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Back when I was a kid, the meal on the Thanksgiving table was the "piece de resistance," and theme-oriented tables and place settings just really weren't a thing.
I grew up in British Columbia, Canada, with a whole lot of English influence so fine china and good gravies were standard fare. I loved watching my Mum set up for holiday suppers, using attention to detail that spanned from her mashed potatoes to the shag carpet.
Oh-- standby younger generations, I can explain!
When company was coming in the 70's, we got out something called a "rug-rake," so that we could fluff up the wall-to-wall shag carpet and cover any signs of use. TBH, there was something super satisfying about this chore, including figuring out a strategy not to "rake yourself in" and trample some of the carpet to "get out."
With the carpet raked, the dining table leaf needed to go in, and a quilted pad followed, "to protect the table finish." Sooooo opposite the reclaimed wood, or rustic tables many have now, right?
Finally, the freshly ironed tablecloth that Mum saved for these special occasions was snapped into place, and tapered candlesticks from the curio cabinet went into polished silver holders.
By now, the table was magical and once the meal was served, and the plates cleared, the real fun began. My extended family sat for hours having tea, pumpkin pies (Dad made them!) and we laughed and chatted, and such rich memories were made.
But the accoutrements of 2021 show just how far we have evolved from the sensible place settings of yesteryear. Tables now, have a vast array of unexpected surprises and themes and the sky is the limit-- so is the price point. So that is exactly what I want to play with as we prepare to Give Thanks.
THE REFRESH focuses on design for everybody: "Everyone has a style; everyone has a story--let's discuss."
So, let's do it! Let's look at different designs and talk about ways we can celebrate this time of year no matter how you want your special meal to look on your holiday table.
This holiday cropped up around 2007.
Often Thanksgiving is with family, but Friendsgiving can be with your besties, a group of couples, whatever your tribe may be. And you better take it seriously, my friends.
This event has its own set of Commandments. One of them is "Thou Shalt Have Place Settings" so it's probably best you comply, if you plan to partake.
I understood the assignment, so I added succulents I found in my daughter's bedroom, some little white lights, I took the advice of my Gen Z Social Media Manager, Erica, and used gold cutlery. Some pastel spray paint got the gourds looking on brand, and it all looked SUPER CUTE together!
REFRESH HACK: I was looking around the house for things that could dress up this table and I found remnants from some peel and stick wallpaper I used in the guest room. It has fun positive mantras in gold cursive and was easy to cut into placemats and stick onto the paper tablecloth, and there is zero concern if any red Friendsgiving wine ends up on it! That's another commandment FYI-- "Thou Shalt Bring (and share) Wine. "
The full list is here.
Let's dial things wayyyy back and go fresh and clean for your Thanksgiving table. Here is a look that brings in greens of various kinds and textures, and sets them all next to a backdrop of snowy white. I threw in the rattan placemat just to add to the natural vibe of this table, and didn't go fancy with the silverware color, keeping it basic silver.
This place setting is easy to create because you may have some of these pieces already around the house. Plain white dishes, simple white candles bunched into a pretty cluster, some white vases or decor. That is a little clear vase left over from a condiment and look how cute it looks with some boxwood I grabbed from the yard? The monstera leaves can be faux or real, you can get them from the florist or cut them off the plant if you have one and in water, they last for a long time.
REFRESH HACK: You bought the rosemary and garlic for the meal, but you probably won't use all of it, so why not incorporate it into your decor? Pinch a bit of the rosemary off and tie it into your napkin with some baker's twine. If you have some garlic that has started to sprout, use it as part of your table settings... it does't have a strong smell until it's opened. It adds an unexpected but fitting twist to a holiday table.
Groceries aren't cheap these days, and extra pocket change for a pretty table setting might not be on the priority list. Plus-- think about it, why spend more on "new" when you can be sustainable and save $ with the "old?"
Let's get crafty, have some fun, and go thrifting!
I love a Goodwill find, and I purposely left the price tags on these, to show you how pretty a $6 setting can be! Obviously, what you find when you go into your favorite thrift store will vary, but no matter the treasure it can be styled into something thats one of a kind and beautiful AND affordable.
REFRESH HACK: Sometimes you will strike gold and find a matching dish set, other times just embrace the mix and match and make the eclectic combination intentional. Go one step further, and buy some $5 wooden chairs from a thrift store that you paint in a variety of colors. It's cheaper than the cost of renting a table and chair set and SO much more stylish!
The memories of Grandma's table during the holidays can be strong and comforting, and you might be most at ease channeling your childhood this time of year. So go traditional and OWN it! And Millennials, I know you love yourself some vintage, so redo traditional the way you did toast (avocado, much?) and just reimagine what you saw on tables many moons ago. Use your fresh taste, tech-savvy know how, and come up with something so new that traditional has a new lease on life.
Traditional and vintage and elegant does not have to mean expensive! You can thrift this style of table too, and that's exactly what I did. Here in New England, it's not that tricky to find Johnson and Bros. fine china and even though someone pays a mint for it, it doesn't have to be you. This thrifted place setting was $3. I picked the leaves from the yard and put them in a vase and added some balsam scented pine cones from Trader Joe's.
I tend to try to remember three things when making place settings:
Pick a theme and stay true to it-- don't be tempted to add other cute, random things just because you have them, stay on brand or soon your intended "look" will get muddied.
Bring the outdoors in-- do this by using leaves or sticks in a pretty glass vase, different pieces of wood or stones styled on the table, greens from the yard in various vessels.
Make sure it functions! -- In the end, you need to be able to eat from the setting, so if there is soup, make sure you have a soup spoon, etc. and even if you are serving fancy drinks, have water glasses too, your guests will be grateful.
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<------ To read our last article, Aiken For a New Look click HERE