Quick & Easy Thanksgiving Table Ideas

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I am the Queen of the Last Minute. No matter how much time I have to prepare for an event at my home, seconds before my guests arrive you’ll find me running around like a crazy lady, trying to pull everything together. Some might argue that I’m an adrenaline junkie, living for an exhilarating Photo Finish. But the fact is, I am always positive I can fit about 48 hours’ worth of work into 12 hours. Hopefully, you are much more organized than I am and NEVER have this problem. But just in case you are more like me than you care to admit, here are a few tips from my little bag of tricks for setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table in minutes.


Trick 1: Grab a blanket and use it as a table topper.

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Go on a reconnaissance mission throughout your house looking for a throw blanket you can steal from the back of a chair or the foot of a bed. If you have a choice, grab one that is either neutral or shows off the colors of fall. Can’t find a blanket that will work? In a pinch, I’ve even been known to use a shawl or scarf.  When you score one, lay it over your dining table on the diagonal. You now have a beautiful table covering upon which to build your quick but gorgeous tablescape. I love the blanket we used on this table at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff. The fringe just adds more texture.


Trick 2: Layer the place settings to make them look luxurious.

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A layered table looks luxurious. You can achieve this affect in a snap just by stacking interesting dishes on top of one another, starting with a unique charger, like the plaid tray we used in the photo above. If you don’t have enough pieces in your dish set to serve the whole gang for Thanksgiving, no worries. Mix together different patterns, like I do on my table. How you do so will depend on the shape of your table and how many place settings you have of the dishes you want to use. I’m usually two place settings short when I host Thanksgiving, so I set the sides of my table with the same dishes, then use the second set at the host and hostess seats.


Trick 3: Use place cards to make each place setting look special.

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Ok, I know, I know.  You are probably rolling your eyes right now, saying, “If I had time to do that, I wouldn’t be in a panic!” But the truth is, it just takes seconds to do place cards for your guests, and it pays big dividends. That special step of putting someone’s name above their seat makes them feel treasured, a valued part of the gathering. One year, I grabbed little boxes of chocolates at the grocery store, wrapped them up in brown craft paper and tied on a gift tag bearing each guest’s name. These little brown-paper-packages-tied-up-with-string did double duty as place card holders and take-home gifts. You can use just about anything to hold place cards, from fall gourds to pinecones. At Nell Hill’s, we are loving these little chalkboard tents for place cards – they are super cute and reusable!


Trick 4: Opt for a simple centerpiece that looks dramatic.

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Here’s my formula for a centerpiece that looks sensational, but takes seconds to pull together: line stuff up down the center of your table. It could be a row of pumpkins, like I did here on my outdoor table at my lake cottage. Or, put two or three lanterns or hurricanes holding flickering candles down the table’s center, then fill in with fall leaves and berries from your yard. Another one of my done-in-a-flash centerpieces is a big, beautiful bowl holding seasonal treasures. I love to fill blue and white serving bowls, cachepots or English foot baths with a tumble of gourds.

Next Week … It’s time to start decorating your home for the holidays! I’ll have ideas and inspiration for your fireplace mantel.