The Art of the Thanksgiving Table

8 fresh ideas for setting the holiday table
Thanksgiving table

Concrete floor tiles, a single color, layers of texture, and skip the tablecloth for this Thanksgiving tablescape

For Jayme Sanders, entertaining at home is about a lot more than setting a pretty table. The master mind behind Carmel Valley’s Mint Studio, a retail shop-meets-gathering space that focuses on the creative process and building community, says that in our overscheduled lives, it’s important to slow down, connect with others and be inspired.

Succulent table setting

Jayme Sanders piles on the texture with succulents, soft linens, and shimmering copper tones

“Inviting people into your home for food, drink and conversation brings in a level of closeness and intimacy that’s so important for all of us,” Jayme says. “There’s no rushing and everyone can linger and have deeper, more meaningful conversations because you’re not being rushed to pay a check and go.”

A couple of years ago, Jayme and a group of her friends committed to spending meals in, which translates to taking turns hosting monthly dinners in each of their homes.

“We keep it totally stress free,” she explains. “It’s all about going back to basics in terms of decor, taking care in a few details and letting yourself enjoy your company. We have to get away from the feeling that everything has to be handmade, perfect and Instagram-ready.”

Whether you’re hosting a Friendsgiving with your girlfriends or a giant family gathering this year, Jayme has easy-to-execute tablescape inspirations and lots of tips to help you create settings that look amazing but require little effort and cost.

A soft blush color palette

A soft blush brings a feminine vignette when paired with a complementary color palette

Pick your palette. “Choose one color that you’re drawn to,” Jayme suggests. She chose a soft blush for her intimate, feminine vignette to replace shades of brown and orange that traditionally accompany fall festivities. Then she used the free Pantone app to find complements and sometimes unexpected but harmonious color pairings.

Expand your shopping options. Though Jayme loves to use what she has in her home and kitchen to set a table—sprigs of berries tucked into a napkin or fresh herbs in an arrangement or place card, she also recognizes that there are lots of surprising finds that can totally make a table. “Recognize potential in everything,” she says. The concrete slabs she used on the blue, wood and copper table, (facing page top) for instance, are floor tiles from The Home Depot that she repurposed as placemats under every other plate.

Concrete slab placemat

A concrete slab adds unexpected texture from an unlikely shopping source

Bring something special in for holidays. Festive plates and serving pieces find their way onto lots of tables this time of year, but Jayme says it’s better to find pieces you can use throughout the year. The shimmery, copper-tone plates she picked up for a song were used in each of the vignettes. “Pick something special but neutral, and you can incorporate it in every party you host,” Jayme shares. Plus, having a collection of white basic dinnerware means limitless possibilities.

Elevate with layers (lots of them). The easiest way to make a setting look more sophisticated? Pile on the texture. Jayme works in levels. She starts with a texture on the table—a woven placemat, a concrete slab or a metallic charger. Next, she places a white dinner plate and the sparkly salad plate on top. Then she adds a soft texture such as a cloth napkin that she likes to simply (and chicly) knot or fold in half and let dangle over the side of the table.    

Al fresco tablescape

Skip the tablecloth and work with layers

Go bare. It probably goes against everything you were taught, but Jayme says you should forgo the tablecloth. “I’ve had the table at my house since college, and it’s definitely well worn,” she says. “It’s prettier and more modern to dress the table in layers and let some of the solid surface show than to do fabric on fabric, which tends to look more formal and stuffy.”

Take it all outside. In this idyllic climate, Thanksgiving meals don’t have to take place in the dining room. Jayme moved her indoor wood table outdoors for the evening to create an elegant poolside tablescape.

Visit the local florist. “Buy whatever they have a lot of that’s in season and use it in the centerpiece and as garnish on your plates,” Jayme suggests. “I love using a few seasonal branches on a charcuterie board.”

Hand-charred wooden place card

A printed message charred onto wood with a simple wood-burning tool

Make it personal. “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” It’s a Dale Carnegie quote that sticks with Jayme. So no matter how big or small, formal or casual the shindig she hosts, Jayme makes sure there’s a name card for everyone.

The game changer she uses for rustic affairs is a wood-burning tool that scorches the surface in a matter of minutes. She recommends printing names in a pretty font on carbon paper (unless you have calligraphy-style handwriting), transfer-
ring the image to a wood slice and then using the tool to trace (and char) the name into the surface. “It’s the best $15 you’ll spend, and it’s easy enough for kids to use,” she says.

Categories: design inspiration, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Home Design, Tricks of the trade