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How to style your dining room for Thanksgiving

As you become preoccupied with the process of decorating your home for Thanksgiving, don’t neglect that central area designated for eating. Thanksgiving is the holiday that brings family and friends around the table to eat a fabulous meal, catch up, relax, and perhaps do a little planning for the next holiday event. Although the kitchen is so, so important — the dining room is where the host and guests spend the most time. This gives you the opportunity to ramp up your decorating skills and go that extra mile to make everything perfect.

Consider height and spacing at the table

No, we don’t mean are your guests tall, what we mean is your decorations shouldn’t be so tall that your guests have to keep moving around to see across the table. If you are going to have a  full table, don’t overcrowd with small decorations between settings — go for a center focal point at a reasonable height.

This also holds true if you are decorating a sideboard. If you are putting serving dishes out buffet style on a sideboard, remember you are going to have people moving around with serving utensils and elbows flying. You don’t want decorations getting knocked over or knocked into the mashed potatoes.

Embrace those seasonal colors

Fall colors are so cozy, so be sure to use warm yellows, oranges, deeper browns, moody greens, and rust or deeper reds. If you are lucky enough to have trees and shrubs that cooperate with greenery that changes color for the seasons, do take some cuttings to use on the table. You might also place greenery in vases near areas where guests will congregate.

If you’ve got side chairs in the dining room, use throws in similar fall colors to the decorations on the table; you can even change out your throw rugs to help carry your color scheme. You can’t go wrong using a table runner down the center of your dining room table. That will leave plenty of room for dishes and utensils. Think texture and layering, but just in the center of the table and the runner.

Use a runner with fall colors and then use a fabric placemat or a smaller runner in the middle. You can use a different fabric for the placement in the center of the table as long as it doesn’t cause your decorations or food bowls to tip.

Pumpkins and produce — use them wisely

There’s a plethora of pumpkins about and you may be tempted to go pumpkin crazy — resist, resist we say! It’s Thanksgiving and you are styling your dining room for Thanksgiving, not a Halloween party. There are big pumpkins, small pumpkins, glittery pumpkins, two-tone pumpkins, and surely there will be black pumpkins hanging around from Halloween. Use two or three pumpkins in varied heights and sizes on the table. If you’re mad for mini pumpkins, use them on side tables and feel free to use them in the living room on end tables and the mantel.

Thanksgiving cornucopia

For Thanksgiving, you can’t go wrong with a cornucopia. Put the biggest item in the middle to anchor it and then surround with colorful gourds, leaves showing their fall splendor, and a few sprigs of red berries to provide some great accents.

But fall produce is your friend! An eggplant in a rich purple or even graffiti eggplants with their creamy white and purple colors will look great. Yellow and green squash and even some oranges will add fabulous color. Trail greenery or leaves on each side of the cornucopia down the runner to add interest and move your design throughout the table. 

And then there’s candles

The soft glow of candles adds elegance and a great ambience. Candles in varied heights, from tea candles to tapers, is a super idea. Keep height in mind, you don’t want someone passing the rolls across the table and setting their sleeve on fire!

Cluster the candles in groupings, and use different colored candles and containers. Think about scents though; that watermelon candle may be the perfect color and in the perfect container, but do you want the watermelon scent wrestling with cinnamon and pumpkin spice? You don’t have to light every candle. Use them for color accents and for texture.

Sure, use metallics for accents

Use a copper pot filled with fall produce and florals for your centerpiece and you can use copper utensils and smaller copper containers down the runner for your decorations. Use that gold-edged plate or bowl that you have for bread or rolls. If you’ve got gold tableware you never use — now is the time!

Fill a shiny silver colander with greenery, fall-colored leaves, pumpkins, and gourds. If you are thinking rustic and cozy, use that well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet as a design focal point on your table.

sparkly Thanksgiving tables capeThanksgiving is a time for connecting with family and friends — and great food, of course. By deciding what color palette you are using and using variations on it, you will have a great design. You can mix patterns with the solid colors of fall to add interest and dimension. To keep your Thanksgiving as stress free as possible, set your table and your side decorations up the night before the big day. The next morning, take a look at how you styled your dining room for Thanksgiving and add or edit as needed.

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Kathleen Ostrander
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kathleen has worked for United Press International and she's written about everything from style to pets for newspapers…
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