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Thanksgiving Tablescapes Ideas (& How to Work With What You Already Own)

Photo: Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Griffith Park Formal Dining Room Reveal

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. While its origins are less than admirable (a clear understatement), I am absolutely in support of taking time to recognize and be thankful for all the good in our lives because it can be easy to lose sight of it. There’s no pressure of gifting…it’s just about getting together, gratitude and love. Oh, and in my family, it’s also about LRC, a dice game we play every year and I WILL WIN THIS YEAR IF IT KILLS ME. Moving on…

Aside from all the rainbows and butterflies and good feelings, let’s not overlook a key part of this holiday: the food. Arguably the best part of any holiday. But there tends to be this pressure (especially in the age of Pinterest and Instagram) that our tables need to look PERFECT and up on the current trends. However much like some family members that shall not be named, you can’t replace all your plates and flatware for every holiday. In my family, we have this pretty ugly although “very special” China that was passed down from my great-grandmother. To paint a picture for you, they are cream with a dangerously bold brown and gold foliage design. Oh and how could I forget the ornate gold flatware (not the pretty modern kind that looks like it’s from Food52). Now, while these plates are not something I would EVER buy for myself, does it really feel like Thanksgiving at home without them? The answer: Not really.

Emily Henderson Thanksgiving Tablescapes Inspo 7
Photo: Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Setting the Table with Parachute’s New Table Linens

So instead of rounding up completely new ideas with all the latest and greatest for your Thanksgiving table this year, we decided to try to create a few beautiful tablescapes with styles of plates and flatware that the majority of people already own. Adding a few new styling pieces like table linens, candlesticks, flowers etc. could make your table feel brand new without it actually being “NEW.” No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. KEEP THE BABY! Maybe just swap out the water.

With that said, here are a couple of our tried and true quick tips for an easy Thanksgiving tablescape refresh.

Photo by Sarah Elliott | Design by Athena Calderone of Eyeswoon

Taper Candles & Candlestick Holders

These puppies are BIG impact for very little effort and aren’t too $$$ if you don’t want them to be. You can buy super affordable taper candles and almost every home store has candlestick holders. So take your pick! Another fun option is to go to thrift shops for a vintage eclectic look like the one Athena Calderone of Eyeswoon did in the picture above. More is more with this look so as long as you’re not worried the fire department will need to be called, we say go for it and use a bunch. HOT STYLING TIP: Keep them staggered (i.e. don’t just clump them together in the center of the table…spread those babies out). It feels more organic and collected. Plus, your family will be very impressed by your stying skills.

Photo by My Little Fabric

Table Linens

It’s not uncommon for people to have different sets of table linens in their home for different holidays. Sure, maybe this is partly because some are stained from the previously mentioned “family member” spilling red wine all over the table, but also because they’re easier to store than hundreds of seasonal plates. We love the idea of mixing up the linens. Saturated colors always feel festive but if that isn’t your style, then neutral, fun patterns are a great way to add visual interest to any tablescape. We just recommend when buying new holiday linens to avoid ones that scream SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. This way everything will stay timeless and sophisticated. The idea is to pick linens that you could easily use in January, in April, in September. They shouldn’t FEEL seasonal, but special enough to use during key holidays.

Emily Henderson Thanksgiving Tablescapes Inspo 1
Photo by Greg Ross

Flowers & Greenery

I think it’s safe to say that everyone at EHD loves flowers. The more the better if I do say so myself. But aside from them just being wonderful in general, they are an excellent and easy addition to a festive tablescape. Grab (or make if you are crafty) a leafy garland and run it down the middle of your table, pick up a few bud vases and fill them with your favorite seasonal flowers or greenery. Even just take a spring and place it on each napkin for a fun detail. Now that we are headed into the colder months, dried florals are a great option. They look great on a table and will last past the evening so you can enjoy them through the new year. But let’s also not discount faux flowers. There are so many good ones on the market (and in this post) right now and will actually last forever. This is music to my accidental plant killing ears.

Emily Henderson Thanksgiving Tablescapes Inspo 6
Photo and Design by Homey Oh My

So now you have our tips down, let’s get into our roundups. In the spirit of keeping things accessible, we wanted to give two budget options for each of our three looks because well, we all have different budgets and we all should be able to get the look if we want it. Right? Now that you know what our intentions are, let’s dive into a fresh bath shall we? I think I took this analogy too far but I’m leaving it. 🙂

First up, we have our “Traditional with a Twist” tablescape:

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1. Black Mango Wood Beckett Chargers (Set of 2) | 2. Gold Rim Dinner Plate | 3. Gold Rim Salad Plate | 4. Gold Rim Low Bowl | 5. Atwood Faux Bouquet | 6. Vintage Inspire Large Bud Vase | 7. Clear Glass Mini Vase | 8. Taper Candles (Set of 8) | 9. Vintage-Inspired Candlestick Holders (Set of 2) | 10. Nature Vintage Italian Crystal Glassware | 11. Gold Rimmed Double Old-Fashioned Glass | 12. Vintage Italian Crystal Glassware | 13. Washed Linen Napkins (Set of 2) | 14. Maxfield Flatware | 15. Linen Double Edge Table Cloth | 16. White Rectangular Serving Platter | 17. Lenox Vintage 3pc Serving Set | 18. Optic Wine Decanter | 19. Rectangle Bar Place Card Holder (Set of 6) | 20. Pewter Gravy Boat

For this first look, I kept the plates simple with a gold rim detail and the glassware etched and fancy for the base. I forgot to mention earlier the etched glassware we also inherited and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So as some of you are potentially dealing with hand-me-down China and crystal like me, the easiest way to modernize is to keep the accessories and linens simple. Think clean lines and solid colors. The brass vase and candlestick holders are traditional but not ornate and the dark maroon taper candles add a sophisticated splash of color. Now onto the linens. I didn’t want to go with your average plain white tablecloth and napkins. These options still feel classic but are made a little more special by the saturated teal of the napkins (which complement the maroon candles) and two-toned detail of the tablecloth. SPOILER ALERT: Those are faux flowers. I think I rest my case.

This is our budget version.

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1. Black Mango Wood Beckett Chargers (Set of 2) | 2. Gold Rimmed Porcelain Dinner Plate | 3. Gold Rimmed Porcelain Desert Plate | 4. Gold Rimmed Porcelain Bowl | 5. Atwood Faux Bouquet | 6. Grail Brass Footed Vase | 7. Clear Glass Mini Vase | 8. Dripless Taper Candles (Set of 12) | 9. Candle Holder (Set of 3) | 10. Etched Red Wine Glasses (Set of 4)  | 11. Beverage Glass | 12. X-Patterned Glass Goblet | 13. Linen Napkin (Set of 4) | 14. Flatware Set | 15.Natural Linen Tablecloth | 16. White Linen Tablecloth | 17. Glass Serving Platter | 18. Serving Utensils (Set of 3) | 19. Flared Wine Decanter | 20. Rectangle Bar Place Card Holder (Set of 6) | 21. Presidio Gravy Boat

I really tried to maintain the look and feel of the first one. Traditional but updated, with the same color palette. I switched out the candlesticks for these beautiful matte black ones (you may recognize them from our Threshold Fall collection living room reveal as well as the Emily’s Halloween post). They are versatile, affordable and come in a set of three. One of my favorite pieces from the original look was the two-toned tablecloth, so to recreate the look for a much lower price tag, I found these two tablecloths that you can layer on top of each other. Just make sure you buy two different sizes so you can see both colors when they are on the table.

Now let’s move on to our next look…

Here I give you “Refined Homespun”:

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1. Kraft Paper Placemats (Set of 30) | 2. Pasta Bowl | 3. Salad Plate | 4. Dinner Plate | 5. Dried Lagurus Bunch | 6. Fresh Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Bunch | 7. Blanco White Wine Glass | 8. Marta Double Old-Fashioned | 9. Dearborn Champagne Flutes (Set of 2)  | 10. Egg Vase | 11. Tapered Beeswax Candlesticks (Set of 8) | 12. Ceramic Silo Candleholder | 13. Kimber Oval Baker | 14. Serving Set | 15. Woven Cotton Napkins (Set of 4) | 16. Matte Black Flatware Set | 17. Chambray Fringe Tablecloth | 18. Blank Place Cards | 19. Small Place Card Holder (Set of 15) | 20. Ngwenya Recycled Glass Jojo Decanter | 21. Handmade Porcelain Gravy Boat

This look is all about handmade products with a heavy dose of ceramics. The homespun style has exploded over the past couple of years so many of us have similar looking items…me included. I mean I work at Emily Henderson Design. Of course I LOVE and NEED as many ceramics as my bank account will allow. So with that said, I chose these beautiful neutral ceramic plates as the base. I wanted the glassware to be delicate but interesting. The curve of the wine glass and the ribbing of the champagne flute contrast the heavy yet simple ceramic material. And because this tablescape needed some depth, I chose this matte black flatware. For a bit of pattern, I chose a simple cream and navy plaid napkin and color blocked tablecloth. One of my favorite items are the brown paper placemats. They add a simple texture, you can write the menu on them AND you can just toss them when they get undoubtedly ruined by the end of the night. That’s a win for the cleanup crew. The dried seasonal looking flowers and navy taper candles are what make this tablescape festive. They add that hint of fall that you want on your Thanksgiving table. Here’s your Homespun checklist: Neutral colors, ceramics, wood accents and hits of black.

Now ready for the budget version?

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1. Brown Butcher Paper Roll | 2. Ivory Organic Rimmed Dinner Plates (Set of 6) | 3. Ivory Organic Rimmed Salad Plates (Set of 6) | 4. Ivory Organic Bowls (Set of 6) | 5. Dried Lagarus Bunch | 6. Fresh Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Bunch | 7. Stemmed Wine Glass | 8. Short Tumbler | 9. Stemless Champagne Flute (Set of 4) | 10. Decorative Vase | 11. Blue Tapered Dripless Candles (Set of 2) | 12. Candle Holder Dish | 13. Round Speckled Covered Ceramic Baker With Spoon | 14. Serving Spoon | 15. Serving Fork | 16. Woven Cotton Napkins (Set of 4) | 17. Matte Black Flatware Set | 18. Striped Cotton Tablecloth | 19. Blank Place Cards | 20. House Place Care Holder | 21. Glass Wine Decanter | 22. Gravy Boat

Here she is. The great thing about a trend or (cough) timeless style that’s been around for a minute is that there are A LOT of great affordable options. Those plates and ceramic baker are SO GOOD. The matte black flatware is awesome and affordable. And is there a sweeter gravy boat? No. But let’s talk placemats. While the placemats from the other version are a bit pricey for the number of mats you get, I found a cheaper option. Just buy a roll of butcher paper then cut your desired placemat size. This roll is under $10. I would happily have this version be my Thanksgiving tablescape. Sorry great-grandma!

Last but not least is our Modern Metallic Thanksgiving:

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1. Placemat (Set of 4) | 2. Court Dinner Plate (Set of 8) | 3. Court Salad Plate (Set of 8) | 4. Essential 7″ Bowl (Set of 8) | 5. Modern Candlesticks (Set of 2) | 6. Candles (Set of 6) | 7. Shade Clear Wine Glass | 8. Marta Glasses (Set of 8) | 9. Monti Champagne Flutes (Set of 2)  | 10. Natural Linen Napkins (Set of 2) | 11. Smith Flatware | 12. HB Contrast Edge Table Runner | 13. Offred Serving Bowl | 14. Flecked Glass Carafe | 15. Smith Hostess Serving Set | 16. Gravy Boat | 17. Copper Place Card Holder (Set of 4) | 17. Place Cards

There is no rule that Thanksgiving can’t be a little glamorous, is there? Not to my knowledge, at least. If there is, rules are made to be broken. Again sorry great-grandmother (she loved the rules). This is our modern take on how you could style a fancy, modern Thanksgiving table. Plus, all of this is perfect to repurpose for a NYE party or fancy birthday party. The metallics add the festive factor and are the showstopper of this tablescape. Those candlestick holders are so pretty and actually come in many different colors if these aren’t your taste. While the candlestick holders are the main event on the table, they are complemented by the gold flatware, serveware and copper name card holder. Since the plates are square, I kept the glassware equally linear and simple. To contrast all the hard lines, I chose this beautiful round placemat, cylinder style serving bowl and polka dot decanter. It’s glam but not too over the top…but it’s also not cheap. Let’s move onto the budget version.

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1. Placemat | 2. White Square Dinner Plates (Set of 4) | 3. White Square Salad Plates (Set of 4) | 4. Porcelain Bowls (Set of 2) | 5. Taper Candle Holder | 6. Taper Candle Holder  | 7. Taper Candle Holder Large | 8. Tapered Candles (Set of 4) | 9. Bellavista Red Wine Glasses (Set of 4) | 10. Marta Tasting Glass (Set of 8) | 11. Cylinder Champagne Flute | 12. Pinstripe Napkin 13. 20pc Stainless Steel Silverware Set | 14. Table Runner | 15. Salad Serving Bowl | 16. Izon Mirror 2pc Serving Set | 17. Carafe | 18. Bennett Gravy Boat | 19. Copper Place Card Holders (Set of 4) | 20. Place Cards

Different but still pretty glamorous and way more affordable. I switched out the original candlestick holders for these ones from Target and they are pretty great. Don’t be afraid to mix metals. When done with thought, it looks elegant and fun. I changed the placemat for this rectangle one because the pattern of a two-tone pattern was more visually important than the shape. BUT my favorite piece is this black wooden salad bowl. It’s modern but brings in warmth with the texture of the wood. I actually think I would use it instead of the more expensive option.

OKAY! There you have it. Three looks, two budgets and one wonderful holiday full of food. I hope that you now feel excited to use your own plates, glasses and flatware and feel like a refresh is well within reach. Sometimes, all you need is a little update and not a major overhaul. Plus, it is Thanksgiving after all. The holiday of appreciating what we already have.

Let us know in the comments what you think of these looks. Did you like the two budgets? And what are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?

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5 years ago

Loving this post! I feel like 20 percent of the stuff in my home was bought from a link from this blog over the past couple of years (from pillows to plates to Sylvia’s furniture). And now, perhaps a serving platter and/or some taper candles.

Puzzler question: how does anyone use a tablecloth whilst living with kids and/or a cat? I simply can’t get a tablecloth to stay put.

5 years ago

*sigh* Why do people feel the need to jump HIGH on those horses to point out things they don’t like/disagree with? Moving on to the primary reason of the post because the tablescapes are beautiful! Thanks, for pulling this one together, Jess. I’m looking forward to adding some candlesticks (the black ones are my fav) and greenery to my Thanksgiving table. It’s amazing how just adding layering makes a table look super upscale and well-considered. Really appreciated the budget round ups, as well.

5 years ago

I love these looks, and the affordable versions you’ve shown. I really appreciate your comment about antique plates not being modern and yet being Christmas so let’s work with that (aka: I have my grandmother’s wedding china, and yes, it comes out at Christmas, but trying to have a styling table with 1940s dishes can be a challenge!) – I would have loved to see pictures with vintage family stuff AND new stuff to modernize. All your versions are gorgeous (the homespun one is my fave, but they’re all nice) but I’m not sure how to bridge the gap, still.

And I wanted to leave a quick thanks for acknowledging Thanksgiving’s… problematic… background. Everything has a history, and the history can be good and bad, and we can carry on the good while not erasing the mistakes and suffering of the past. Thanks.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ros

I would have loved to see the “ugly” vintage brown and gold china… I probably would love it, haha! I agree, it would be nice to see some of older pieces mixed in, like many of us have and struggle to make them fit in.

I love the blue tablecloth, such a pretty color, and the brass candlesticks.

5 years ago

Gah those West Elm dining chairs in the first photo…Been searching for something similar since you first posted this room reveal. Anyone have a source?

5 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Same same same. I love and hate this photo, because those chairs are EVERYTHING and yet I can’t have them. Why wouldn’t West Elm bring them back? They would make a killing!

5 years ago
Reply to  Erin

Yes!! I’ll be right here waiting with my chairless dining table ?

5 years ago

Does anyone know if health departments or other agencies will still test for the presence of lead in the gold on your inherited dishes/flatware? This was offered years ago but perhaps the need no longer exists?

The tables are gorgeous and I agree that history has much to teach us – thanks for the Lincoln info.

5 years ago
Reply to  kai

You can buy test strips at Amazon or hardware stores to check for lead. You’re more likely to find it in ceramics than gold/porcelain dishes.

5 years ago
Reply to  Cindy

OMG I had no idea this was even a problem to think about. How do you use the lead strips on ceramic? Aren’t the strips for testing water?
HELLLLP! I’ve got china, glassware, silverware…. thank God inherited (awsome) linens should be fine 😀

5 years ago

Does anyone know if health departments or other agencies will still test for the presence of lead in the gold on your inherited dishes/flatware? This was offered years ago but perhaps the need no longer exists?

The relaxed look of the tables with the linens and the natural materials are just perfect!

And I agree, honoring the past and giving thanks today are not mutually exclusive.

5 years ago

Love this, and thank you for including inspiration with tablecloths. The rustic wood tabletop exposed with a runner seems to be so popular right now, but I inherited my grandma’s not-rustic, wooden dining table and I want to protect it from the chaos of a Thanksgiving meal. Your comments re merging inherited items with modern accents is both my style and my reality, so that traditional “get the look” is perfect—thank you.

Sherrie S
5 years ago

You could cut your own craft paper placements for 1/10 of the price from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby

5 years ago

Am I missing the actual ideas for mixing in what you already have? Are the tips just use candles and linens? Every single inspiration photo shows things that seem brand new or are incredibly easy to make look great because they are simple and classic. Why don’t you crowd source questions from readers who send photos of must use items for their holiday table and then you can put together table ideas that complement that piece. For example, we all know someone who inherited a Lenox Christmas dish set and feels guilty not using it. Now using that in a chic way would be a real challenge. Or go to the nearest vintage/antique store and buy a few platters or serving bowls and then style those in to be more modern.

5 years ago

Ok. Your mother-law will wait for you to do her tablescape❤️

5 years ago

Why does everything, including something as simple and nice as tablescapes, have to be burdened with a poorly thought out silly attempt at a PC comment? It’s exhausting!!

5 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

… Because our holidays, and cultural consciousness, are formed by our collective history (… and genocides).

I understand that some readers don’t want to read about ‘PC comments’, but I’ll throw in some support from a reader who appreciates balancing the reality of celebrating everyday life and traditional family holidays with an acknowledgement of (occasionally horrifying) shared history and an attempt to try and do better in the future.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ros

I agree with Ros. There is nothing wrong with pointing out a hope for a new and better reason for this holiday rather than the atrocities of its origin.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ros

You’re correct. I don’t want to be burdened with PC comments when I’m reading about place settings. Is there nowhere to go these days that is free of this intrinsic need to ruin everything that is traditional in this country? It’s tiring and just simply unnecessary!!

Loveley of
5 years ago
Reply to  Ros

YES! thank you. let’s not always ignore the realities of history.

5 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

I was excited to read and see the tablescapes until I stumbled over the first sentence, which felt like a gut punch. Not at all what I am looking for when I sit down to relax and look at one of my favorite blogs. I would encourage you to read beyond your public school education and the political correctness, often bias, and outright historical lies and manipulation. Please read something different and try to at the least have an understanding and a love for those of us from a Christian faith and a different outlook. You might actually learn something new. In this season I’m thankful for many generations of faithful family and a God that I wish everyone could know the depth of His love. Please consider reading The American Indian: A Standing Indictment of Christianity and Statism in America By RJ Rushdooney. He was a missionary to the Indians for 8 years in the 1940’s and was able to interview many native Americans Indians not born on reservations. Rushdoony himself was conceived in Armenia during the Christian genocide in 1916. His parents barely made it out alive. His first hand accounts depict a different story from anything I… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Carrie

Wow. I’m blown away by your comment. What could have been an example of another POV ( which is always welcome) turned into a nasty dig about “ public school education “. How unfortunate. Pray to your God for better manners and a bit of kindness this holiday season!

5 years ago
Reply to  Morgan

I’m European, but I can’t really understand how someone could be upset about a “PC comment” like the one in the post. Do you seriously believe native americans were not slaughtered? If yes, I’m astonished. I mean, that’s not Jess’s opinion, that’s fact. If on the other hand you do know native americans were slaughtered and you still consider this a “PC comment”, well, I’m even more astonished. I mean, what’s your view? Yeah, hundreds of people were killed and forced to leave their homes, but we had God on our side so whatever?
Besides she didn’t say “let’s stop celebrating this holiday because of how it started”. She said she loves this holiday DESPITE how it started. That sounds very reasonable.

5 years ago
Reply to  Laura

i really appreciate your comment as an outsider looking in. it seems some people here in America want to completely ignore the horrors that the Native Americans suffered and pretend this country as it is now was founded on rainbows and butterflies.

5 years ago

As always thanks for taking the time to inspire us with great ideas .

5 years ago

Yepper………….LRC is Mandatory at our Thanksgiving celebrations as well !!! That and starting a Christmas puzzle while watching Dallas play football! Here’s hoping you win this year, Emily !!! PS – ignore the haters……..

5 years ago

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the inclusion of multiple price points on the different tablescape styles! Although it would have been nice to see some more photographic examples of the kind of use what you have mixing talked about in the post. Great job all around though!

Loveley of
5 years ago

1. Love the concept of this post because I think this is a very common thing, and thought not everyone cares about whether their inherited or non-trendy stuff looks at holiday time, it’s nice to have it addressed for those that do.
2. It would have been nice to see more real examples, but the ones shown were nicely done.
3. I appreciate the commentary on the reality of the origins of Thanksgiving. One of the things that I love about this blog is that its not just fluff and unicorns. Emily addresses real issues, and for someone like me that cares about the “pretty stuff”, but still is extremely socially conscious and cares about social issues, this blog is the PERFECT place to go. 🙂

5 years ago

That ‘gut punch’ you felt? Follow it. Your gut is telling you to reconsider your position, that maybe your Christian POV is lacking something. Maybe your gut is telling you that there is more to the story than what you’ve heard so far from your culture.
My experience is whenever I feel the need to dig in and defend my position – or lash out at others – there is usually some part of the story that I don’t understand yet.
Just a thought.

5 years ago

Hi! Do you mind sharing where the chairs are from?

5 years ago

The idea behind this post was great. And the roundups are lovely. But the roundups don’t follow through on what the post was supposed to be about IMO. And the copy didn’t really help either, styling advice wasn’t up to the usual standard. Maybe you guys could post a do-over of this one with clearer examples of how to succeed at this. It’s a shame because I think this could have been a brilliant post that would have been relevant to a lot of your followers.

5 years ago

I love how your Thanksgiving tables look, simple but glamorous, pretty stylish and I like how you mix the old pieces with the new ones because I have some traditional pieces at home too. Now well, I’m going to follow your tips! 🙂 and some tips from this read: for preparing your home for Thanksgiving