Thanksgiving is about sharing a wonderful meal with cherished friends and family. It’s also a time to impress your guests with your table decorating and culinary skills. The thought can be overwhelming, but by opting for natural elements, as table designer Yelena Oleynik does, you can create a beautiful, easy, and inexpensive table setting.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” This quote from writer F. Scott Fitzgerald is a favorite of Oleynik, a small-business owner and Instagram blogger (@table_with_taste) based in Washington, D.C. She’s an expert at decorating tables for every occasion, and her favorite holiday, as it happens, is Thanksgiving.
The stunning setting she put together for Thanksgiving combines the natural beauty of the season’s harvest with a rustic vibe. She calls it a farmhouse-style celebration. Choosing a theme, she said, is an easy and creative way to bring a little more spice and style to your table. It not only kindles your imagination with decorating ideas, but also adds an extra thoughtful touch that sparks excitement and conversation around the table during the holiday meal.
If the weather and temperature allow it where you live, consider having your celebration outdoors. Oleynik loves to host in her backyard, so she can blend her table decor with Mother Nature’s setting.
“I love using items from my yard in my decor: leaves, branches, any fall flowers, and pumpkins, of course! I am a sucker for white pumpkins,” she said. The natural elements and textures immediately dress up a table and give it a timeless touch.
Oleynik also suggests adding pillows and blankets to make the gathering comfortable and create a warm and cozy atmosphere.
Setting the Table
Next, put together an inviting table to capture the spirit of Thanksgiving.
If you have a beautiful table that you want to show off, Oleynik suggests opting for a table runner instead of a tablecloth. For the table setting, Oleynik offers these basic steps:
- Center the plate in the middle of the placemat.
- Place the dinner fork to the left of the plate, and the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork.
- Place the knife on the right side of the plate, with the serrated edge facing inward.
- Place the dinner spoon to the right of the knife.
- Place a glass above the knife, so it is above and to the right of the plate.
- Place a cloth napkin to the left side of the plate.
Along with the Thanksgiving centerpiece—in Oleynik’s case, a ceramic turkey figure—you can also arrange small, decorative ceramic or metal objects (such as copper, for instance) next to each plate. Oleynik chose white knitted pumpkins, mini candles, and small dried sunflowers in woven vases.
If you want to keep your setting in sync with the harvest season, include some fresh produce on the table, too. Pumpkins or figs add a nice autumnal accent. To complete the look, Oleynik added vases filled with fall flowers and stalks of wheat.
Presenting the Turkey
Oleynik likes to emphasize the decoration accompanying the turkey. It is, after all, the pièce de résistance.
“It’s all about making the turkey platter pretty,” she said, to elicit those oohs and aahs before the main course.
First things first: Make sure the platter is large enough, not only to support the weight of the turkey, but also to have enough room for the decorations.
Next, keep in mind your theme. For her farmhouse-style celebration, Oleynik drew inspiration from the harvest.
Before putting the turkey on the platter, she suggests laying the platter with ruby lettuce, which has a rich burgundy tone, or prizehead lettuce, which has bright green leaves and reddish-brown edges. Then she arranged blood oranges, apples, plums, blackberries, and cherry tomatoes inside and on top of the turkey. The colors of these fruits and vegetables make the turkey stand out even more.
Even with its rules and protocols, a table setting gives you plenty of room for creativity. Choose a great theme, use beautiful tableware, add some lovely tablecloth prints and flowers, and make your turkey presentation interesting. The key is to keep everything harmonious and practical.