Charleston event designer Tara Guérard sets the table for a Thanksgiving dinner for her extended family at their 1901 North Carolina mountain cottage.
Here’s how to set your family’s Thanksgiving table just like Tara’s. Start with a statement dinner plate - Guérard chose delicate, pink-rimmed China for her table’s Thanksgiving plates. If you are tight on table space, try topping your standard dining table with a sturdy piece of plywood and covering the expanded top with a festive Thanksgiving tablecloth. Upgrade thrift store finds for cozy details, and be sure to have a self-serve bar near to keep the family festivities running smoothly. Create a kids’ table using felt as burlap as a kid-proof Thanksgiving tablecloth, and set up the teens’ tables with identical Thanksgiving plates for a more mature Thanksgiving table setting. Once the table is set, all you’ll have to worry about is what food your serving. For a stress-free holiday, prepare your menu in advance by following our Test Kitchen’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Menu guide. Just don’t forget about dessert!
Family-Style Thanksgiving Table
For this year’s Thanksgiving setting, Tara looked to a family china pattern for inspiration. The result is a pretty color palette of Champagne and gold with subtle touches of pink. Linens establish the palette, which is carried out all the way to the pale pink taper candles. Throughout, she combines old with new, traditional with modern, and heirloom with inexpensive. “Mixing old and new creates personality,” says Tara. “It wouldn’t look fabulous with all of one or the other.”
Tara paired her traditional family china with modern gold-rimmed glass chargers she rented for just $1 apiece.
Expand Your Table
To accommodate a large guest list, Tara topped her dining table with a 4-by-8-foot piece of felt-wrapped plywood and brought in a bench for seating.
Splurge On Linens
The Champagne-colored cotton velvet tablecloth adds a luxurious feel. “If I have even a little budget, I spend it on the linens,” says Tara.
Tablecloth and napkins: custom; taraguerardsoiree.com.
Silver tumblers and flatware: antique; for similar items, try Village Green Antique Mall, Hendersonville, NC; 828/692-9057.
Stemware: by tag (tagltd.com); available from GDC Home, Charleston, SC; 843/571-5142.
Set Up a Kids' Table
Wrap a small picnic table in burlap, and outline with satin ribbon for a holiday-worthy kids’ table. Keep things simple, but add playful extras. “These little woodland animals look cute and—even better—keep the kids occupied, even if only for five minutes longer,” says Tara.
Source Guide: White bowl: Bloomfield’s of Flat Rock; bloomfields.com.
Rug: Flokati Wool Rug in Ivory; worldmarket.com.
Pink burlap, gold ribbon, and gold cord: available from Foam & Fabric Outlet, Fletcher, NC; 828/684-0801.
Animals: by Roost (roostco.com); available through vieuxtemps.net.
Copper bowls: Copper Collection; simonpearce.com.
Spray Paint Your Centerpiece
A coat of metallic gold spray paint upgrades a grouping of glass candlesticks (thrift store finds!) and heaps of large North Carolina apples.
Candleholder paint: General Purpose Metallic Spray Paint in Gold Metallic by Krylon (krylon.com); michaels.com.
Apple paint: Metallic Gold Decorative Spray Paint by Valspar (valsparpaint.com), available at Lowe’s stores; lowes.com.
Create Multipurpose Place Cards
Instead of throwaway paper place cards, etched glasses announce the seating arrangement. Start with simple tumblers, and have them etched at a trophy shop for around $2 each. (Tara’s tumblers came from CB2 and cost just $2 apiece.) The personalized glasses can be used for holiday gatherings year after year.
Glasses: Marta Double Old-Fashioned; cb2.com.
Glass etching: ABC Trophies, Inc., Summerville, SC; abctrophies.com.
Dinner plates: Pompadour in Gold/White by Royal Worcester, discontinued but available through replacements.com.
Set Up a Grown-Up Teens' Table
Create a simplified version of the adult table for teenage guests by using many of the same elements in a different arrangement. They’ll appreciate not being put at the little kids’ table. The flirty tablecloth upgrades a card table and mimics the velvet-and-silk version on the main table. To give dining chairs a quick makeover, tightly wrap cushions with extra tablecloth fabric, and secure using a staple gun. “I’m a pro at acting like an upholsterer!” says Tara. (She chose a poly-cotton blend, which has the look of silk dupioni but not the price.) Serving sparkling cider in festive flutes adds to the grown-up feel.
Set up a Self-Serve Bar
Positioned under an arrangement of family photos, a freestanding Champagne-and-cocktails bar is easily accessible and makes a fun gathering spot for generational reminiscing.
Tray table: Driftwood Tree Tray and Stand; notremonde.com.
Carafes and decanters: Claudia, Fern, and Rachel by William Yeoward Crystal (williamyeowardcrystal.com); available through vieuxtemps.net.
Flutes, Champagne cooler, and pink glass bowl: available through vieuxtemps.net.
Upgrade Linens with No-Fuss Flourishes
Use iron-on monograms to instantly and inexpensively personalize simple white cocktail napkins at the bar.