On Thanksgiving, everything revolves around the table.
It’s where family and friends gather, where relatives reunite. It’s where we share memories, swap stories and give thanks for our blessings. It’s where the holiday headliner —“the bird” at most Ohio homes — is put on display. So why not dress up your dinner table for the occasion?
“The way we entertain at the holidays makes people feel welcome ... you’re setting a mood and making a memory for them,” says Suzanne Cox-Hudson, decorator and founder of What A Lovely Home in Avon Lake.
If your wallet is too thin to take on any pre-holiday home improvement projects, then pour your efforts into creating a tablescape that will capture all of the attention. Don’t worry if you haven’t a Martha Stewart gene in your body, or a prime-time budget. “Just make a couple of enhancements to make the room look different than it does on a daily basis,” suggests Kellie Toole, designer/owner of Kellie Toole Interior Design Ltd. in Columbus.
Ohio Magazine collected ideas for crafting a festive table from designers across the state. Here, their tips for the nuts and bolts of building a table setting and some fresh approaches for eye-catching centerpieces.
Setting the Table
When building a table setting, think layers: tablecloths, runners, placemats, silverware and napkins, chargers, dinner plates, salad plates, cups and saucers and the centerpiece. These are the basic building blocks, Cox-Hudson says. But don’t confuse layers with clutter.
Consider table size before pulling out the five-piece place setting. A simple china plate on a charger, flatware and a goblet are sufficient if space is tight.
“Giving a layered look really adds to the presentation,” says Cox-Hudson, who starts with a foundation tablecloth in ivory, white, brown or black. On top of that, she might place table runners horizontally so fabric strips act as place mats. Rely on runners, placemats and cloth napkins for a pop of color. “I love to use charger plates that sit under dinner plates and lift them up off the table or place mat,” Cox-Hudson adds, noting how chargers showcase a beautiful plate.
You may decide to leave your china in the cabinet this Thanksgiving. “It’s OK to take out your everyday dishes and dress them up,” Cox-Hudson assures, noting simple dishware appears more polished on a decked-out table.
Toole says mixing and matching china and everyday dishes gives a table a more comfortable appeal — and it’s a handy solution for serving more people than your china set can accommodate. “That’s a nice way to integrate pretty pieces with everyday pieces,” she says.
Stagger place settings so every other one is an “everyday” set when hosting a crew. To dress-down china, use the china plate and set a bold-colored everyday bowl on top. Stagger cup-and-saucer settings so that every other setting is china (but don’t mix a china saucer with an everyday cup or vice versa).
If the deterrent for using your wedding china is the hand-washing chore after dinner, then recruit some family to help with the job. “I believe in using everything — use the silver, use the china, everything,” says Alice Roedersheimer, a Dayton-based designer. “Because why else do you have it?” Along those lines, skip the paper napkins and use cloth napkins that can be dressed up with festive napkin rings in mixed-metals, natural woods, autumn-toned jewels — or simply reach for raffia and tie a tidy bow around sophisticated cloth.
Fresh Focal Points
By all means — pull out all the stops. Randy Luken, designer/owner of Luken Interiors in Dayton, recalls Thanksgiving at his German grandmother’s house, where china and silver gleamed on the table, and the centerpiece was seasonal. “She always made it so natural — and there were always pumpkins,” he says.
Cox-Hudson notes that mixing natural materials with fine dishware softens the look. Use a nubby fabric such as burlap as a table runner, or choose wicker chargers for underneath china plates. Incorporate gourds, fruit, nuts and foliage into centerpieces. “Your silver and china can be dressed down by adding texture and earthiness,” she points out. The following are five themes for
Natural: Expanding on Luken’s in-season style, look outside for table props. An interesting maple tree branch situated in a bold glass vase or silver ice bucket is a structural-but-simple focal point. Add to this by filling large glass bowls with gourds, pumpkins and fruit such as apples. “If you have a big basket, fill it with mums,” Luken suggests. To dress up this look, place mums in a silver bowl. Toole suggests sending the children outdoors on a leaf-collecting mission. Use these, plus pinecones and other remnants of fall, as filler in a bowl. Place a glass globe vase in this bowl and fill it with water and tea lights for extra sparkle.
Traditional: When choosing floral centerpieces, mind the conversation space. “The centerpiece either needs to be low enough so everyone can see over it, or high enough that you can see under it,” Toole says. A single bouquet goes a long way when it is split and divided among several vases. Look for stout, square vases or slender hurricanes in discount stores.
Build a candle arrangement by placing six or nine pillar candles on a platter. Cox-Hudson suggests grouping candles together in even rows so candles are touching, then tying a two-inch tapestry ribbon around the bunch. Accent the base with seasonal greens, gourds or a mix of fruit such as pomegranate, green apples and pears.
Eclectic: Who says the centerpiece must sit on the table? Chandelier
decor keeps the table clear for beautiful ceramic dishes full of Thanksgiving favorites. (Hint: If food is the eye candy at your table, consider staging dishes in a serpentine pattern down the center of the table and using footed stands). Add bling to your light fixture with magnetic crystals, or tie pomanders to ribbons and hang them from the chandelier. “Or take a grapevine ribbon and a spray of floral material and [weave] those through the chandelier to give it a pretty look...,” Cox-Hudson suggests.
Kid-Friendly: To prevent stains that inherently appear by the kiddie table, lay an outdoor rug made from polypropylene (these look like woven rugs) under the table. Tie ribbons to the chairs as an alternative to a centerpiece, Toole suggests. Encourage children to make their own centerpieces: decorated mini-pumpkins, collected leaves pressed between wax paper, homemade placemats, or crepe-paper flowers.