Had we been passengers on the Mayflower, you can bet we would not have been the Pilgrims assigned to make the Thanksgiving succotash. We would have been foraging in the woods for seasonal floral arrangements to adorn the dining table. This year, inspired by our partner The Home Depot, we've scoured our gardens and the store's aisles for inexpensive (and surprising!) items to create an easy and elegant tabletop. Here's how to recreate the look:
Photographs by John Merkl.
Above: Some years getting ready for Thanksgiving—ironing the tablecloth, polishing the silver, and arranging a complicated floral centerpiece—feels more like preparing for a NASA moon landing than a holiday. This year, we want things to be different: more relaxed. So we've put together an easy table you can start to set five minutes before the guests arrive. (Don't worry; they'll still think you've been working on it since Sunday.)
Above: We started with inspiration from the garden. Our friend Kate gave us a bag of persimmons from her tree the other day; the bright orange color is enough to set a tone for the tabletop. (If you can't get persimmons, you can substitute purply pomegranates or lemony lemons or even tangerines or apples—choose a beautiful fruit from the produce aisle at the grocery store.)
To provide a backdrop to the fruit, we're relying on greenery. We trimmed 2-foot-long boughs from a bay tree in the yard. As a substitute, you can use privet (extra points for the dark purple berries), euonymous, camellia, olive, or evergreen boughs from your yard.
As an accent, we're adding scabiosa pods and DIY gilded walnuts. Here's how to make the walnuts:
Above: We bought 15 whole walnuts at the grocery store and then painted them. A 10-ounce can of water-based Martha Stewart Vintage Gold Satin Metallic Paint (dries to the touch in 30 minutes) is $5.48 and a three-brush Martha Stewart Artist Brush Set is $5.97 from The Home Depot.
Above: We're foregoing the high-maintenance tablecloth this year. Instead, we're using a brown paper runner along the length of the table. If somebody spills a glass of red wine on it, no problem. A 180-foot roll of 18-inch-wide Brown All Purpose Masking Paper is $3.97 at The Home Depot; for narrower dining tables, consider a 12-inch-wide roll of 1-Ft. Brown All Purpose Masking Paper for $2.97.
Above: We placed our greenery, fruit, and walnuts directly on the brown paper runner: no need for a vase or vessel. The free-form design is nice and low, so you can see the person across the table.
Above: Our best find (if we may say so ourselves): plumbing supplies repurposed as candlesticks. We bought five lead-free brass adapters normally used to connect pipes and gave them a more elegant purpose for the evening. A 3/4-Inch SharkBite Brass PushFit Adapter is $6.98 from The Home Depot.
We love tapers at the table—they add vertical interest to a table with a low centerpiece—but if they're too tall, they look like a seance. To avoid that, we are pressing into service used candles. We found these five dripless candles in a drawer in the dining room sideboard; used at a previous party, they're the perfect height.
Above: A seating arrangement is a must; otherwise the guests automatically gravitate to someone they already know all too well, and where's the fun of that? To hold simple place cards, we are using 3/4-inch Mini Spring Clamps; 48 cents apiece at The Home Depot.
Above: Yes, we said 48 cents apiece. At that price, we could afford enough mini clamps to try different arrangements.
Above: We think a 3-inch-wide wood-handled Martha Stewart Linen Dragger Brush is just the thing to brush crumbs from the table; $6.98 at The Home Depot.
Above: Complete the look with white dishes, your best silver (we are leaving ours tarnished this year—the dark color goes well with the rough brown paper runner), and many bottles of wine.
What's your go-to Thanksgiving tabletop tip? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below.