Whether you’re hosting a party of two or 20, the holidays tend to inspire as much stress as imagination. But that doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to your Thanksgiving table—even if your great aunt Maggie is as impossible to please as a Top Chef judge. Forget the kitschy accordion-paper turkeys and bright-orange pumpkins and opt instead for a sophisticated spread that sets the scene for an elegant holiday fête. From unexpected centerpieces to cozy add-ons, here are five ideas for creating an unexpected Thanksgiving table that will stay with your guests long after the apple pie is served.
And while you’re at it, lose the tired orange, red, and brown color palette. Give guests something to really be thankful for with a painterly tablescape inspired by the season’s bounty. Arrange a bed of large-format greenery like magnolia leaves or eucalyptus branches topped with red pomegranates, moody bunches of grapes, and pears in ruby and grassy hues down the center of your table—and throw in a few tapered candles for good measure—to set the scene for a holiday your family won’t soon forget. Other surprising options: artichokes, cabbage leaves, and figs.
We’re not just talking about gourds, though no one would fault you for placing a white mini pumpkin at each place setting. Organic elements like antlers, feathers, acorns, and shelled nuts can add texture to your table, especially when paired with metallic accents like mercury glass votives or brass candlesticks. You can also add unexpected greenery like cotton blossoms, birch logs, or wheat sheaths.
Give your good china a facelift by throwing some of your everyday pieces into the mix. At each place setting, alternate classic white dishes with traditional patterned chargers and appetizer plates for an updated look that will give your Thanksgiving table a much-needed infusion of personality. If you’ve got it, colored glassware can also add an unexpected element of fun.
While most people focus all of their decorating energy on the table itself, you’ll wow guests if you think outside the dinner box. Drape chairs or benches with cozy sheepskins, grain sack pillows, or plaid throws to invite family and friends to linger at the table long after your Thanksgiving meal is over.
No one expects you to own a tiered server that only comes out once or twice a year—unless, of course, you have enough storage to house a large prop collection. If not, it’s time to get creative with your belongings. Turn bowls or stemmed goblets upside down and top with a charger to create an impromptu cake stand for a whimsical dessert table, use egg cups or bud vases as condiment catchalls, or repurpose a plaid scarf as a table runner.