Styling the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Styling the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Styling the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving centers around the dining table, and our designer Becky Shea created two tabletop looks that are sure to wow your friends and family.

Photos by Claire Esparros.

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, the first thing that pops into my head is that famous painting by Norman Rockwell. The turkey is undoubtedly the center of the picture, totally dominating the scene. And for most people, food is the central part of the Thanksgiving holiday. After all, the alternative name is “Turkey Day,” right?

But we’d be NOWHERE if we didn’t have a table to eat at! For me, it’s essential to create a tabletop that is functional, conversational, and inspirational. This year, I brainstormed two totally accessible yet jaw-droppingly gorgeous (if I say so myself) table themes that might just steal the show from the turkey.

Before I dive into these themes, there are some important considerations. First, work on a functional space plan that will fit everyone comfortably. Does the table need extensions or do you need to rearrange furniture? When rearranging the space for company, be sure to account for walkways and clearance behind chairs. Once you have the layout set, think about the time of day your event will take place. The lighting you get in the dining room during the meal will impact the décor. Finally, consider how elaborate you want to make your tablesetting. Do you want to have chargers or placemats? Will you have multiple courses and plates? Two important rules to keep in mind when you are putting together all of these elements: 1) make sure to give everyone 18-24 inches of tablespace and 2) don’t get too carried away with décor. We all love flowers, vases, and decorative gourds, but if your table isn’t functional no one will be pleased. A centerpiece blocking conversation viewpoints? Beautiful but ultimately unwelcome. A table too cluttered that the gravy and bread rolls don’t fit? No thanks. Now, let’s get to our two themes below! Special thanks to fellow New York designer Tali Roth, who let us use her apartment.

Theme 1: Understated Rustic

Inspired by the warm and cozy feels that “home” naturally evokes, the first look incorporates neutral autumnal colors and elements found in New York forests. Bi-tonal magnolia branches serve as the central piece with pinecones and white gourds adding depth. To fill in the smaller gaps, I added acorns, gathered from our very own Central Park. The forest theme continues with the place cards too, as I found whimsical miniature tree stump holders. To off set the stark white plates, I layered in mismatched napkins. The final touch was initially an accident, but it ended up looking so good! I wrapped our bread rolls in twine and clipped on a sprig of rosemary with a wooden clothespin. The earthy touch not only looks festive, it also greets guests with a wonderful smell.

Theme 2: Brooding But Lush

Most people veer toward neutrals and whites when designing a table, but I wanted to make a more “mysterious” option. In the second theme, I went with an all-black monochromatic scheme for the dinnerware, matte flatware, and linens. Can someone say American Gothic? Even the shorter wine mugs tie in with the idea. The black undertones make the florals pop even more, and I chose lush amaranthus as the centerpiece with bright radishes tying in with the magenta. And who says gourds are the limit of the cornucopia? I added in artichokes in a pale green shade. The finished table is both subtle and dramatic. Move out the way, Rockwell.


For even more tabletop tips, check out Katherine Carter‘s keys to table setting success, and see all the images in the slideshow.

Follow Becky at @beckymshea.

In this tour:
Dining Room