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There’s a good chance you don’t even think about tablescapes until the holidays come around. And then — bam! — Thanksgiving is knocking on the door, you’ve got guests with your name (and address) on their calendar, and your meal plan is nearly set. The Thanksgiving tablescape can often feel like an afterthought, but it doesn’t need a lot of planning to make an impact. Plus, there are inexpensive ways you can zhuzh up your table using items delivered from DoorDash.
As a full-on crafty person, I gathered nine ideas that will take your table from weekday vibes to a photo-worthy scene. I believe tablescapes should be a touch interactive, so some of the following ideas will speak to the kid in all of us.
Create a mini pumpkin scene — or get artsy with paint
There are a lot of ways you can have fun with mini pumpkins: Get a ton in different sizes to create a gourd sculpture. Find a bunch in a similar size and use them as name cards — draw guests’ names on each one with a Sharpie. You could also write something about each person that you’re grateful for. Or, find tiny, uniformly sized pumpkins and place them in a single line right down the center of the table for a more streamlined look.
Alternatively, you can paint Thanksgiving scenes on the pumpkins if you’re looking for a creative outlet. At the end of the night, send each guest home with a mini pumpkin, and you just saved yourself some clean-up time.
Encourage some doodling with a kraft paper roll
Remember when I said some of these would be interactive? Skip the tablecloth and cut a piece of brown kraft paper (available from Staples) to fit your dining space. Adhere the edges underneath the table with a tape (make sure it won’t damage your table) and set out some washable markers or crayons. Pro tip: It’s good to place two layers of kraft paper, just to avoid any marker bleed-through. Create a floral centerpiece or place a bunch of candles in the center for a moodier vibe. If you fancy yourself a creative, write out everyone’s name in their given spot with a little drawing, just for added fun.
Mix and match candleholders
Candles can be a really impactful way to set a mood in your dining space. Turn the lights down low and let candlelight lead you through the evening. If you have a party store nearby, chances are you can source a bunch of varieties of candle holders. Like with flowers, choose a single color or shape theme to add cohesion to the overall look. You don’t need fancy candles to fill these holders, either — anything that flickers will work (including flameless candles).
Create a chalkboard menu presentation in an unlikely spot
Order a bunch of charger plates and some chalk paint. Paint each charger with the paint and let it dry thoroughly. Once they’re set, write out the menu on each one — this is way more fun than printing out a paper menu. Plus, you can reuse the chargers for any dinner party you’ve got coming up in the future.
One thing to keep in mind: You’ll want to make sure the charger plates are large enough to house any dinnerware you’ll be using for the big meal to avoid any chipping or tipping over.
Share your gratitude in a placeholder card
Thanksgiving is all about spreading gratitude, so set the tone of your holiday dinner with a handwritten note for every guest. You can use any kind of blank note card for this project; just grab some colorful markers to add some seasonal pizzazz, and write straight from the heart. You can place some blank cards and pens in the center of the table and encourage everyone else to do the same.
Add some greenery with potted plants
Much like flowers and candles, potted plants add some lively energy to a table. Do yourself a favor and opt for plants that require less light to thrive — you may want to keep them as a centerpiece far past Thanksgiving. It’s easiest to buy plants that come with pots (with drainage!), but you can, of course, buy them separately from a local party or grocery store.
Go all in on flowers
This is an obvious choice, but a few bunches of flowers dotted along a table makes an incredible difference. But even within the task of “buying flowers,” there are levels of style. A big mix of blooms can be fun, but an easy way to incorporate a theme is to go all in on different buds of the same color. This puts each flower’s texture on full display and offers a slightly unexpected aesthetic to the scene. And remember: Anything that holds water can be a vase. Even if you don’t have many on hand, grab extra glasses or mugs and create a more rustic tablescape.
Deconstruct a wreath
Wreaths are fun to hang on doors, but have you considered deconstructing them? There are some great elements within a single wreath: branches, berries, leaves, flowers — that’s a lot to work with. For a sculptural take on your tablescape, think of your centerpiece space as one singular wreath. Grab some scissors (and carefully) cut at the spot where the branches meet to release them into one long form.
Feel free to add in some mini pumpkins here and there for extra flair, or carefully place candles (avoid any fire hazards) for extra cozy vibes.
Get creative with vases
Here’s something I love about vases: They hold just about anything — flowers are just the beginning. If you’re working with transparent glass, fill them with different amounts of water, drop in some food coloring, and place floating tea light candles inside. Alternatively, a kids' table would look great with some transparent vases filled with colorful construction paper scraps (perfect for impromptu art projects).
If you have a bit of time, you can also paint mismatched vases the same color. If you’re going this route, consider a hue that will match your more permanent decor: It’s nice to have something handmade in your space to proudly gaze at — even when no guests are around.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Food Styling: Lena Abraham
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez