A Feast for the Eye

Thanksgiving-inspired tablescapes that invite your guests to linger.

Thanksgiving is all about gathering—food from the harvest shared with family and friends to return thanks for its bounty. Dish up some wow-factor with your turkey this year, too, by creating inventive tablescapes for the Thanksgiving table and beyond. We have thoughts aplenty of novel possibilities for holiday entertaining stations that are both convenient and convivial.

Start by taking inventory of your furniture and accessories. Consider moving pieces out of their usual spots to improve traffic flow, especially in areas of smaller homes that tend to get crowded such as the bar. The foyer is not just a passageway—it is auxiliary serving space for holiday guests. This area is readily accessible upon entry, makes superb use of a large and beautiful space that is often underused in older homes, and keeps guests out of the kitchen—which needs to be reserved for the serious food prep a major feast demands. In this foyer, a long Lucite console serves as a functional sideboard, creating an ideal tablescape for the bar without taking up much space, visually or literally. The sleek bright orange lacquer tray strikes a bold counterpoint to the foil damask wallpaper. This comfortable mix of contemporary and traditional updates a classic setting. Juxtapose velvety roses in fall colors with berries such as hypericum to accentuate the textural contrast.

This dramatic table arrangement for the main harvest feast—which is anchored by a luxurious suede cloth from Lynchburg leather company Moore & Giles, embossed on one side to look like shark skin—puts a new spin on the fabulous textures and shapes found in nature. Autumn’s iconic orange is present, but in the classic form of roses. The natural tone and unusual texture of dried lichens (glued onto picks) arrest the eye even more when juxtaposed with roses. The large orange ceramic vase imparts an Asian flavor, but after all, isn’t the blending of cultures what the first Thanksgiving was all about? Branches of ripened, native persimmons lend a glowing complement to the soft, blue-green foliage of seeded eucalyptus. The lighter-colored seeds echo the striking lime green tones of Asclepias physocarpa, a balloon-like variety of milkweed, as do the linen napkins and etched glassware. Add a bowl of osage oranges for a final fillip to this warm tablescape that will make guests want to linger.

Consider other table surfaces for tableaux when the gathering is large and spill-over entertaining space is desirable. Here, an aqua, gold-dotted chest is a vintage Drexel Heritage piece from the 1960s, lifted to new life with faux finishes. Dried bittersweet encircles an oversized glass vase. Spiny okra pods project nice vertical lines and last for years. They can be sprayed gold or green, but the dark natural tone produced when they are simply allowed to dry on the plant provides an interesting contrast to both the vase and the vivid Caribbean Blue Water wall color.

At dinner parties, people tend to gather first in the kitchen, but if you harvest pleasing elements from the garden and place them strategically around your home, they attract guests like magnets and provide warming autumnal backdrops for conversation.Tired of pumpkins and gourds? Grow cascading stems of bright Chinese lantern and mix them with chocolate brown locust pods. Bundles of wheat can stand vertically or be interspersed with fiery pyracantha berries or purple ligustrum berry clusters. Plumes of grasses give strong line to centerpieces as can animal feathers, often rich in color. Objects from nature become objets d’art when you showcase them with a discerning eye.

Rethink every space in your home, combining style and function. Remove the framed pictures from an interesting side table or from the baby grand and drape it with a shining silk for the dessert station. Or create a tablescape of unusual natural objects that can be appreciated at close range—line a tray with polished buckeyes and place it on an ottoman for your after dinner drinks, like seasonal hot apple cider laced with spiced rum.

This Thanksgiving, boldly go where you have never gone before, accessorizing with a fresh eye for a great mix. Throw in some startling forms and textures from nature. Your cranberry salad and stuffing will never look better. •Also, consider encircling a round mirror trivet with okra pods to accentuate a particular dish for a tiny tablescape.Tea canisters on the mantle lend an exotic air to a simple bouquet of dried bittersweet. Reproductions of papier mache originals, these containers are covered with grasscloth and hand painted. The Benjamin Moore wall paint, Black Iron, contrasts with the stark white woodwork, accentuating period trim. Awash with light from the wall of windows in the morning, the black color recedes into the evening, allowing the hues of food and flower presentation to excite the senses.

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