Setting an Unforgettable Thanksgiving Table

This holiday season, visit the AHI store or shop online for all the festive décor you need to make your home merry and bright.

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Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday because it’s simple. Travel and preparation behind us, we sit to enjoy a feast with family and friends. The modern habit of everyone contributing to the meal is actually more attuned to the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth and leaves the lucky host a bit more time for preparation of home and table.

The table is where we gather, so pull out all the stops in creating a mood that is uniquely yours!

Plates and Dishes

What you use will really set the stage for other decisions. Take a hint from your dishes in choosing the style and color of table decor. Don’t over layer or complicate the table with competing colors and patterns. If you have to mix plates – this can be an interesting approach – try to set up a pattern and keep everything else subdued.

Layering plates of different sizes and patterns (although it looks great in photo shoots) is really intended for formal dining of multiple courses where plates are removed after each course. If your celebration is more family style, you can still layer one plate for a salad or appetizer served beside dinner. For artistically exquisite groupings, nothing is more mesmerizing than Vietri, which we have proudly sold in our shop from the beginning.

While we love the layered look, less is more when it comes to plates and dishes. Overcrowding does not create a welcoming presentation or a relaxed seating.

Table Coverings

Formal table clothes in white damask or ecru lace are absolutely beautiful for a traditional table. If you have inherited something lovely,  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to share this connection – and it may be just the right choice if older generations are present. Just remember these exquisite textiles require extra care with spills and stains, so after the meal is done they will need attention. Warm soapy water for greasy stains, and boiling hot water for red wine and berry stains should erase the spills, followed by a careful gentle cycle or hand laundering.

Printed runners, like those from Petal Pushing, are gorgeous, particularly if you have a rich wood tabletop. An interesting adaptation is to use two or three running across the short length of the table, thus creating open spaces for low centerpieces. If the runner is placed in the center of the table, using smaller footed objects in a rhythm allows space.

Two sumptuous tea towels can be used as runners on either side of a centerpiece, and one or two napkins on the diagonal can provide just enough accent while creating space a focal point. Colorful printed Indian spreads or thin quilts can make handsome coverings- gorgeous with plain dishes. We also love the elegant look of our square Le Jacquard Francais linens draped diagonally in the center of the table.

An interactive runner of butcher paper in white or brown is a clever way to involve guests in the creative process. Supply pretty markers in gold, silver, and brown metallic and let guests write what they give thanks for this day.

Perhaps your tabletop is glass, stone, metal or varnished wood- all simply lovely with no covering.

Center Pieces

We prefer low and meandering with a rhythm of votives, candlesticks and natural clusters of flowers, fruits or small winter gourds. Beyond gourds think colorful, festive, fall fruits like persimmons, lady apples or pomegranates. Vines of bittersweet are lovely twisting along the middle of the table – but be careful with little fingers as these berries are poisonous! Other sinuous textural elements can be fashioned from grapevine branches, handmade string with cut paper or felt leaf garland, strung cranberries or nuts. Dried Chinese lanterns lend a beautiful glow, sprinkled loosely down the center or on stems in small containers with bits of air fern or succulent leaves. Combine ornamental kale or cabbage with berries, fresh fragrant rosemary, roses, wisps of heather and green hydrangea in a rustic wooden box for a truly eye catching centerpiece.

We love orange or white pumpkins hollowed out as containers for arrangements. Tiny tufts of mum buds with sprigs of hypericum and boxwood can fill several small gourds down the middle  or one larger creation in the center of the table with your favorite flowers, leaves, pods and berries. It’s a good idea to use a glass liner for water inside the hollowed-out gourds. Our etched hurricanes from A Samona are refined in their vine and leaf pattern and need only pillars and a few surrounding sprigs, buds or berries. Clear hurricanes or tall vases also protect pillars and can be filled with nuts, dried pods, pine cones or gum balls from the sweet gum or sycamore tree. Tiny Japanese maple or ginkgo leaves are also a perfect choice for clear containers with candles.

Our favorite speckled guinea hen and spotted quail from the south of France are ready to nestle into any table setting.  Surround them with tufts of your favorite wood treasures and blossoms.

A 20 minute walk in the woods can produce untold spoils. Your table need be extravagant only in its array of colorful treasures. And if you’d like to add glitz, there’s always the possibility of silver, gold, or mother of pearl paint.

Candles

We have found some adorable mercury glass votives in fall colors from Napa. Fill these with real or LED candles and arrange in a line or cluster. Tapered candles are always elegant. Use natural dripless candles like, those from Root.

If wax does spill onto the table, let it sit to dry before freezing it with an ice cube, then wipe it dry and gently scrape with a credit card. Similarly, wax on a tablecloth can be removed by putting the cloth in the freezer for up to 24 hours, scraping the frozen wax with a credit card and washing residual wax away on a gentle cleaning cycle. Any wax remaining can be removed by working over the spot with a warm iron atop kraft paper. Colored wax on heirloom linens may need dry cleaning, but as a first attempt the freezer method will not harm them. If drips and small children are a worry, LED lights inside real candles give off the most natural light. We carry Kalalou, which come in 3 different pillar and 1 votive size.

Decorative Bobeche are glass rings that fit around the candle, and they really help with the drips. Practical support need not be boring as these simple glass rings can be colored, etched, rimmed in gold or dripping with sparkling prisms (and we have a shipment on order for the holidays!)

Name Tags and Napkins

Using cloth napkins at least 20″ square will give even the simplest table a graceful touch. We stock very reasonably priced cotton solid napkins in cream, white, and seasonal colors. It is also fun to combine the vintage white linens you may have.

Folding napkins is something that is surprisingly easy, and it adds an impressive flourish. From the simplest flat fold to the most ornate flower, there are great tutorials at napkinfoldingguide.com.

Napkins can be adorned with ribbons, sprigs of rosemary, felted leaves, acorns or gum balls sprayed with silver or gold paint, calligraphy messages on kraft paper, stamped letters on burlap or upholsterer’s webbing, or a single charm on a silk chord. Creating napkin rings that suit your tablescape  is a personal way to have your guests feel at home.

Names can become part of the napkin rings or written on leaves tucked into the folds (this is a great idea if space is limited and the napkin is to be placed on the plate!) For the table, consider making place cards from pine cones, birch saplings, waxy leaves, tiny gourds, rock, bark or small clay pots. Names can be attached on beautifully scripted card stock or written directly on flat surfaces with permanent marker.

Looking for Thanksgiving Table Inspiration? Browse colorful ideas on our new Pinterest Board.