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How to Create a Stunning Thanksgiving Table

How to Create a Stunning Thanksgiving Table

I live in a 1400 sq ft townhome with my husband, my 13 year old stepson, and our two Rottweilers, Richard & Rusti. We do not have a dining room, or a dining room table. Every night we eat at the bar height kitchen countertop on our adjustable bar stools. The 2nd floor open air concept marries our living room with our kitchen, so that we use both spaces simultaneously. It’s nice. It works. Except when we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner - and we host Thanksgiving dinner every year. We’ve tried it at our family homes but John is the turkey master; it remains much easier to keep the main dish at our house. Since we host this most glorious & coveted feast of the year, and because I cannot host a table that is not set for the likes of Martha Stewart Living magazine, our home is slightly modified for this occasion.

Our living room becomes our dining room. The two 6FT plastic folding tables, otherwise used for the random summer yard sale, are brought inside. As I mentioned earlier we do not own a dining room table - or dining room chairs. For the last three years I’ve rented chiavari chairs and table linens. Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. And where would we all sit? Really? It doesn’t cost very much; less than $100. With the items being rented there is the option to change things up every year, giving room for my creativity to flourish.

What is that Picasso quote? “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” Thank you Pinterest for all the ideas, inspiration and jumping points. This is where I usually begin; with a color, a small detail, a theme - and run with it!

This years color was deep grey. Why? (*shrug*) I don’t know, I just liked it. And green leaves as a table runner. And pumpkins, the orange and grey and white kind. The thrifted vintage green glasses would perfectly compliment these colors. Ok, it was starting to come together. Primary color - grey. Accent colors - brown, ivory, green, orange and yellow. The rentals were easy to find online, and just as easy to add them to my digital mood board. Brown chairs with brown cushions, the grey table linen, light gray linen napkins. Glass water goblets and ivory china - why not? Onto the mood board, too. Now all that was left was the actual centerpiece.

Nothing like leaving it to the last minute - Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. I got off work a couple hours early and headed straight to the local farm stand, thinking I would find gourds and pumpkins galore. There was about a dozen of misfits on the side of the road as you pulled in. I asked if they were for sale, but much to my delight they were trying to get rid of them to make room for the Christmas trees. Free! I took three beautifully misshapen grey pumpkins, several variegated green orange and ivory colored gourds, and a couple of barnacled yellow-orange squash. Then I headed to our local florist and purchased a small bundle of vibrant kelly green lemon leaf, flown in from the Pacific Northwest just that morning. But I was still missing something. I thought I wanted height. Or berries. Or flowers. Ughhhhh. Normally opposed to setting foot in Walmart I was confident they’d have tall candle pillars, if not inexpensive flowers/berries. They had none. Not happy.

I walked around Walmart for over an hour - first in the produce section. I needed color and different texture, something that I could stack or lay together. I picked up the smallest red cabbages I could find, along with small fresh green artichokes, and russeted Opal apples. I even picked up a few golden yellow onions, skin & sinews still intact. Then I headed to the craft aisles and found some cheesy glittery swag pieces. I hated them. So I went to the homeware section. Nothing. Next to the kitchen section. There I found gorgeous slate chargers, patina plastic with the look of antique aluminum. So cool and only $1.98 each. Tip: be sure to handpick each charger to ensure they are as free of blemishes and imperfections as possible. These are items that can be reused for other events, tablescapes, dinner parties or even as serving trays. I went back to homewares and picked up a pack of votive candles. My work here was done. Checked out under $50. I still didn’t know exactly how I was going to pull it all together, but I knew I had enough on hand to create something. Just what?

Thursday morning I unpacked the produce from my backseat. While John stirred, basted and cooked up his magic in the kitchen Griffin and I began to assemble the table. Once the folding tables were in place and the linens were draped I began by setting the pumpkins in the center. Gradually I tucked a cabbage here and an artichoke there, onions finding their rightful place, all along garnishing each addition with the green lemon leaf. Eventually the centerpiece was complete. The chargers were set, the napkins were folded and each place setting was finished with alternating colors & textures. Goblets, glasses and place cards finished the job.

If you stop and think about it, the Thanksgiving table is more than just a place we eat. It is the sanctuary we gather around with family and friends, where we share our gratitude, our blessings and our love for those with us and far away. The Thanksgiving table is the heart of the harvest meal. For that reason, and the fact that I don’t lift a finger in the kitchen (not true - I put together a kickass charcuterie platter), it’s important to me that I put my creative talent to use to make my guests feel special when they sit down for one of the most celebrated meals of the year.


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