Designer Maggie Burns shows us how to create a DIY tablescape that's elevated and refined, ensuring your Thanksgiving dinner is all gravy.
Photos by Lindsay Brown
Your Thanksgiving tablescape deserves more than the corny cornucopia. We asked designer Maggie Burns for tips to turn your home into a feast for the eyes—one that masterfully dodges those cheesy Turkey Day clichés (not a Pilgrim hat in sight).
A Standout Centerpiece
To add height and texture to her table, Maggie chose to create a stunning centerpiece that felt worthy of the big event, but wouldn’t be in the way when it was time to dig in.
“I tend to stick with thin garland going down the center of a table, but this year I wanted to try something bigger and bolder but that could easily be moved once the food was served,” she reveals.
Her bigger and bolder arrangement consists of silver dollar spray, cotton, twigs, roses, and pampas grass from Florisity in Union Square.
“I have been dying to use a pampas grass arrangement as a centerpiece for ages, so I married that with a more neutral and toned-down palette this year, versus some of the deeper reds and bright oranges I’ve used in the past,” she explains.
A Tasteful Table Setting
Since she opted for a scene-stealing centerpiece, Maggie recommends using more pared-down dishware in a neutral palette. Of course, her plates aren’t without some interest.
“The off-white stoneware has subtle uneven edges, which plays nicely with the somewhat wild and unruly centerpiece,” she explains. “For the flatware, I chose brass to add a touch of glam to the otherwise earthy table.”
Maggie recommends looking no further than your local supermarket for some of your decorative supplies.
“Thanksgiving is all about food and family, so avoid stuffy store-bought decorations and use whatever fruits and vegetables you find beautiful to set the mood,” she recommends.
She chose to top each plate with a pear, and the taupey-green skin perfectly complements the palette. But let’s be honest, the big day tends to be about the big meal, so she warns not to overcrowd the table with decorations.
“I’ve definitely made this mistake before,” she admits. “At the end of the day, the table is for eating dinner on and not a showcase for as many decorations as you can fit.”
An Elevated Serving Area
Maggie advises not to overlook your island or buffet table as an opportunity to preview the courses to come.
“Pumpkin pie is the star of the show when it comes to Thanksgiving, so I wanted to put it on the pedestal it deserves (literally) so our guests could have sneak peek of what’s to come,” she shares.
To keep the attention on her trio of desserts, which also includes apple cider donuts and caramelized apples from the Union Square Farmers Market in New York City, she kept the rest of the surface fairly sparse, save for a neutral runner laid diagonally across the island. Another no-no: scented candles—the dessert smells are tantalizing enough.
A Celebration-Worthy Bar Cart
“I love putting holiday spins on classic favorites!” Maggie says of her choice of bar cart decor.
To sidestep the traditional orange gourds, the bar cart is brimming with petite white pumpkins and a vase of crisp crimson apples. One fun way to make a full-fledged homage to the holiday: swapping out your art for the day. A quick black-and-white gallery wall spelling out the season’s name transforms the room.
Maggie also suggests mixing a signature cocktail or two. Her Thanksgiving drinks of choice: Apple Cranberry Fizz and Cinnamon Moscow Mules with a drizzle of caramel. Both sound perfect for raising a glass to what you’re thankful for, and we’re certainly toasting this space.
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