Setting a Thanksgiving Table

Setting a Thanksgiving Table

Local designers share ideas for creating a festive tablescape.

In this table design, Anne Walker used neutral linens which provided a rich but subtle backdrop to Royal Copenhagen china.

In this table design, Anne Walker used neutral linens which provided a rich but subtle backdrop to Royal Copenhagen china. Photo by Anne Walker


Designer Pamela Harvey used china, colorful napkins and placemats to add color to this table setting.

Whether celebrating with large gathering of family or hosting an intimate dinner with friends, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to express gratitude, merriment and creativity. Though the day is noted for football games and parades, it’s the turkey dinner that takes center stage. Setting an aesthetically appealing table on which to place the perfectly prepped bird adds to a special touch to the quintessentially American meal.

From monogrammed linen napkins to centerpieces crafted with backyard foliage, area designers offer ideas for creating a backdrop for one of the most anticipated meals of the year.

“The key to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table is to keep it simple, said Amanda Mertins of Patina Polished Living in Alexandria. “The big focus for Thanksgiving is, of course, the food.”

Designer Anne M. Walker, Anne Walker Design in Potomac, says that she’s created tablescapes that range from ultra-formal to super-casual. “By far my favorite is the unassuming, simple style of Scandinavian table décor,” she said. “I like to use linen placements, rather a than tablecloth, so you can see the beautiful wood of the table.”

“I prefer table linens made by Ekelund, a family-owned Swedish company that has been producing fine linens since the 1600s,” said Walker. “Their placemats and napkins have body and heft to them, and the natural flax color complements any style and color of table.”

Patterned, colorful napkins can add just the right amount of interest to a table set with neutral china, suggests Mertins. “Bold napkin rings always add a nice punch,” she said. “Place cards make it very easy for guests to find their seat and they add a note of importance to the meal.”

Adding fresh greenery to a table setting is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to elevate your dining table decor, said Pamela Harvey of Pamela Harvey in Oak Hill, Va. “Adding a simple stem of pine needles to a napkin ring at each setting,” she said. “I always survey my own yard for clippings of magnolia or a great branch to add to the table.”

“A runner of eucalyptus branches mixed with tangerines or pears and casual ribbon makes for a great fall look,” continued Harvey. “Simple flower arrangements using all the same flower or color make an impact.”

Forgo a centerpiece created by a florist, says Walker. “Why not cut a few branches from your own garden and create your own floral display?” asks Walker. “Many plants, including Nandina, produce beautiful red berries in the fall, which makes for a lovely, simple table decoration.”

The holidays are a perfect time to uncover treasured china and other pieces stored away, said Harvey. “I love the nostalgia of using pieces that were handed down,” she said. “Varying the dish patterns is also a fun way to display china, such as using your grandmother’s china mixed with more casual or everyday place settings.”

“Use your real silver and your best crystal – these things are meant to be enjoyed,” added Walker. “Food and drink taste better when delivered from a glass that’s been hand-blown, and a silver fork.”