fabric. Throw them through the dryer, so the treads become a bit disheveled. Give them a quick iron if necessary and pull off any unruly bits of thread. Fold and use on your table as napkins. I have an entire bin of these types of napkins – guests always ooh and aah over how simple and lovely they are.
I tend to steer away from fake flowers and other plastic items that mimic nature. Even in the winter, when there aren’t any fresh flowers, leaves, or even grass here in our mountain home, I can always snip some stems from the pine trees or juniper bush in the back yard, or even pick up fresh flowers or greenery at the local nursery. Other options are winter fruits like pomegranates, oranges, and pears in a bowl or set up in a unique design along the table. Fresh figs add a special touch incorporated in a fruit scheme. Or go all-in with beautiful decorative vegetables like eggplant, kale, beets – they will add a whimsical touch, especially if you include flowers with them.
Don’t Get Too Caught up in Symmetry
Gone (at least for me!) are the days of everything perfectly lined up, uniform, and matching. It’s okay for your tablescape to look somewhat loosely arranged. Make it welcoming so your guests feel that it’s okay to sit down and put a napkin in their lap rather than implying that your table is too perfect to be disturbed. One quick tip: you notice the settings are too close together, opt for the napkin and utensils to be placed above the plate instead of next to it (alternatively, you can also set the napkin and utensils directly on the plate.)
Set the Table Early in the Day Before Guests Arrive
Don’t let your guests walk into your home on Thanksgiving Day to a table that has not yet been set. Although I’m sure you’re busy with all that turkey, mashed potato, casserole, and pie making, find a way to set your table before guests arrive. I usually take out all of the plates, napkins, utensils, serving dishes, glassware, and textiles we will need the night before – and I’ve been known to set the Thanksgiving table first thing Thanksgiving morning!
How do you set your Thanksgiving table? We’d love for you to share your traditions, tips, and advice in the comments below!