Upgrade Your Thanksgiving Table Settings
If You Have White Dishes…
Think light, cheery, and mostly monochrome—with pops of one quirky, energizing color. Layer a white patterned runner over a plain tablecloth. Place a low white pumpkin in the center of the table and flank it with loose bunches of fresh sage in footed glass vases (the scent will complement rather than compete with the complex fragrances of dinner). Chartreuse napkins are the surprise hit here (magenta or turquoise would also work); classic in detail but edgy in color, they marry the folksy and sleek aspects of the table.
Get the look: VARDAGEN Plates, $3 each; ikea.com. VARDAGEN Deep Plate/Bowl, $3 each; ikea.com. PB Classic Napkin in Cacus, $9 each; potterybarn.com. Viv All Purpose Big Wine Glasses, $4 each; crateandbarrel.com. Crescent 6 oz. Juice Glasses, $6 each; crateandbarrel.com. Kiran Grey Medallion Table Runner, $24; crateandbarrel.com.
If You Have Gilded China…
Go dark and moody, with an undone autumnal centerpiece and a liberal dose of gold. Almost everything on this table begs to be touched, down to the rich cotton-velvet tablecloth. Velvet may seem impractical as a dining surface, but cotton velvet is quite resilient—you can throw it in the washer and dryer. At the fabric store, ask for a piece 20 inches longer and 20 inches wider than your table; leave the edges raw or have them finished. To create the “spilled-out” (harmless) cornucopia here, cluster like vegetables in threes and fours and place a small pillar candle, safely behind glass, at either end of the display. Any fork looks dramatic against a black napkin, but brushed-gold flatware has an undeniable shock-and-awe effect. Gold-trimmed water glasses are a subtle touch by day, but once the candles are lit, they add significant sparkle. You can use white gilded china for this setting, too; the result will be brighter but still luxe.
Get the look: Raynaud Cristobal Dinnerware Dinner Plate in Marine, $155 each, and Salad Plate, $110 each; williams-sonoma.com. PB Classic Napkin in Sailor Blue, $9 each; potterybarn.com. Merpa Due Ice Oro Flatware Collection, from $160 for a five-piece place setting; lekkerhome.com. Metallic Rimmed Glassware Water Glass in Gold, $25 for four; westelm.com.
If You Have a Vintage Mishmash…
Roll with it, using every beautiful pattern at once. The trick is to clarify the chaos (and turn down the granny factor) with a neat, crisp canvas: Plain white linens let you indulge your eclectic tendencies and show off all your favorites. If you happen to have a collection of mismatched goblets, throw them in, too—they look logical if the shapes and sizes are similar. For decoration, try a row of tiny cabbages in small glasses down the middle of the table. Add a personal item (here, a jade bust) to play up the found-treasures charm of the scene.
Get the look: PB Classic Belgian Flax Linen Hemstitch Tablecloth, $99; potterybarn.com. PB Classic Napkin in White, $9 each; potterybarn.com. Grand Hotel II 5-Piece Flatware Place Setting, $32; crateandbarrel.com. Papetal Floral Plate in Grey Motif, $16; anthropologie.com. Anais Dinner Plate, $24; anthropologie.com. Sissinghurst Castle Dinner Plate, $24; anthropologie.com. Lucky Brand Blue Wash Dinner Plate, $19; macys.com. Blue Pressed Glass Goblets Set of 4, $24; worldmarket.com. Fleur-De-Lys Tumbler, $10 each; anthropologie.com. Ani Wine Glass, $18; anthropologie.com.
If You Have Earthy Ceramics...
Layer organic elements to conjure a warmed-up Scandinavian minimalism. Take advantage of the natural richness of a wood table by leaving it naked, and mix two sets of neutral dishes—alternating dinner plates and salad plates—to create a subtle ebb and flow of texture. Choose ethnic-graphic napkins, and invent your own fold for a bit of origami elegance. In the center of the table, place metallic-lined bowls filled with tiny pears (what’s prettier this time of year?) and candles wrapped in birch bark. Dark blown-glass cups add depth.
Get the look: Charlotte Dinner Plate, $9 each; potterybarn.com. Charlotte Salad Plate, $7 each; potterybarn.com. 18th Street Salad Plate, $8 each; crateandbarrel.com. 18th Street Dinner Plate, $10 each; crateandbarrel.com. Farmhouse Pottery Silo Tumbler, $42 each; anthropologie.com. Healdsburg Napkins, $48; serenaandlily.com. String Candleholder in Black, $55; hyggelife.com. Two Tone Speckled Stoneware Bowls Set of 4, $28; worldmarket.com.
If You Have Blue-and-White China…
Create French-country enchantment, pairing casual glasses with fancy dishes around a glitzy centerpiece. Alternating two complementary china patterns promotes a loose but still pulled-together vibe. A nubby linen cloth in chocolate brown is unexpected against fine china and feels relaxed—no one has to worry about spilling gravy. Soft napkins (they almost look like chambray) host everyday stainless flatware. Goblets are chunky and homey, making this setup sweet and inviting, and not the least bit intimidating. And gold-leaf fruit inspires oohs and aahs.
How to Gild Fruit
1. Clean and dry fruit. If you’re using fresh fruit, the firmer the better. You can get the same look with fake fruit, if you want it to last.
2. With a disposable paintbrush, apply a thin, even coat of water-based gilding adhesive like Rolco Aquasize ($16, freestylephoto.biz). Let dry until tacky (about 15 minutes).
3. Press sheets of faux gold leaf (available at crafts stores) onto the fruit with a soft cotton cloth. Overlap sheets slightly, and remove any loose pieces.
4. To give the fruit an antiqued look, use another soft cotton cloth to apply brown or black shoe polish. Buff to a high shine.
Get the look: Taste Blue Large Oval Platter by Reichenbach, $255; tabulatua.com. Taste Blue Dinner Playe by Reichenbach, $135; tabulatua.com. Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Mega Dinnerware, from $110; williams-sonoma.com. Beckett Natural Linen Tablecloth, from $40; crateandbarrel.com. PB Classic Napkin in Chambray, $9 each; potterybarn.com. Caprice Tritan Goblet, $10; crateandbarrel.com.