With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s nearly time to start thinking about how you’re going to set the table. Whether you’ll be hosting a big family dinner or celebrating with a few close friends, we all want our Thanksgiving dinners to feel warm, festive and inviting – especially after such a rough year.
Not sure where to start? We asked Britta Butler, the founder and principal designer of Hong Kong-based interior design firm B Squared Design, to share some of her design tips for a modern yet festive Thanksgiving dinner table.
“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! As an American, it is an important ritual of food, family and the home,” says Butler, who is originally from upstate New York. “There is nothing better than being surrounded by loved ones with the smell of a turkey and pies in the oven, sitting around a beautiful table.”
For Americans everywhere, an authentic Thanksgiving starts with the food: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie… the list goes on and on. “But most importantly,” adds Butler, “it is a day to spend time with people you love, whether they are friends or family (sometimes one and the same), in a setting that’s decorated to put you in the holiday mood.”
The key to capturing that joyful holiday spirit, she says, is to keep things simple. No need for excessive decor, thematic orange accents, turkey figurines or plaid tablecloths. You can still inject a seasonal, festive feeling without all the distracting bells and whistles. Here are a few more of Britta’s top tips for a more modern, minimalist Thanksgiving dinner table:
Tip 1: Choose a simple color palette
The first step for styling your Thanksgiving table – or really any dinner setting – is to choose a color palette and a simple theme. It may seem natural to reach for a smattering of the most seasonal shades: after all, oranges, browns, yellows, reds and greens are often associated with Thanksgiving.
But Butler says these bold, bright colors can quickly feel overwhelming, if not predictable.
“This year I’m going with a range of grays, silver, and greens and a ‘leaves’ theme for my Thanksgiving table. It’s a less expected color palette, but still feels warm and festive,” says Butler. “I would also recommend that you limit your palette to two to three colors, and then work with a variety of tones within each color family.”
This strategy not only adds depth but naturally creates a more cohesive look and keeps things “pared down and modern”, she adds. But suppose you have your heart set on using more traditionally autumnal colors. In that case, Butler suggests choosing deeper, richer jewel tones – like crimson or amber – as accents, which look sophisticated and recall beautiful fall foliage. Essentially, Butler explains, you want to strike a balance between modern and inviting.
Tip 2: Play with textures
When she is designing homes in Hong Kong, Butler is a huge proponent of playing with complementary textures because it adds a layer of complexity, looks elegant – and feels great, too.
For Butler, setting her Thanksgiving table is no different:
“I love to use plates and bowls made with beautiful natural materials, combined with sparkling glassware,” she says. “You can also incorporate texture with a touch of metallic for a bit of bling or sumptuous fabrics – maybe in the napkins, tablecloth or table runner – for a captivating combination.”
When it comes to tablecloths, Butler says there is no hard and fast rule. “If you have a particularly gorgeous table, then you might not want to cover the entire thing. In this case, if you still want to have some type of fabric, you could go for a runner down the center. Festive placemats are also another option that lets you decorate without covering up the table.”
Tip 3: Choose your glassware and tableware carefully
Glassware and tableware are the “building blocks” of any Thanksgiving table, says Butler. They not only set the mood but ensure that the feast you’ve prepared looks all the more appetizing. “Plates, glasses, silverware… they are often the first thing you notice when you enter the dining room,” she adds. “So I am very particular – I want my tableware to be timeless, beautiful and elegant.”
For Thanksgiving, BOMSHBEE’s Chandelier Eidos glasses and Posh Snack Bowls serve as an ideal vessel for cranberry and gravy. Likewise, the Tinge Porcelain dinnerware collection and Chime Five-Piece Flatware collection provide touchable textures and just enough personality without overpowering the food. When it comes to glassware, BOMSHBEE’s O Wine glasses and O Champagne flutes add just enough sparkle to capture that celebratory mood – a must for a memorable Thanksgiving gathering. Of course, the turkey is always the star of the show, and you can ensure it gets the attention it deserves with BOMSHBEE’s versatile Eclipse Oval or Round Serving Platter, which doubles as a plate for vegetables, mashed potatoes and other side dishes.
Tip 4: Greenery is always a good idea
Fresh leaves, flowers, ivy, pinecones, seasonal wheat ears… bringing a touch of nature indoors will instantly elevate your Thanksgiving table setting. “I always like to have some kind of greenery inside, especially at the dining table,” she says. “That way, when the meal is over and you’ve cleared the dishes, there is still a lovely vase of flowers, leafy greens, or something of that nature, to keep the table festive.”
Tip 5: Don’t forget a few special touches
“It’s really inviting to have an eye-catching centerpiece to anchor the table,” she says. “I also like to add a few individual accents, such as a hand-tied piece of twine as a napkin ring. It gives your setting a thoughtful, personal touch.”
If you’re dining in the evening, rather than the afternoon, she also suggests lighting a few small, simple candles and peppering them around the table. “Dinner parties need candles! Tea lights in lovely holders are a great way to achieve a beautiful-yet-understated look,” says Butler. “If you stay within a limited color palette and add a few individual touches that tie into your theme, then it’s easy to strike a balance between modern and still warm and inviting.”
Photo Credits: Ben Marans Photography