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Setting the Thanksgiving Table

I have this thing with tablescapes. I think it’s because they involve all of my favorites: style, food, wine and good conversation with family and close friends. We usually host Thanksgiving festivities at our house, but will be out of town this year. While it’s a huge relief to not have to deal with the stress of cooking, I was a little bummed to not have an excuse to put together a beautiful table. So, I decided to throw a little “Friendsgiving” instead and wanted to share it with you here, along with a couple other fun ways to gather around the table this Turkey Day.

None of the setups are particularly fancy. I find that a more casual table makes me a better host. A super formal vibe just makes me anxious because I feel all this pressure to make everything perfect. I prefer mismatched dishes and unexpected items that can spark conversation and feel homey. Keeping the table relaxed makes me feel more relaxed, and I like to think that it creates a more welcoming vibe for my guests too.

I hope one (or all) of these tables inspire some ideas for your own feasts next week. How do you and your family dress the table for Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

A Rustic Bohemian Celebration

For my Friendsgiving dinner, I used earthy tones and textures to create a cozy and eclectic table. The saffron striped tablecloth anchors the look and helps distract from spills, while the tight floral pattern on the traditional eastern European porcelain plates pairs really well with the simple graphic of the Mexican pottery.

The shorter red glasses were formerly vessels for church votive candles I found on my travels to Latin America. And the clear wine glasses are from our amazing local hardware store, Breed & Co.

Fresh produce and mismatched candles make for an easy centerpiece.

Thin cotton bandanas create a fun alternative to regular napkins. Beadboards replace traditional trivets, which are great for transporting bowls and platters to and from the kitchen. Bonus: The greasier they get, the better the patina.

Get the Look: Heather Taylor Home tablecloth ($186); or this Primitives in Buffalo Check Tablecloth ($29.99); Acacia Wood Cutting Board ($60); my Saga Dinner Plates from Anthropologie (my favorites, $72); also, some of our Mexican pottery: these simple ceramic plates, or these ones, hand-fired and painted; and, of course, a centerpiece dish with the same consistent pattern.

 

An Al Fresco Fête

If you live in a place like Austin, the weather might just still be warm enough to eat outside come Thanksgiving. I love that the blue plaid tablecloth evokes the warmth of the fall holiday without the standard orange-and-brown tones and turkey plates.

Napkins in rose pink, saffron, indigo and pine add vivid pops of color, while solid-colored ceramic pieces keep it clean and contemporary. These dishes are made locally here in Austin by Era Ceramics and are available through a wonderful kitchen shop called Kettle & Brine. The turned-up lip on the plate is one of my favorite details; it serves as a nice bumper for the kids’ wandering veggies and sauces.

Stemless glassware is easier to control when conversation becomes animated outside, and mugs for something mulled are a must!

I always like to throw in something “borrowed” to add character. These trivets and coasters are made of leftover tiles from our home renovation. The gathering basket used as a serving piece also keeps things cozy, and it’s perfect for trips back and forth to the kitchen. Simply place a dishtowel or cloth in the bottom to bring bread and rolls (or Thanksgiving tamales in Texas!) to the table.

Get the Look: Linge Particulier tablecloth ($250); Crate & Barrel Mercer Dinner Plates ($45); Hollywood Homestyle coasters ($20); Riedel Stemless Glassware ($24); Large Woven Basket ($14)

Kitchen Island Casual

Let’s be serious. Most of the meals my family consumes around Thanksgiving revolve around football—particularly the Dallas Cowboys. I usually set out a big buffet of leftovers on the kitchen island and everyone grazes all day while watching the games.

Since eyes will only be focused on food in between plays, I abandoned a tablecloth altogether for a cotton painters’ drop cloth. Once you’ve washed and dried them, they’re wonderfully soft and have a beautiful rustic look.

Arranging dishes together in stacks makes for easy access. These are a mix of painted enamel along with wooden plates and bowls. In other words, they’re unbreakable. The likelihood of plate toppling increases with the TV—and the cousins rough-housing—so I try to head off a broken dish cleanup in advance.

I put twice as many napkins out as I would if I was serving from the kitchen. Everyone manages to misplace them en route to the couch. And since we’re not eating around a table, I set out placemats to be used on laps. It keeps the connection to a traditional place setting alive while clearly abandoning the confines of the table!

Get the Look: Canvas Drop Cloth ($11); Hearth & Hand Enamel Plates ($16); H&M Wooden Bowl Trio ($17); Pier 1 White Checkered Kitchen Towels ($20); Anthropologie Aviary Napkins ($12); Falcon Enamelware (mmm… those winter blues!); REI Enamelwear.

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14 Comments

  • Amanda

    I would love to have an inkling of your style skills. So gorgeous.

  • Amanda

    I would love to have a fraction of your style! Love all of this.

  • Katie

    LOVE!!! You just gave me so many wonderful options for Thanksgiving this year which is being hosted at my house. Now time to start shopping 🙂 Thank you so much!

  • Tiana Weicker

    These are all wonderful, and I’m sure to integrate at least one idea from these next year! (I’m Canadian and we’ve already celebrated our Thanksgiving)

  • Cecilia

    I am so trying the first Bohemia inspired table very beautiful

  • Barbara

    I absolutely LOVE the painters dropcloth and bandana idea for a tablecloth and napkin usage! I always cover the island with food and we use paper plates so none of my dishes get broken. Having several little ones still running about, the dropcloth would be great to spread out on the floor for the little to sit and eat too. Thanks for the idea! I might even dye the dropcloths first. Hmmm, maybe for Christmas anyway.

  • elena

    I love the rustic look! I am incorportating plaid with my rustic decor.

  • JESSICA LOZANO

    Hi Gen! I love your tablescapes!! Wonderful!! I love the Bohemian rustic idea, very fun. I never thought to use fresh herbs as well. Thank you so much for the ideas, a great topic. I wish you and your family a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Betsi

    These are just gorgeous! Have a great Thanksgiving.

  • lesdeuxcatastrophes

    You’re my soulmate!! I love to throw things together for an informal yet appealing look (old/new, bought/found/kept, objects of different settings) and as I, so my friends say, can “turn dirt to gold“ it seems my “pêle-mêle“-style pleases 😉 I e.g. like using bedsheets as tablecloth (matter of size), I love a mixture of chairs (matter of number) and “link“ them with matching cushions, dried leaves/wood/stones are nice and collecting them includes the kids in the decorating process. And simple ripped glasses (a dimes’ worth) wrapped in a sheet of pergament paper eventuallly tinted with water colours fixed with bast and a tea light in it make a beautiful lantern!

  • Máire Quinn

    I love that these settings are about smell senses aswell as colours as textures the pine is inspiring to me to think what foliage that can be colour shape fragrance. Super stuff thanks

  • میترا

    I like all off post

  • Justine Jensen

    Gen, my biggest fear in adding decor is that the table will be crowded when I add the food dishes. Is there a formula you follow for tablescaping?

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