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Need Thanksgiving Inspiration? 7 No-Fuss (But Pretty) Ways to Set a Table for the Big Day

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to set a casual, affordable holiday table

How did this happen? How did we get here? Thanksgiving is next week in the US (!!!) and it all came so fast, it feels like we skipped right over Halloween—and my yearly Halloweentown marathon—and now I’m frantically searching Pinterest for turkey brining techniques and recipes. But alas, denial won’t set my table come next Thursday. In fact, being the first time I host in my home, I’m actually VERY excited to pull out my candle holders, table runner, napkins. I don’t have “fancy” plates stashed away in some china cabinet, just my everyday white and light gray set from Crate & Barrel, but I started digging through our EHD archive of “set” tables for inspiration and thought “wait, maybe other people need this, too.” So here we are with today’s post.

Some of the shots are seasonally approproiate, others (as you’ll see) are far more spring-y, but regardless, plenty of table eye candy to get the styling juices flowing. I likely won’t do anything too elaborate, but just seeing how Emily and (style) team have placed napkins and centerpieces over the years is enlightening and so helpful. Let’s take a look.

Dining Room Details 019
photo by zeke ruelas | from: mixing old & new in the casa soria dining room

Table Formula: Tablecloth + Placemat + Napkin + Silverware + Dinner Plate + Salad Plate + Glass

This table is in the home of Orlando’s parents (affectionately known around here as Casa Soria). Here, Orlando went with a pretty casual set up which is nice if you’re having a lunch-time Thanksgiving meal or don’t want to get too fussy. The tablecloth makes it feel a bit more special, I think, but it could easily also have been lovely without it. For a meal where real people are sitting down, you probably don’t want to go with really tall florals or greenery like he did here for the photoshoot, but I like the idea of two vases off to one side, leaving the center open for the main attraction: the food. (Also, quick side note: I see that Orlando paired the knife with the forks, which, technically is not proper table setting etiquette, but we’re living in a time where we make our own rules, so…::shrug::.)

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 5
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to set a casual, affordable holiday table
Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 6
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to set a casual, affordable holiday table

Table Formula: Table Runner + Charger + Plate (salad, dessert, dinner…) + Napkin Under Plate + Silverware + Beverage Glass + Wine/Champagne Glass

In writing, it looks like a lot, but visually, it actually feels pretty pared down, which is nice being that the center of the table is more decorative. The “folded, draping napkin under the plate” is an EHD signature, and you’ll see it a lot in the tables to come. I’m pretty fond of the extra wider runner in this one, which leaves more room for the pretty stuff if you’re into the flash and flare of tablescaping. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s a charger and not a dinner plate, but I COULD be wrong and my eyeballs are just messing up the scale because that’s a dessert plate (hence smaller than a salad plate).

Emily Henderson Griffith Park House Traditional Italian Modern Dining Room Reveal 13
photo by tessa neustadt | from: griffith park formal dining room reveal

Table Formula: Tablerunner + Dinner Plate + Soup Plate (or salad/dessert plate) + Napkin Under Plate + Silverware + Beverage Glass + Champagne Coupe + Wine Glass

This table is very similar to the set up of the table above just with more glassware (champagne coup, wine glass, drinking glass)…and a soup plate. As for the napkin, this one goes a little over the top edge of the dinner plate, so for any sticklers out there who will try to exactly recreate one of these tables, just note that as long as it hangs over the table 4-6 inches, you’re solid.

Emily Henderson Paracute Tablescape Neutral Linen Natural 5
photo by tessa neustadt | from: setting the table with parachute’s new table linens

Table Formula: Plate Mat + Dinner Plate + Salad Plate + Soup Bowl + Napkin Under Plate + Silverware + Glass

Here’s a plate triple threat situation, which is great if you plan on having a 4-course meal (dessert plates not included). Note that the napkin is always on top of the bottom plate (i.e. not under the bowl in this instance), which is a good rule to follow if you’re going the hanging napkin route.

Emily Henderson Paracute Tablescape Neutral Linen Natural 13
photo by tessa neustadt | from: setting the table with parachute’s new table linens

Table Formula: Tablecloth + Table Runner + Stacked Salad & Dinner Plate + Folded Napkin + Silverware + Drinking Glass + Wine Goblet

There’s something about this table that I LOVE and I might just have to copy it. From the staggered small vases and varied height candlesticks to the explosion of linen (and the little dessert spoon up top) it’s fancy but still relaxed somehow. While I really do like the hanging napkin look, I think there’s a lot of linen happening here, so folding it neatly works better than having it draped from the plate (which would just layer against the tablecloth and feel a little heavy-handed).

Emily Henderson Chateau Souverain Holiday Homespun Gathering 15

Emily Henderson Chateau Souverain Holiday Homespun Gathering 52

Table Formula: Tablerunner + Dinner Plate + Salad Plate + Napkin Under Plate + Silverware + Decorative Place Card

I know this set up is very similar to at least two previous, but I wanted to include it as inspiration for place cards. I’m sorry, but HOW CUTE is this little wood nametag attached to the ornament? It’s probably a touch too early to go the ornament route, but I think the same vibes can come across with say…a small pinecone or a little cranberry wreath or maybe even a pretty little gourd or turkey figurine (brass?!?).

Ehd Target Holiday 19 24

Table Formula: Tablerunner | Stack of Plates | Food/Dessert | Loose Silverware

And finally, I thought an “unset” table would be good to show you because I know not everyone has a formal sit-down dinner (my family NEVER did, it was always a big get together where people just grabbed from a buffet and sat wherever there was an open seat around the house). This photo is more of a dessert table, but there are some lessons to be learned here: Set out plates, napkins, a pile of silverware for people to grab, and set out some food. While I DO love the idea of a proper sweets table, you could easily also set out hot dishes here, or maybe even do something like this for apps pre-meal. A fun table runner and just a few decor pieces makes it feel super festive.

And there you have it! I’d love to hear from you all how you approach Thanksgiving tables (or holiday tables in general). Are you a proper sit-down meal type family, or more like mine was where you end up balancing a plate of stuffing on your knee on the steps by the pool outside? Oh, and if you have any other pretty saved inspo, please share links, too! My eyeballs love a good tablescape.

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4 years ago

Absolutely lovely. Thank you. I encourage y’all to check out recent post force table scape too.

4 years ago

I love that simple linen one best, I think, and the one in Emily’s mountain house, too. Very restful and inviting.

I just don’t like the dead-branches-and-leaves-lying-on-the-table thing. I know it’s supposed to look “natural.” But it just looks messy and cluttered to me. Plus it makes me feel like I should be outside raking rather than relaxing over dinner.

Jennifer Laura
4 years ago

love that these are super festive, but don’t scream thanksgiving!!

4 years ago

These look so great in pictures, but seem very hard in reality. There doesn’t seem to be much/any room for actual dishes of food on these tables?

4 years ago
Reply to  raq

This was my thought as well! Beautiful, but where to put the food, unless it’s either a “go get your own food and sit down” sort of deal, or something where someone actually serves the food or something….

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

For Thanksgiving or Christmas, we were often traveling and renting an apartment for a get-together. I didn’t have vases, candlesticks, etc., so I would buy fruit- kumquats, pomegranates, pears, persimmons, apples and some greenery and strew it down the center of the table. Maybe a squash or two. Beautiful, customizable, seasonal, colorful, and you can eat it later! And I like centerpieces that are low so we can see each other. When I do flowers at the table, I use several short bud vases to keep things low. I keep hearing that young people don’t want china, but I have 2 beautiful sets and the china is the star. I think you can get great china for next to nothing at consignment shops? That’s what I hear, anyway.

4 years ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Roberta, I am a young person who appreciates china! We got some for our wedding (because we live in the South, where people still do that), and I’ve decided that since we have all these pretty things, might as well use them. We use them pretty much any time we have friends over (as long as it’s a meal with just adults) and it makes even Friday night tacos feel special!

Paula Carr
4 years ago

Nice, but where’s the color? The holidays are the one time of year that being tasteful can be put on hold, and you can go whole hog with the color and lights and sparkle. All of these pictures just seem a little bit low-key and spirit-less and washed out.

Suzanne McGrew
4 years ago

Love those cute little houses/buildings/candle holders(?) Where can I get them?

4 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne McGrew

Target, I think! I love them too 🙂

4 years ago

These are beautiful but I would have liked a few with more color. In the Midwest, this is such a gray time of year that I don’t need more white and gray tones inside my home–there’s enough of that outside the window.

4 years ago

Last year, we hosted more than 55 people for Thanksgiving on Cape Cod and we had several long tables to decorate, so some of the parents took the 8 kids in the family (ages 11 to 4) on a scavenger hunt for table decorations. We choose moss-covered branches, pine cones and all sorts of natural goodies. Then we covered the tables in white tablecloths, laid the branches down the center of the tables and interspersed candles of varying heights and types along the way. It was such a fun, memorable day and the tables looked spectacular. This year, however, we’ll skip the red berry branches. Turns out they’re poisonous. We’ll bring little pumpkins instead.

4 years ago

I think there is a bad link – the “Table Formula: Tablecloth + Table Runner + Stacked Salad & Dinner Plate + Folded Napkin + Silverware + Drinking Glass + Wine Goblet” has the same link as the previous tablescape.

4 years ago

I know this is way of the subject but who did the blimp painting/print on your wall? Also do you ever come to Denver? I would LOVE you to help me with my home. 🙂

Sandrine Whitcomb
4 years ago

So so beautiful! This brings the spirt!

4 years ago

All of the ideas are so beautiful. My favorite part about hosting a gathering is designing the table.

In the original post, can you tell me where to find the black tablecloth? I looked for details, but couldn’t locate. TY!!!

4 years ago

Where is that zeppelin print from? I love it! I don’t see that picture linked back to another post to reference. Thanks!

4 years ago

Loving the soft color combinations and decor ideas. Can see us doing any of these. Not into hanging napkins today for some reason. We always must remove any tall decor to fit food on the table and avoid peeking at each other around branches. Perhaps that is why I love the simple vases you can easy switch out to put on the main. It is still lovely to have vases around, even if they go to a back up spot during dinner.
The bottlebrush trees are just the perfect winter themed decoration!