Most holidays have their festive side, but Thanksgiving is specifically centered around eating and thus, requires a stunning tablescape. And while we admit, food and company are the most important part, that doesn't mean your dining room décor can't also be a feast for the eyes too.
Whether you're hosting a large gathering or having a small get-together with your immediate family, a well-decorated table will make the perfect backdrop for your Thanksgiving dinner. If you're looking to create a festive atmosphere that appeals to all the senses, we have the inspo and expert tips to help you nail it this year and every year to come.
Play With Varying Heights
From desserts to décor, variety is always a good thing. Jenifer Green, owner and creative director of Greentree Home, tells us, "My biggest tip in setting a tablescape is to vary the heights of candles and holders as well as shapes." It creates tons of visual interest, and she says, "this enriches the overall composition of the table."
Establish a Clear Color Palette
Green recommends starting your table design by establishing a color palette. This is what you'll use to choose linens, glasses, tableware, and flowers. "It is absolutely key to setting a visually beautiful and cohesive table," she says.
Bring Nature In
Regardless of your theme or color palette, green recommends every tablescape "incorporate some sort of vegetation into the mix." She says, "I especially love using cut branches with fresh blossoms for a natural look that is perfect for the autumnal Thanksgiving timeframe."
Order stems from your local florist, or get creative with what you have growing outside your home.
Try Modern Takes on the Traditional Fall Color Palette
"There are so many rich fall color palettes to choose from for Thanksgiving, and I usually like to try something new each year," Courtney Sempliner, designer and founder of Courtney Sempliner Designs, says. She recommends trying emerald green paired with gold and amber tones.
"Shades of greys and greens, or a dramatic deep plum with some metallics and natural materials, could be a nice mix," she suggests.
Don't Worry About Being Matchy-Matchy
Sempliner encourages you to have fun mixing and matching—and don't take the table too seriously. "I love to incorporate different patterns through alternating napkins or dinner plates and to bring in an eclectic mix of votives and accessories for décor," she says.
Thrift stores and antique shops are a great place to find charming mismatched items.
Work Around the Dinner Spread
If you often find yourself removing décor off the table to make room for dinner, Sempliner has a genius hack for fitting it all in.
"If you're planning to serve your Thanksgiving meal family-style, it can be helpful to decorate around the empty platters and serving boards that will be on the table come dinner time," she notes. "This way, you don't crowd the décor too much."
Create Your Own Color Palette
Missy Stewart, principal designer of Missy Stewart Designs, urges you to let go of the pressure to decorate with fall leaves and orange and brown color palettes.
"I'm not a fan of fall colors, so I set my Thanksgiving table in white and silver," she says. "It makes the table look modern and gives a fresh spin on Thanksgiving."
Decorate One Layer at a Time
When setting your table, Kirsten Krason, co-owner and principal designer at House of Jade Interiors, recommends decorating one layer at a time.
"Start from the bottom up," she says. "We set the tone with the perfect table runner and then built on top of that." Next, she recommends layering on the cutting boards as trays before moving on to tableware.
"Finish off the look with a large floral arrangement at the center and layer on more pumpkins and florals to make the space feel full," Krason says.
Make Your Guests Feel Special
You're bound to have a special Thanksgiving guest list, so take the extra time to make each invitee feel special. Krason likes to "finish off the look with place cards for each guest." It's a thoughtful touch that makes friends and family feel at home, plus it's Instagrammable, to boot.
Don't Pass Up The Tablecloth
Whether you're covering up an unsightly table or you're trying to get even more festive, Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs says, "a tablecloth works wonders." For Thanksgiving, consider a traditional plaid, autumn print, or go with a solid shade to match your color palette.
Plan Ahead for the Big Day
We get it—procrastinating is all too easy, but it's best to plan ahead if you're hosting a major holiday like Thanksgiving. "Ordering online or checking your favorite home goods store well ahead of time saves you the stress of scrambling for one the day of," Curtis says.
Upgrade to Cloth Napkins
Because nothing ruins a table setting quite like a roll of paper towels placed in the middle of the table, Curtis recommends using cloth napkins.
"My favorite is the timeless look and feel of linen," she notes. However, if stains are a topic of concern with reusable linens, she suggests choosing dark charcoal or another dark color napkin, adding they won't stain and often add an elegant layer to your tablescape.
Get the Whole Family in on the Decorating Process
"Garnishing your tablescape with fresh greenery and pinecones is where a lot of magic happens," Curtis says. Plus, there's nothing like getting the entire family in on the nature-picking fun.
"Show your kids pictures of what you need and send them off on a scavenger hunt to get them for you," she says. "It may take a couple of rounds, as their initial finds may need some improvement, but it keeps them engaged and a part of the fun."
Make It Smell Good
Remember when we said you can create a festive atmosphere that appeals to all the senses? Well, scent is an important part of creating a space. Michelle Feeney, founder and CEO of Floral Street, says, "Home fragrance shouldn't be too overpowering—if you don't want scented candles on the actual table, you can place them on the side to gently fragrance the room."
She recommends lighting them earlier in the day for a subtle aroma for when your family arrives, or use diffusers for a gentle, continuous scent.
Get Creative With What You Have Around the House
"One of my favorite decorating tips for the season includes using a nice textural element for your holiday table," Gillian Segal of Gillian Segal Design explains. "Plus, this doesn't have to cost much, either."
Her super-smart hack adds tons of texture—and won't cost you a penny. "You can take a clean bed sheet and drape it across the table like a runner for a relaxed yet sophisticated look."
Shop the Produce Aisle
If you still feel like your table is missing something, the accessory of the season could be sitting in your pantry.
"This year, we are seeing a lot of seasonal produce being used as decorative accents," Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski of Tiffany Leigh Design explains. "We aren't talking just the traditional mini pumpkins and gourds on the table, but also the use of things like fresh apples and pears to create an earthy, harvest feeling."
Don't Shy Away From Faux Stems
While faux gets a bad rap sometimes, Piotrowski assures us that faux stems are a great option to use year after year. She actually went faux with the centerpiece on this tablescape.
"For this table, we decided to use two large primitive urn vases in a rustic black paired with these faux burgundy eucalyptus stems," she explains—and we think the results are gorgeous.
Ditch Boring Dinnerware
"An essential item that needs to be part of your table is, of course, dinnerware, so it better make an impression," Piotrowski says. She admits she's a fan of using a neutral scheme for all plates, bowls, and serving pieces.
Consider Your Cocktails an Element of Décor
"Drinks are a work of art," Joanna Buchanan, product designer and entertaining expert, says. And though we never quite thought about it that way, cocktails can add to your ambiance, from the color to the shape of your glass.
"I love to do a bloody mary 'station' for Thanksgiving because they're just the right color and give everything a festive feeling," Buchanan says.
Place Your Dinner On Risers
You've spent all day in the kitchen preparing a lovely meal—it would be a shame to let it get lost in your tablescape. Lindye Galloway, interior designer and principal at Lindye Galloway, says, "it's so important to display everything to make for a visually appealing look." She recommends placing trays on pedestals, risers, or stands to give them the shine they deserve.