Thanksgiving Table Setting Rules to Live By
Photography by Sarah Elliott
Styling by Athena Calderone
Don’t be a slave to the tablescape. It can express beauty and still be super simple! I can recall as a child, the night before Thanksgiving my mom and I had the ritual of dressing the table. It was always my favorite part of the holiday and a memory I hold in my heart. My reverence for beauty is undoubtedly a gift I learned from my mother. She was a brilliant curator of beauty and my greatest influence. Of course, back then décor was a bit fussier. We would press and starch the linens and find clever ways to fold the napkins — propped up, coming out of the glassware or rolled inside fancy napkin rings. Well, today I prefer unpressed linens. I embrace the wrinkles, though some may not agree with this choice, and often I fold napkins simply and place them on the plate with a sprig of something seasonal. Setting this table took me all of 15 minutes and then it was on to the kitchen! With that, here are my table setting rules to live by.
1. Keep it simple. Do not be fooled into believing that elaborate = beautiful. I always find that less is more!
2. Stick to a controlled palette. Inspired by the food, I chose a palette of white + greens + browns, with a hint of purplish red.
3. Take elements from the menu and use them as decor. Pumpkins (not orange!) or Kobucha squash, simply placed on the table can make an elegant impact, and cinnamon sticks are both fragrant and beautiful.
4. Mixed metals — yes! Copper, brass, and silver can in fact play nice. For added juxtaposition, incorporate varied glassware, vintage pieces and plenty of texture and patina.
5. Mixed ceramics are okay — even preferred. Who wants a prim and perfect table anyway? “Perfectly imperfect” is a motto I live and design by.
6. Always think of a clever and crafty surprise for your guests. A quote of gratitude is my go-to standby to spark conversation. You know the annoying issue of not knowing which wine glass is yours during a day-long drinking fest? This year I added tags with words of thanks as an answer to this problem — just add your name and tie it to your glass!
7. Hit up the florist for a bunch of inexpensive greens. A bunch of eucalyptus is $12 and goes a long way when simply draped on the tablecloth. It offers a leafy element and varied color scheme.
8. Foraging from a nearby tree is always encouraged. Little branches with pods offer organic texture and a naturally sculptural shape.
9. Please-oh-please invest in cloth or linen napkins. They alone they can elevate any table.