How to Set a Table (Thanksgiving edition)

Starting a new blog series is kind of like starting a book series. You have all these plans to spend quality time with your books, and get them all read by a certain date, and you start out with gusto. Then, life happens, and before you know it, you’re only halfway through the first book and you realize that your end date has passed already… three months ago. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, all that to say, I’m starting a new blog series (the How To series, if you haven’t guessed by now), and I’m going to say upfront that it may or may not be a “regular” feature. I’m hoping that I can share something with you all once a week. That may or may not happen. Regardless, I hope it will be a feature that you all not only enjoy reading, but can also put to use in your own life. (If you have any specific requests or topics, please feel free to share them!)

I figured that since the holidays are coming around that my first post ought to involve setting the table. Because holidays are all about food, right? At least in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

I’m going to show you how to do three different fall themed table settings today:

The Contemporary

The Traditional

and The Radial.

Before we start talking about any of these settings though, I CANNOT emphasize the importance of having your table clean. So that’s step one: take everything off the table, and wipe it down.

Set a table 1

Yeah, I know, I didn’t really need that picture, but hey, it’s fun to include yourself in an article.

Ok, now that the table’s clean, we can move on to the fun part. We’ll start with The Contemporary. The Contemporary tablescape is all about mixing materials, particularly metals and colors. It’s great when what you have on hand to decorate with is more hodge podge in nature, as in, nothing really matches. If this sounds like you, then this is the perfect setting for you.

Here’s what I used for this setting:

Set a Table 9

As you can see, I have a mix max of candlesticks, and the only items that match are the tea light candles. They are definitely optional; if you want a truly random table setting, you can ignore those. But sometimes it’s nice to have just a little bit of routine going on, so I included them.

The first step for this setting is to lay out the candles. I didn’t put anything down underneath them (tablecloth, table runner, etc.) because the modern look is often natural, so I wanted to show off the wood table.

Set a Table 8

I took a picture of the candles from up above, because I wanted to show you how I created a diagonal line with my candlesticks. This creates movement on the table, and helps it feel natural. If you line them up all in a straight line, you’ll end up with a more traditional place setting.

Set a Table 7

You also want to think about height. place your candles in such a way that they get lower the further out from the center that you go. In essence, you want to create a triangle, with your tallest candles closer to the middle. Don’t worry about spacing them an equal distance apart from each other; the point is to make them feel random. We’ll even out the feel with the accessories.

Next, you put in the color.

Set a Table 2

Since we’re doing fall themes, of course I went with pumpkins and gourds. Again, think about placing your bigger pumpkins/gourds closer to the center. And have fun! My favorite part of this table setting is the gourd I stuck in the gold candleholder in the middle. The Contemporary table setting is, again, all about being random.

So that’s The Contemporary. Now I’ll show you The Traditional.

The Traditional place setting is all about symmetry.

Here’s what I used to create this table setting:

Set a Table 14

As you can see, I used one type of metal only, and the candlesticks match. Also, I only included two. The Traditional table setting will also include some type of material covering (tablecloth, table runner, etc.). I decided to use a table runner… because I don’t have a tablecloth. Plus it brings the focus into the center of the table, and makes your décor stand out more. But that choice is up to you.

First, lay down the table runner or tablecloth (surprise, surprise). Make sure you’ve ironed it.

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Next, place the candlesticks and the silver platter:

Set a Table 11

Now, here’s a good trick to keep in mind on spacing the candlesticks: place them right in the middle of each half of the table; as in, place them a quarter of the way out from the center. This makes the whole space feel less crowded, and also ensures that you cover the whole table. Be sure to put them an equidistance apart from each other.

Next, I laid down the leaves. You can put more or less down, as you like.

Set a Table 19

I also put the gourds on the plate. This highlights their color while keeping the theme simple.

Last, I spread out the pinecones. Try to balance them by their size: group one large one with a smaller one, and medium sized ones together.

Set a Table 20

If you would like to include more pumpkins, you are definitely welcome to:

Set a Table 21

The last table setting I have for you today is the Radial. This is a great one for circular tables and also if you like to keep things more simple.

Here’s what I used for this table setting:

Set a Table 18

Start with a large doily or other circular spread. You could use a circular placemat. I also chose to include flowers, but be sure that you stick with something that is low lying; flowers on the table are great, but a typical bouquet is too tall, so it gets in the way and has to be removed.

Place the doily or placemat in the center of the table.

Set a Table 15

Then, put your flowers and a larger decorative item down. Try to keep it a circular or soft form item.

Set a Table 16

Last, add in the tea candles (they’re perfect for this kind of table setting), as well as a couple gourds.

Set a Table 17

And there you have it!

One last thing I wanted to mention. No matter what type of table setting you end up going with, one of the most important features is a salt and pepper shaker that fits all styles. Find something fun; don’t go with your standard salt and pepper shaker that you use in the kitchen. The dining table is all about dressing up, especially for the holidays. Since I have an animal theme going on in the living room (right next door), I love using these:

Set a Table 13

Aren’t they cute? They don’t hold a lot, but they are darling, and they blend in with my table settings so well. If you look closely, you should be able to spot them in all the tablescapes I showed above. They’re thematic, but neutral enough that they don’t stand out. You could choose something similar, or go with something that has more color but is neutral in theme. The point is to find something that can blend with whatever setting you choose.

There you go! Hopefully that all made sense. Which one was your favorite? I ended up sticking with this one:

Set a Table 21


One comment on “How to Set a Table (Thanksgiving edition)

  1. […] how to is akin to my How to Set a Table (Thanksgiving edition); the end result is going to look different depending on your personality, style, and what you have […]

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