Thanksgiving Tablescape Ideas…Because Your Mother-In-Law Judges You


Yep.  Less than 2 weeks out until Thanksgiving.  While NYC is magical with its wide-eyed parade and Central Park spectacular as an autumn hued stunner, I’m actually bouncing this year.  Flying South with the geese to Mexico to celebrate my big 4-0 before it gets entirely eaten up by the holiday season (curse of the December babies).  Despite ushering in middle age with the requisite sun-soaked tequila shooters, Thanksgiving remains one of the top spots on my fav holiday list. Even more so than stuffing myself into a turkey coma, I love a great TG tablescape.  For so many, it is really that one time of year to gather with those you adore and really give thanks for the blessings and good fortune of loving family and loyal friends.  Gratitude totally earned this formal.  I’ve pinned and pasted my favorite designs.  From rustic to modern, most are really easy to implement.  I personally favor a table styled simply and elegantly with organic elements playing center stage.


This design from Simply Grove is fabulously simple and probably the easiest to execute.  All you need is butcher block paper as your runner or table covering and inexpensive daises, mums or wild flowers in repurposed wine bottles (f**k me, I just used “repurposed” in a design post, apologies) or mismatched vases.  I especially like the mixing of patterns with the whimsical polka dot napkins and country inspired plates.  Ikea meets Little House.


More butcher block.  It makes for such a fun table covering…this is a kid’s table from Simplified Bee but could easily work for a great, smaller hip gathering.  I’d totally top with a bucket of markers or crayons so guests could write down what they’re especially thankful for…or the kids could write “poopy head” with pointing arrows.


Another great option is chalkboard paper as a table runner or whole tablecloth.  The above is from Anthropologie and makes for the coolest buffet or sit down dinner.  You could seriously freak out your diet obsessed cousin and jot down the calorie content of each dish or an all caps “CARBS”!!!! over the potatoes.


Here comes the foliage…this is such a simple design but adds so much impact to a table.  I love the bold pop of purple…but really this pic had me at the Malbec.


Again super easy example of bringing the outside in.  Autumn leaves make for great runners and place settings.  Remember to gently wash and debug though.  Nothing makes for more awkward a dinner than an infestation…well, maybe a sloppy sauced uncle…though a sloppy sauced uncle covered in weevils might be good fun…cue the Robin Thicke.


Pinecones also do the trick.  Organic elements make for natural and almost effortless design…though would disclaim, not so much with the older crowd.  Pinecone on your great aunt’s plate=deep, white-of-the-eye roll.


More leaves, gourds…oh, and your brother’s wife thinks that individual soup terrines are pretentious and you’re a stuck up poser bore (sticks and stones, bitch)…but you, me and Martha love them, so that’s all that matters.


This sprig of rosemary is an elegant and rustic touch…all you need is a plan napkin and pretty bow…and some serious Mom game face that warns in one effective glance, “Don’t mess with the napkins, kid or Momz will lose her shit.”


More inexpensive seasonal flowers.  I like the uniform design and repetition…super elegant and one easy trip to (shout out) Trader Joe’s Flora section.


Wood slabs make great organic impact. Pictured here as votive tiers but I also love to use them as plate chargers.  Though would caution to go either/or…a table full of tree stumps dangerously ventures into Lord of the Rings Shire territory.  Lots of great options available on Etsy.


Sunflowers are still readily available in the Northeast and as cut flowers go, I realize they’re a step above the much maligned carnation…but screw it, they’re nicely priced and I dig ‘em!   Combined with my love of mason jars, this is another simple and pretty design.


The Marie Antoinette of table design…the decapitated sunflower and votive runner.


More elaborate design, but I love the color scheme and the gratuitous use of albino pumpkins.


Seasonal fall fruit act as lovely place settings.  The tall leaf table arrangements add height and grandeur to an otherwise minimal “apple strangely sitting center stage on my plate” design.


Love the pumpkin centerpiece, the simple but striking personalized place mats (though this particular font is a bit passive aggressive, no? BRADFORD, you money squabbling piece of sh**…) and the sweet (and psychotic) touch of the mini pecan pie individual place settings.


Former graffiti artists take note: if you have the time and fortitude to spray paint a dozen mini pumpkins…gold or an unexpected bold color like fuchsia make for an impressive table piece…though your FIL will subliminally but effectively channel that you have waaaaaay too much time on your hands.


Gold and Burlap…and so my obsession with burlap runners begins…see below…


Confession: I store yards of burlap under my bed…which oddly sounds fetishy.  No kink here,  just a great fabric that provides a ton of versatility in table design.


I absolutely love this design from Southern Vintage Georgia . It incorporates so many of my favorite things: wood slabs, burlap and mason jars…and acorns and faraway barns that I’ll absolutely never visit.


K, I’m hating on the flowers, chargers and napkin rings (case in point: Homegirl’s living at HomeGoods)…I actually like how she’s mixed a chevron runner with plaid napkins…I’d personally would have gone less organic meets modern blend and more modern meets quirky combine.


Lordy, if you live somewhere warm enough to eat al fresco…for the love of God, please do. Could this rustic table be anymore divine?


Okay, okay…when I initially saw this pic, my brain went to Lyme Disease (seriously, that looks like a bacchanal for ticks) but it sure does photograph super romantic.  Why yes: TG for two can be uber intimate and beautiful.  And while the wilds of Connecticut might be over-the-top for some, this can totally be toned down for a sweet little backyard or tick free nook in your own outdoor area.


Saving the best for last: I love this little al fresco lounge…and hey, If you have the space, the muscles to move your furniture outside and a pile of hay lying around…could this be anymore perfect?  Dream big and give thanks and remember to clean out your medicine cabinet (your SIL totally beelines for the bathroom)  Happy Thanksgiving!

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About the Author

Mommy despot, marital dictator and dinner demagogue who--in reality--perpetually finds herself a tousled hair away from the inmates storming the Asylum. Territory? New York City, where she precariously navigates urban parenting as the aspirational wonder mom to 2 beautiful girls and mediocre wife to 1 patient husband.


  1. Tracy Gibb says:

    Awesome ideas and I love the title!

  2. Heather Rode says:

    HAHA @ “because your MIL judges you” and “curse of the December babies”. I’m so happy that my MIL lives far, far away and I won’t see her for Thanksgiving. Have a happy birthday!

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