Thanksgiving Tablescapes: Fun, Festive, and Functional

Posted by Annette Bellisari on

 Even if your Thanksgiving get-together is a little smaller and more intimate this year than usual, you can still make it festive by setting a warm and welcoming environment; simply done by putting some thought and creativity into your decorations. You might be a minimalist at heart, prefer a traditional design, or want nothing but glam accents, but whatever your style, we’ve got some great ideas to inspire you and get your creativity flowing. 

Some folks get so caught up in cooking that they forget about setting the table; while others get so stressed about table decor that the food is an afterthought.  Personally, I believe that food is always the most important part of the equation — people will never look back at dinner and think, “The turkey was awful, but her table looked ah-mazing!”

Fortunately, prioritizing good food doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time and effort making your table look nice too. You can put together a surprisingly smart, attractive table with even the smallest budget if you give it a little forethought, and in many cases you can use objects you’ve already got around the house.

I love tablescapes because they give you the opportunity to shop your home. Look around and see what kinds of items you can mix and match. 

  • Photo frame, mirrors 
  • Fabrics, pretty napkins
  • Flowers, foliage
  • Fresh fruit or quality fakes
  • Baskets, books, candles
  • Tea trays (I find tons at yard sales), vases, or bowls

For any kind of theme, the following decorating tenets always work:

  • Gather interesting items of different textures together. Good items to have are books, decorative plates displayed on stands, bowls filled with fruit or other decorative items, vases, flowers, candles, and other accessories. These items are found in abundance at yard sales and thrift stores for pennies on the dollar. 
  • Arrange items in staggering heights. The eye is drawn to varying heights. Stack a few books and put a decorative plate on, if needed. If you have a lamp on a table, use that as your tallest height, and work with other smaller items to fill in your tablescape. 
  • Use your surfaces wisely. If you set up a gorgeous tablescape on your coffee table but no one has a place to put down their coffee, you’ve defeated the purpose. Decorating is meant to enhance — not to hassle. If you don’t intend to use the table for anything else but display, plan away. Otherwise, take up no more than 1/3 of your table with a tablescape. 

For our purposes here, we’ll talk about important and fun elements for 3 basic tablescapes: A charming “kid’s table,” a contemporary and chic setting, and finally, a traditional Thanksgiving tablescape.

The Kids Table -- this year make the kids table look so inviting that even the older kids will be clamoring to sit there. While you may choose to go formal at the main dining table, your younger guests will appreciate bright and colorful place settings. Themed plastic and paper dishes and flatware work well for the kids on several levels.

  • Plan activities -- so the kids don’t get too antsy sitting at the table, provide some activities. One of my favorites is to cover the kids table with craft paper, or at least with a paper runner. Then place a cup of crayons next to each place setting. Encourage your young guests to write or draw some things they’re thankful for this year. There are so many clever and creative ways to do this. Pinterest is full of fabulous ideas.
  • Fun place cards -- who doesn’t like to see their name at their very own place at the table? Something as simple as a colorful fall leaf and some letter stickers spelling out the names can elevate a place setting, for sure. If you know of certain children who do better when not paired closely with a certain other child, you can control where everyone sits, and hopefully through that you can somewhat keep the peace.
  • The main decoration -- The centerpiece on the kids’ table doesn’t need to be elaborate to create the right atmosphere. You might choose a small pumpkin, or a store-bought turkey — stuffed or a paper pop-up decoration.
  • Give all kids a party favor -- I like to incorporate a little goodie bag or jar or some other decorative container with seasonal candies, a little toy like a pez dispenser or small stuffed animal, and whatever else fun item I come across in the days leading up to the holiday. Kids Coloring Table

A chic Thanksgiving tablescape -- Orange, yellow, and brown might seem like the go-to colors for decorating your dining room table on Thanksgiving. But playing with shades like a turquoise and a soft green can create a new updated atmosphere that your dinner guests are sure to love.

  • Pumpkins and gourds are cute and appealing on their own, but painted some unexpected colors, or using all white pumpkins can help to create a modern twist on traditional themes. 
  • Mix and match place settings, cloth napkins, stemware, etc. for a charming eclectic look sure to bring a smile to your guests faces.
  • The internet is your friend! I love to look at images online to get my creative juices flowing.Chic Tablescape

A traditional Thanksgiving tablescape -- Whatever your style, creating a traditional look for your table shouldn’t be difficult. It may sound old fashioned, but a cornucopia overflowing with fresh, colorful, seasonal fruits in the center of a burlap runner always makes for a gorgeous table.

  • Inexpensive grocery store bouquets -- arranged in colorful mason jars or other vases bring a festive pop of fall colors.
  • Candles are always lovely. I like to use the battery-operated flameless ones, so I don’t have to worry about catching the house on fire! Strings of battery-powered mini fairy lights are also a delightful way to bring a little mood lighting in.
  • Place cards are important at this table too. Once again, you can control where guests sit, coordinating the best groupings for conversation and comfort. Echo the cornucopia from the centerpiece at each place setting by using waffle cones on each plate with goodies flowing out and a place card stuck on with chocolate! Again, the internet and Pinterest have so many creative ideas
    Traditional table

We’d love to see pictures of Thanksgiving tablescapes or even to read descriptions of tablescapes you’ve created in the past or even ones that you just thought were beautiful! Post in the comments...Happy decorating and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Bellisari’s!

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