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    Simple and Inexpensive Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas

    Yes, tablescaping is a thing, and can be a very competitive thing. Tradition holds that the L.A. county fair started the table decorating competitions in the 1930s.

    You’re probably not looking to enter your dinner table into any sort of competition, but I bet the holiday spirit has you thinking about how to present your own version of a perfect Thanksgiving table.

    There are plenty of options for Thanksgiving tablescaping, but choosing one these four themes will help narrow down the choices. They all are easy DIY and inexpensive picks. 

    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas


    Natural Elements

    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas

    These are the easiest centerpieces to pull off. Anything goes, really!  From vegetables to earth tone flowers, arrange them creatively and wow your guests.

    • Fruits and vegetables like apples and artichokes work as candle holders after they’ve been cored.
    • Backyard finds are free and fast table embellishments. Fill glass jars or vases with colorful leaves and acorns, pine cones, or dried hydrangea blooms. The options are only limited to your fence line.
    • Gather a bunch of long twigs or corn husks, and tie in the middle with a velvet ribbon. Display in a vase or water pitcher and use as standing center pieces.
    • Small, sliced rounds of tree trunk wood become plate chargers, uplifting dinnerware to new heights.
    • Use a roll of brown craft paper as a table runner or cloth. Encourage guests to jot down what they’re thankful for. 

    Thrift Store Finds

    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas
    • Shop early and go often. Expert thrifters know the good stuff goes fast during the holiday season.
    • Spray paint is magic in a bottle for holiday decorating. It works on almost any finish and makes old stuff look trendy.
    • Any ceramic or plastic piece of turkey décor gets instantly upgraded with a coat of silver or white paint. A monochromatic collection of items gives off a sophisticated vibe.
    • Shallow painted bowls contain flower arrangements simply.
    • Metal or enameled roasting pans either filled with decorative items or turned upside down to create a base for height differential is a good find.
    • Buy all the wooden accessories you can find: bowls, candle sticks, platters, cutting boards. Replicate a rustic, homey-like-the-Pilgrims-feel for your table’s theme.


    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas


    If you’ve got the type of family and friends who can take a joke, a tacky Turkey Day table theme (think dogs playing poker) will keep them laughing!

    • Speaking of plastic—plastic turkeys and turkey shaped salt and paper shakers are musts for a kitschy Thanksgiving table.
    • Leave the jellied cranberry log intact to highlight all its wiggly glory.
    • Hack into a 5-pound butter shaped turkey for dinner rolls.
    • For appetizers, artfully arrange food on platters to create turkeys out of cut up vegetables or meat and cheese slices.
    • For some dignity at the table and gratitude for Thanksgiving fowl, frame a photo of the latest turkey to be pardoned by the president.


    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas


    Traditions hold true for many reasons. Thank you, Norman Rockwell. If Thanksgiving doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a classic table setting, dig deep and pull out the good china.

    • Use heirlooms, either yours or borrowed from family. They’ll be delighted to share in family tradition. If you’re too nervous to actually use the good stuff, display a few pieces on sideboards or in the middle of the table.
    • Shop around; many home stores sell inexpensive knock-offs of classic turkey outdoor scenes on china.
    • Scour for vintage postcards or make color copies to use as place cards.  
    • Place a little turkey shaped chocolate in the middle of each guest’s plate for a pre-dinner treat.
    • At home, dinner by candlelight is rare. Use tall candlesticks with long, slender tapers for classic ambience.

    Tablescaping 101

    Thanksgiving Tablescaping Ideas


    To make these themes come together, use basic tablescaping techniques to pull off the best arrangement for your Thanksgiving table décor.

    • For easy conversation and an attractive table, vary the heights of the display by incorporating elevated items such as cake plates, candle sticks, or upside-down bowls or boxes.
    • Layers of fabrics such as place mats over tablecloths with linen napkins on top add texture and interest.
    • Depending on the style of dinner service, your guests should have the necessary utensils laid in the correct position. Even buffets and casual dinners need an intuitive place for silverware.
    Unless you’re an utter purist, your Thanksgiving table will likely have a bit of multiple design elements, which is really the best option of all. It’s easy to combine natural and traditional elements and even easier to mix thrift store finds with kitschy pieces. A customized setting turns the table into a personal gift of gratitude to your guests.
    Oh, holiday season! You are upon us again. Don’t get behind this year--use the MilitaryByOwner blog for creative inspiration. You’ll find holiday decorating and gift giving suggestions for the hosts who are addressing the party invites as we speak!

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    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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