7 Tips to Set a Modern-Traditional Thanksgiving Table

7 Tips to Set a Modern-Traditional Thanksgiving Table


When it comes to setting the Thanksgiving table, you can’t beat tradition. Small orange pumpkins, tree branches and colorful gourds spilling out of a woven basket are classic table decorations. But if you want to shake things up and add a few contemporary touches, consider the following tips.

1. Mix in metallics

Nothing says modern like a bit of shine. Linda Osbourne, a prop stylist for food and tabletop photography in New York City, suggests mixing traditional silver candlesticks with mercury glass holders, which have a metallic silver, gold, or copper finish. Another way to add a little luster: Use metallic chargers, a runner with metallic thread or copper-finished flatware.

2. Layer after layer

Layering creates a table with texture, which is a more interesting look. It’s easy to do: First, place a solid color linen tablecloth on the table then center a runner in burlap or another heavy material on top of the tablecloth, and finish with a wide metallic ribbon in a contrasting color on top of that.

3. Blend old and new

“Think of your table as a landscape, mixing and matching styles,” Osbourne says. To create a fresh and unexpected look that’s got vintage and contemporary elements, take Grandma’s china that’s just sitting in the basement and pair it with your contemporary flatware.

4. Go for the garland

As an alternative to a runner, place a long garland centered down the length of the table. Make it with vegetables and other seasonal goodies. Osbourne’s favorites: bittersweet, grapevines and eucalyptus, with small pumpkins, apples, pears, figs and/or artichoke hearts nestled in. Add votive and pillar candles in varying heights. (Make sure the candles are unscented so they’re not competing with the food aromas.)

5. Incorporate your favorite colors

Who says your color scheme must be autumn colors? Or that pumpkins have to be orange? Pumpkins come in lots of colors like white, light green, red and even blue; if you can’t find a color you want, spray-paint them. Light blue pumpkins to go with your blue-and-white dishes? Perfect!

6. Make it yourself

Even the napkin rings and place cards can be a twist on tradition. To accessorize napkins, make a nosegay, Osbourne says. “Gather a fresh herb like rosemary or sage into a tiny bouquet, tie it with twine, attach a simple brown paper tag for the guest’s name and place it on top of the folded napkin on or next to the plate.”

7. Paint the place cards

If you want to make separate place cards, create a leaf card. “Magnolia or oak leaves work well,” Osbourne says. You could paint the leaves to go with your palette with acrylic paint then write the guest’s name with a Sharpie. “Lay them flat or place them standing up on the tines of a fork.”

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