Gretchen’s Tips for Setting a Gorgeous Thanksgiving Table
Like many people, I faced a number of challenges this year. This past summer, my beloved father passed away after an extended illness, and instantly my world changed forever. My mother is also struggling with serious health issues, so we are all treasuring every moment we have with her. Life vicissitudes are inevitable, and this year I was given a large load to bear. But, I found that something unexpected happened as a result: after a year of personal hardships, I have never been more grateful for what I have in life.
Thanksgiving has always been a very special holiday to me—after all it’s about decorating, cooking and spending time with your family—what could be more perfect. This year in particular, I am acutely aware of the added benefit of true gratefulness. Most of us are very blessed, and being thankful for this—despite setbacks—is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.
Aside from my family, two things for which I am particularly grateful this Thanksgiving are you, our customers, and our amazing team at Decorist. Every day I get to wake up and do my dream job, with an incredibly talented (and really funny) group of people, and together we obsess over making more people love their homes through great design. As a way to say heartfelt thank you for entrusting your homes to us, today I am welcoming you into my home to share some of the ways I incorporate Thanksgiving gratitude and traditions (and of course a tip or two) into all of the cooking and decorating madness we all love to love.
Incorporate Family Experiences
They say the things that bring you true happiness are not material, but experiential, and I could not agree more. As a family we love to travel, and when we do, we typically we don’t buy a lot of souvenirs (luckily furniture and accessories are exempt from this rule!), we “find” them—shells, branches, pinecones, coral—from wherever we are and display these found treasures on our bookshelves, like a kind of living souvenir wall. The kids love to bring their friends here and tell their tales of adventure (who doesn’t, right?).
For our Thanksgiving table this year, I took mementos from our family trips and worked them into the table, and now our table has its own story to tell, and I know our dinner will be filled with lots of discussion of great memories.
My daughter’s place setting includes a piece of coral from a family trip to Hawaii this past summer. My mom came with us on this trip; she had just finished 3 rounds of chemo so we were celebrating. One day, we went boating and an amazing thing happened: my mom is afraid of fish (and as a result will never go in open water), but somehow, on this day, we managed to get her snorkeling of all things. Within minutes, we were all surrounded by a pod of incredibly gorgeous dolphins, and I have never seen her look so enthralled. It was like we were on another planet—the huge dolphins were swimming all around us, against a deep azure sea, and sunlight rays beamed down to make everything sparkle. Pure, priceless magic.
Aunt Bobby’s China? Pull it Out!
It’s Not So Frumpy
I know old china can feel well, old, or like work or overwhelming, but I would encourage you to just use it—it’s a lot cooler and easier than you think. Small doses can be great—an aged serving piece, carving set or plate can instantly give your table a richness and depth all new pieces can never do. Just pick something out that speaks to you and work it in—you will be surprised how easy things can flow together. Plus, it’s a great way to remember your loved ones on this special day.
Mix and Match Old and New
One stylish way to incorporate old dishes and tableware is to mix and match it. In the photo above, I combined a set of safari china my husband’s Great Aunt Bobbie gave to us—she was an avid world traveler and shared our passion for learning about other cultures through travel experiences. On top of that I placed a salad plate from our wedding china (just a bit of wedding china, it’s OK!) and on top of that some gorgeous appetizer plates from Nate Berkus’ latest Target collection. It all feels like it belongs, and I love the contrasting metals and motifs. In the corner is a vintage Old Fashioned glass that I use as a votive—the candlelight peeks through the gaps in the gold pattern and looks stunning at night. Instant glamour.
Above, an antique carving set; my two boys are pretty enamored with these. Game of Thrones anyone?
Flowers. Flowers. Flowers.
I am a huge fan of fresh flowers, and think you can create amazing arrangements without breaking the bank. This year, I enlisted the help of the very talented Sharla Flock of to take my table to a new level. Sharla has this incredible style where she combines very organic elements with elegant florals and the result is always a showstopper. I couldn’t wait until she came over!
When Sharla brought the flowers by I was amazed by how much depth and richness her arrangements contained. She used everything from branches and greenery from near her house to gorgeous cotton branches and pure white roses. Layers, textures, colors and scents were everywhere. These arrangements are truly works of art, and there is something incredibly poetic about the fact that their presence here is very finite. In two days, they will no longer be with us, so today, I am really thankful to experience them. And thankful to Sharla for creating them!
Sharla’s design for the entryway. Totally, insanely beautiful. Yes, those are real cotton branches! Add some lichen, magnolia, acacia, tulips, eucalyptus pods, astrantia, spray roses, calla lilies and more. One hot number now in my entryway. Bring on the turkey.
Me questioning Sharla intensely about every detail of her work. I am obsessed!
I love how she mixes rustic air plants with sophisticated arrangements all on one table-it works effortlessly and gives a casual vibe to the room. It all paired perfectly with my rustic horn candelabra, made a bit more dramatic with black candles. You always have a bit of drama, so why not place it yourself?
Showstopper. This will make the cooking all worth it!
Sharla and I had so much fun for Thanksgiving, we are going to do a “How To” class on floral arranging—coming next week! I guarantee Sharla can transform anyone of you into a floral master in no time. Stay tuned for more details.
Last but Not Least, Start it Off Right
OK, I admit, I splurge a bit on champagne. Somehow, it makes everything else seem nicer, more elevated. Just like great sheets. I inherited these amazing old crystal Baccarat champagne coupes, and what a better way to use them but with nice champagne and family. Next to the coupes is a bird’s nest we found on a tree outside our back stairs—we watched all spring as the bird parents tended their eggs with obsessive care. Then, one summer day, the birds and chicks moved on, leaving us the nest. We lacquered it and it now lives on our bookshelf as well. Notice the killer Charak Modern chest? That was from our Aunt Bobbie as well, that lady had some serious style. We are thinking of you.
A very special thanks to the uber talented for the stunning photographs, taken and delivered in really record time. She created all the incredible photographs in this post. We could not have done it without you Juila! I know you will do great things with your gift.
Cheers to you and your family, on this Thanksgiving day. I hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating with whomever you hold close, and I hope you feel as grateful for what you have as I do.
All my best,