With almost 30 years in the design biz under her belt, Annie takes a decidedly no-stress approach to holiday decorations. Today she’s sharing her top five tips for Thanksgiving dining room decor that puts the emphasis where it belongs: on you, your guests, and a comfortable, memorable day of celebration.
1. Plan your color palette in advance. Annie likes to use a different decorating palette every year, and usually bases her choice on single inspirational décor item, like a vintage tablecloth from her mom’s collection or a gorgeous Indian shawl repurposed as a table runner (simply fold in a couple inches on both sides and iron for polished edges). If you haven’t quite found the perfect focal piece for your Thanksgiving color palette, no worries: fall foliage is a classic, can’t go-wrong foundation. Solid neutral plates and bowls are easiest to coordinate with colorful table linens (bonus: neutral dinnerware better shows off the fruits of all your kitchen labor), but don’t be afraid to mix colored or patterned dinnerware with table linens that feature complementary patterns—small patterns on the linens for large-patterned or graphic dinnerware, and vice versa.
2. Choose three or four well-placed holiday decorations. A few bits of fall décor go a long way toward creating an inviting ambience, without making the space look like the aisles of a craft store—or taking attention away from the star of the show: the Thanksgiving table. Annie loves a fall centerpiece and festive place settings on the dining table, plus a wreath on the door or wall, and a sideboard vignette made of mini pumpkins or gourds, some greenery, and a few clear-glass candleholders or decorative objects of different heights. Set these up the week before the holiday and you’ve got one less task on your to-do list the day of. And if you’re not in love with store-bought Thanksgiving decorations, try these easy-to-make, fall-friendly paper crafts.
3. Prep your table linens. The week before Thanksgiving, take all of the table linens you plan to use out of storage and send them for a quick spin through the wash. Even if they’re dryer-friendly, dry them only partway, and hang the still-damp linens to dry; this will minimize wrinkling. If they still need ironing or steaming, do it a few days beforehand, and carefully fold or hang them, in a place where they’re unlikely to be disturbed by either humans or pets, until you’re ready to set the table. If your linens aren’t looking quite as perky as you remember, treat yourself and your guests to some new ones.
4. Set up your centerpiece. Whether you buy a holiday centerpiece or make it yourself, keep this golden rule in mind: it should add some height to the table, but it shouldn’t be so tall that guests have stretch over or peer around it just to talk to someone on the other side. Annie is partial to squat, full arrangements of fresh flowers; rustic centerpieces crafted by hand from dried, seasonal leaves and flowers; and gourds of different shapes and sizes placed in a long vignette that runs much of the length of the table.
5. Think comfort and easy access. Holidays decorations can be beautiful, but they’re hard to appreciate when they prevent guests from reaching for seconds or getting up to use the loo. There’s a reason that focal point is called a centerpiece, so make sure it’s in the middle of the table and doesn’t interfere with guests’ glasses, napkins, or utensils. This goes double for votive candles, which can easily be knocked over when set between place settings. Skip any back-of-chair decorations like bows or fabric swaths, which can attach themselves to guests’ clothing or wind up underfoot on the floor. Instead, put your decorating dollars into seat cushions, which serve two important purposes: they help guests stay comfortable during the long stretch at the table, and they’re another opportunity to bring in colors that coordinate with your palette.
For even more of Annie’s insider tips on prepping the ultimate holiday table, check out this post.