How to Design a Thanksgiving Tablescape

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It’s Thanksgiving and you’ve got the fam bam or the Friendsgiving gathering happening and it’s got to look GOOD. Not just good, but set a mood, set a vibe, create an atmosphere that helps your guests feel comfortable and maybe a bit luxurious, or casual, or whatever the vibe is that you’re going for: Enter the Thanksgiving tablescape.

If you’ve ever set the table for a Thanksgiving feast before or tried to conjure a modern thanksgiving table setting idea that isn’t entirely orange and pumpkins then you’ll know it does require just a bit of planning and a helpful eye.

Fun stores to head to gather the goods might include Homegoods, Target, TJ Max, Walmart, or a local thrift find.
If you’re really scrambling and it’s a last-minute thanksgiving table setting idea you’re searching then send the kids out to collect pine cones, leaves, and rocks.
Listen – I recommend “baking” them in the oven for a few hours to dry them out and kills any bacteria/bugs that might have made homes in there but that’s for another post. But it will work in a pinch!

Whether you’re new to the tablescaping game, or if this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving, then welcome! Let’s get into how to create a memorable modern Thanksgiving tablescape.

Create a visual anchor with a table runner.

Think about the color scheme you want to use.

Default fall colors tend to be the go to move, but depending on any other themes you may be incorporating (i.e. is it also someone’s birthday?) I love a black and white thanksgiving table scape with hints of fall colors.

Creating a long-lasting impression doesn’t require breaking the bank on multiple coordinating linens; simply opt for one long table runner in lieu of placemats or formal tablecloths.

For example, this stunning white and gold linen number from Amazon would be perfect for Thanksgiving celebrations!

Consider the Size of Your Table for Your Thanksgiving Tablescape

Are you hosting for four or for fourteen? It’s not brain surgery to say that the larger the table, the more levels and textures you’re going to want to invest in to complete the overall feel.

Consider the shape of your table.

Think about the season.

Think about the occasion (Thanksgiving friend) .

Think about where you will be celebrating Thanksgiving. If it’s outside, is there a chance for wind?

if you are heading outside I recommend these table cover clips that are super useful

Let’s say you picked a rustic theme, with plenty of autumn leaves surrounding your space and a nice harvest-inspired table runner down the center of your dining room table (perhaps made from burlap?).

Now, consider the guests at this hypothetical Thanksgiving party: Are they all over eighty years old? Then perhaps having a runner with long tassels would be less than ideal, since it might snag on wheelchairs or walkers as people make their way to their seats and start eating.

Create an Easy Thanksgiving Tablescape Centerpiece with Pumpkins

You can never go wrong with pumpkins as the base of a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Use real or fake pumpkins, but if you choose real, make sure they’re fresh! And don’t forget to also pick up some fake pumpkins to avoid any last-minute issues.

The best thing about using pumpkins is you can use them in so many different ways. You can paint them in a fun color and create your own design on them. You can buy ones that are white and add glitter to those for a little bling at the table.

Or you could even place candles inside the pumpkin to give that extra touch of light at the table. There are endless options for using this staple of fall decorating!

If you’d prefer something more elegant than using gourds, try decorating your home with fresh fruits such as apples or pomegranates. These delicious additions are sure to please any guest and make your post-meal cleanup that much easier.

Mix and match plates.

One of the easiest ways to create a table that’s all your own is to mix and match plates. In addition to adding visual interest and a feeling of different textures, mixing patterns can be a bold statement, while different plates can be a great way to use what you have.

This contemporary look can be achieved on any budget by visiting discount stores like Homegoods or even thrifting at flea markets or antique stores. When shopping for plates, look for patterns that won’t overwhelm each other but also add some visual interest to the table for instance, two blue-and-white ceramic dishes paired with two aqua glass dishes will create a fun contrast without being too busy!

Informal layouts vs. Formal Thanksgiving Tablescapes

Generally speaking, laid flat plates are more informal – they’re meant to look layered on top of one another. For example, folded napkins go under flatware; chargers or decorative plates go under dinner plates; salad/dessert forks and knives go on the outermost sides, etc.

On an informal table, you could even get away with putting utensils in glasses! The same goes for stacking bowls or mugs vertically adding levels and layers.

But if you’re going for formality (like at an event where guests will be in formal wear), stick with serving pieces placed horizontally on either side of each setting (think gravy boats and soup tureens). The layers and texture will come from the glassware, the candles or the flowers and centerpieces.

You’ll also want to be sure to use a charger plate at a formal Thanksgiving dinner. A charger is a plate that is placed under plates and bowls and used to serve each course of the meal. They are not meant to be eaten off of. Think of them as a placemat – but fancier.

Consider the Balance of Your Thanksgiving Tablescape.

There should always be symmetry on both sides (and in the middle) of any given table setting; otherwise, it’ll look lopsided and unappealing from all angles – especially when looking straight down from above! If you want your plate pattern or color scheme to really pop against the other pieces around it, try using more neutral items like simple white napkins or clear glassware.

If this is your first time experimenting with a more elaborate and intentional thanksgiving tablescape, we recommend sticking to the basics.

Neutral colors (maybe fall patterns) candles and pumpkins and simple silverware.
As you feel more and more confident, head to your local home goods, TJ max and start browsing the aisles for ideas for charger plates, centerpiece bowls, candle holders, votive candle holders, and glassware to level up your thanksgiving tablescape.

Add Candles to the Thanksgiving Tablescape Mix

Candles always, no matter the setting, manage to set a beautiful scene. Candles add warmth, ambiance and visual interest to your tablescape. But be sure not to forget about them when you’re done eating, as soon as the party is over, make sure all of your candles are unlit and out of harm’s way.

Also, we want you to opt for nonscented candles for your thanksgiving tablescape because you do not want those fall scents mingling with your turkey and your potatoes and your stuffing. It makes for a rather overwhelming sensory overload and the opposite of welcoming.

Some must-dos and don’ts for your candle scape at your thanksgiving tablescape:

Don’t forget to trim the wicks. Before lighting a candle, trimming the wick will give it a long, even burn. If you don’t do this right before lighting the candle every time, there’s a chance you’ll get soot or smoke in your tablescape (or on your guests). This wick trimmer set is perfect:

Don’t forget to rotate candles. Rotating candles is another technique for extending their life span the heat from one side melting down into the other ensures even burning and helps keep wax from building up on just one side of the container.

Avoid leaving any lit candle unattended for more than four hours at a time. If you’re using votive candles, you won’t need to worry as most will burn out in about 2 hours, but it’s still important to make sure you’re paying attention to the candles that remain.

A note about smoke pollution. Recently there have been some news reports about the effects of burning candles inside, where there is minimal ventilation. The data from these reports by and large reflects long-term exposure to candles that have been burning for hours at a time over many days.

If you are hosting an indoor thanksgiving dinner, burning a few votive candles for ambiance won’t create a dangerous environment, unless you leave those candles to burn for too long.

We love these soy votive candles from Amazon.

Keep the look sophisticated by using warm tones.

When we’re talking about Thanksgiving, warm tones like red, orange and yellow are always a good choice. From tablecloths to centerpieces to napkins, using warm tones in your tablescape will add a sophisticated look that’s still festive and fun.

When selecting your color scheme, think about what goes with the rest of your home decor and try mixing different shades of one color for a timeless look that won’t clash with the rest of your home’s design.

Creating a beautiful holiday tablescape is easy with these tips and tricks!