Thanksgiving Tablescapes Ideas (& How to Work With What You Already Own)
***Written by Jess Bunge
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. While its origins are less than admirable (a clear understatement), I am absolutely in support of taking time to recognize and be thankful for all the good in our lives because it can be easy to lose sight of it. There’s no pressure of gifting…it’s just about getting together, gratitude and love. Oh, and in my family, it’s also about LRC, a dice game we play every year and I WILL WIN THIS YEAR IF IT KILLS ME. Moving on…
Aside from all the rainbows and butterflies and good feelings, let’s not overlook a key part of this holiday: the food. Arguably the best part of any holiday. But there tends to be this pressure (especially in the age of Pinterest and Instagram) that our tables need to look PERFECT and up on the current trends. However much like some family members that shall not be named, you can’t replace all your plates and flatware for every holiday. In my family, we have this pretty ugly although “very special” China that was passed down from my great-grandmother. To paint a picture for you, they are cream with a dangerously bold brown and gold foliage design. Oh and how could I forget the ornate gold flatware (not the pretty modern kind that looks like it’s from Food52). Now, while these plates are not something I would EVER buy for myself, does it really feel like Thanksgiving at home without them? The answer: Not really.
So instead of rounding up completely new ideas with all the latest and greatest for your Thanksgiving table this year, we decided to try to create a few beautiful tablescapes with styles of plates and flatware that the majority of people already own. Adding a few new styling pieces like table linens, candlesticks, flowers etc. could make your table feel brand new without it actually being “NEW.” No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. KEEP THE BABY! Maybe just swap out the water.
With that said, here are a couple of our tried and true quick tips for an easy Thanksgiving tablescape refresh.
Taper Candles & Candlestick Holders
These puppies are BIG impact for very little effort and aren’t too $$$ if you don’t want them to be. You can buy super affordable taper candles and almost every home store has candlestick holders. So take your pick! Another fun option is to go to thrift shops for a vintage eclectic look like the one Athena Calderone of Eyeswoon did in the picture above. More is more with this look so as long as you’re not worried the fire department will need to be called, we say go for it and use a bunch. HOT STYLING TIP: Keep them staggered (i.e. don’t just clump them together in the center of the table…spread those babies out). It feels more organic and collected. Plus, your family will be very impressed by your stying skills.
It’s not uncommon for people to have different sets of table linens in their home for different holidays. Sure, maybe this is partly because some are stained from the previously mentioned “family member” spilling red wine all over the table, but also because they’re easier to store than hundreds of seasonal plates. We love the idea of mixing up the linens. Saturated colors always feel festive but if that isn’t your style, then neutral, fun patterns are a great way to add visual interest to any tablescape. We just recommend when buying new holiday linens to avoid ones that scream SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. This way everything will stay timeless and sophisticated. The idea is to pick linens that you could easily use in January, in April, in September. They shouldn’t FEEL seasonal, but special enough to use during key holidays.
Flowers & Greenery
I think it’s safe to say that everyone at EHD loves flowers. The more the better if I do say so myself. But aside from them just being wonderful in general, they are an excellent and easy addition to a festive tablescape. Grab (or make if you are crafty) a leafy garland and run it down the middle of your table, pick up a few bud vases and fill them with your favorite seasonal flowers or greenery. Even just take a spring and place it on each napkin for a fun detail. Now that we are headed into the colder months, dried florals are a great option. They look great on a table and will last past the evening so you can enjoy them through the new year. But let’s also not discount faux flowers. There are so many good ones on the market (and in this post) right now and will actually last forever. This is music to my accidental plant killing ears.
So now you have our tips down, let’s get into our roundups. In the spirit of keeping things accessible, we wanted to give two budget options for each of our three looks because well, we all have different budgets and we all should be able to get the look if we want it. Right? Now that you know what our intentions are, let’s dive into a fresh bath shall we? I think I took this analogy too far but I’m leaving it.
First up, we have our “Traditional with a Twist” tablescape:
Black Mango Wood Beckett Chargers (Set of 2) – $40
Gold Rim Dinner Plate – $20
Gold Rim Salad Plate – $17
Gold Rim Low Bowl – $17
Atwood Faux Bouquet – $188
Vintage Inspired Large Bud Vase – $35
Clear Glass Mini Vase – $4
Taper Candles (Set of 8) – $52
Vintage-Inspired Candlestick Holders (Set of 2) – from $64
For this first look, I kept the plates simple with a gold rim detail and the glassware etched and fancy for the base. I forgot to mention earlier the etched glassware we also inherited and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So as some of you are potentially dealing with hand-me-down China and crystal like me, the easiest way to modernize is to keep the accessories and linens simple. Think clean lines and solid colors. The brass vase and candlestick holders are traditional but not ornate and the dark maroon taper candles add a sophisticated splash of color. Now onto the linens. I didn’t want to go with your average plain white tablecloth and napkins. These options still feel classic but are made a little more special by the saturated teal of the napkins (which complement the maroon candles) and two-toned detail of the tablecloth. SPOILER ALERT: Those are faux flowers. I think I rest my case.
This is our budget version.
Black Mango Wood Beckett Chargers (Set of 2) – $40
I really tried to maintain the look and feel of the first one. Traditional but updated, with the same color palette. I switched out the candlesticks for these beautiful matte black ones (you may recognize them from our Threshold Fall collection living room reveal as well as the Emily’s Halloween post). They are versatile, affordable and come in a set of three. One of my favorite pieces from the original look was the two-toned tablecloth, so to recreate the look for a much lower price tag, I found these two tablecloths that you can layer on top of each other. Just make sure you buy two different sizes so you can see both colors when they are on the table.
This look is all about handmade products with a heavy dose of ceramics. The homespun style has exploded over the past couple of years so many of us have similar looking items…me included. I mean I work at Emily Henderson Design. Of course I LOVE and NEED as many ceramics as my bank account will allow. So with that said, I chose these beautiful neutral ceramic plates as the base. I wanted the glassware to be delicate but interesting. The curve of the wine glass and the ribbing of the champagne flute contrast the heavy yet simple ceramic material. And because this tablescape needed some depth, I chose this matte black flatware. For a bit of pattern, I chose a simple cream and navy plaid napkin and color blocked tablecloth. One of my favorite items are the brown paper placemats. They add a simple texture, you can write the menu on them AND you can just toss them when they get undoubtedly ruined by the end of the night. That’s a win for the cleanup crew. The dried seasonal looking flowers and navy taper candles are what make this tablescape festive. They add that hint of fall that you want on your Thanksgiving table. Here’s your Homespun checklist: Neutral colors, ceramics, wood accents and hits of black.
Now ready for the budget version?
Brown Butcher Paper Roll – $7
Ivory Organic Rimmed Dinner Plates (Set of 6) – $54
Ivory Organic Rimmed Salad Plates (Set of 6) – $48
Ivory Organic Bowls (Set of 6) – $48
Dried Lagarus Bunch – $18
Fresh Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Bunch – $58
Stemmed Wine Glass – $6
Short Tumbler – $4 (Set of 6)
Stemless Champagne Flute (Set of 4) – $8
Decorative Vase – $15
Blue Tapered Dripless Candles (Set of 2) – $4
Candle Holder Dish – $8
Round Speckled Covered Ceramic Baker With Spoon – $25
Here she is. The great thing about a trend or (cough) timeless style that’s been around for a minute is that there are A LOT of great affordable options. Those plates and ceramic baker are SO GOOD. The matte black flatware is awesome and affordable. And is there a sweeter gravy boat? No. But let’s talk placemats. While the placemats from the other version are a bit pricey for the number of mats you get, I found a cheaper option. Just buy a roll of butcher paper then cut your desired placemat size. This roll is under $10. I would happily have this version be my Thanksgiving tablescape. Sorry great-grandma!
Last but not least is our Modern Metallic Thanksgiving:
There is no rule that Thanksgiving can’t be a little glamorous, is there? Not to my knowledge, at least. If there is, rules are made to be broken. Again sorry great-grandmother (she loved the rules). This is our modern take on how you could style a fancy, modern Thanksgiving table. Plus, all of this is perfect to repurpose for a NYE party or fancy birthday party. The metallics add the festive factor and are the showstopper of this tablescape. Those candlestick holders are so pretty and actually come in many different colors if these aren’t your taste. While the candlestick holders are the main event on the table, they are complemented by the gold flatware, serveware and copper name card holder. Since the plates are square, I kept the glassware equally linear and simple. To contrast all the hard lines, I chose this beautiful round placemat, cylinder style serving bowl and polka dot decanter. It’s glam but not too over the top…but it’s also not cheap. Let’s move onto the budget version.
Different but still pretty glamorous and way more affordable. I switched out the original candlestick holders for these ones from Target and they are pretty great. Don’t be afraid to mix metals. When done with thought, it looks elegant and fun. I changed the placemat for this rectangle one because the pattern of a two-tone pattern was more visually important than the shape. BUT my favorite piece is this black wooden salad bowl. It’s modern but brings in warmth with the texture of the wood. I actually think I would use it instead of the more expensive option.
OKAY! There you have it. Three looks, two budgets and one wonderful holiday full of food. I hope that you now feel excited to use your own plates, glasses and flatware and feel like a refresh is well within reach. Sometimes, all you need is a little update and not a major overhaul. Plus, it is Thanksgiving after all. The holiday of appreciating what we already have.
Let us know in the comments what you think of these looks. Did you like the two budgets? And what are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?