One of the most important parts of Thanksgiving: the holiday table

by April Lisante
Posted 11/10/21

I’ve already talked turkey in the column, and talked about prepping the Thanksgiving food, I thought I’d take a look this week at one of the most important parts of the meal: the holiday table.

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One of the most important parts of Thanksgiving: the holiday table

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It’s been two years since we threw a big holiday get-together, and many of us want to make it special this year.

While I’ve already talked turkey in the column, and talked about prepping the Thanksgiving food, I thought I’d take a look this week at one of the most important parts of the meal: the holiday table.

Setting a holiday table can be a work of art if done right. I am constantly studying and testing out ways to make it more personal, more special, and more unique. I like to hand-write cards at place settings, and I started forcing paperwhite bulbs three weeks ago, so they’d sprout Thanksgiving week, for my centerpiece tradition. I missed doing all of this last year.

We all know how to put a tablecloth and dishes down, but there is a trick to “layering” the table and adding special touches that can make it truly remarkable for guests.

“Layering” doesn’t literally just mean throwing on a tablecloth. The true art of layering is in the details.

This year, locals have already begun planning their holiday tables at the Hill’s Tailored Home, an upscale interior design and décor store on Germantown Ave. Colors will be cozier and warmer, and mixing and matching everything from napkins to placemats will reflect a larger interior design trend that embraces a mix of casual and formal.

“It’s much more warm and fuzzy this year. People are looking for warmer colors and cozy, even nostalgic [table décor],” said Tailored Home owner Starr Osborne.

“I’m already seeing a lot of action with people ordering things for their holiday table,” Osborne said. “I think everybody knows the one thing we can control right now is our home environment and that environment feels more precious than ever, and setting the table is almost like a gift to your guests.”

One way hosts are planning to make it special this year is by adding some whimsy. Everyone got used to a more casual dining experience this year, but rolling out the red carpet for those we haven’t seen in a while means more than ever this holiday.

Many hosts are starting with a gorgeous, stain-resistant tablecloth, then adding toppers like paper runners or placemats. The runners and placemats are not only disposable, but can “add a lot of pop” to the table.

“They are following interior design rules, which are that all rules are off,” said Osborne. “And people are doing a more layered table than they were in the past.”

Mixing and matching napkins or using your everyday dishes, then adding one special set of hors d-oeuvre plates to make one course extra special, is all fair game. Some people are even using a set of holiday-patterned dessert plates atop everyday dishes, to make the table look more stylish for less money.

Once the dishes are set, topping them with cloth napkins in napkin rings is the trend.

“Napkin rings are coming back,” Osborne said, adding that gold plated versions featuring fantastical flying butterflies and dragonflies are hot right now, centered atop a ring made of Lucite, for a more informal touch.

It used to be that tucked in the napkin, guests would find a sprig of rosemary or other fresh greenery. This year, hosts are opting for a small box of gourmet chocolates, or die-cut paper place cards featuring turkeys. Anything goes, really, when it comes to placing a keepsake beside the plate: a holiday cookie, a family photo, even a small take-home gift.

And when it comes to centerpieces, the old traditional basket-style arrangement of carnations and mums is not exactly the way folks are decking out the focal point.

“People are doing lower [centerpieces] in the center,” Osborne said.

Instead of view-obstructing candlesticks or huge floral arrangements, the two centerpieces of choice are the “modified cornucopia” featuring a spray of fresh pumpkins and gourds, or a low row of glass hurricanes filled with tea lights or candles. Another popular choice as the remainder of the winter holidays arrive will be a “forest” of evergreen trees.  If upscale versions like the Simon Pearce blown glass collection are out of your price range, bottle brush models from the craft store covered with faux snow will do the trick. The effect encompasses more of the table and keeps conversation flowing.

Ah, conversation. This brings us to one of the most important parts of setting the table: giving some thought to where you will be seating your guests.

“The art of seating the right people next to each other should not be minimized,” said Osborne.

Because after all, having a beautiful, peaceful holiday is what it’s all about. And giving thought to all aspects of the dining table is another way to say welcome back to the good old holidays.

“It's a time to make every little moment a gem,” she said. “It’s about quality over quantity.”

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