How To Host Thanksgiving: Twists on the Traditional

I absolutely love Thanksgiving. It’s one of those holidays where everything is quiet – except for the touchdown cheers and the dinner oohs and aahs – and the streets are empty because folks are somewhere with someone they care about. There is a unifying feeling in the air. That, no matter what our differences are or from what country we hail, just about all of us are breaking bread together in a peaceful way.

So as not to forget about Thanksgiving in the build up to the holiday season, I wanted to share a few tips with you on how to set the perfect table, adding to Gayla’s recommendations yesterday.


It’s 2017 and that means anything goes. While it’s great to stand by some traditions, see above for the official etiquette, it’s also important to reflect your personal style. Entertaining is as much a reflection of your taste as the clothes you wear or the home you create, so embrace it. If you love Japanese Shibori and it goes with the good china, then, by all means, mix the two.

Speaking of grandma’s china. If you have it, then use it. I know that fine china is on the wane, but it is still beautiful and it makes the holiday dinners even more special. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two times my china sees the light of day, so I giddily bring it out.

No tablecloth or placemats needed in this lovely setting, but a cloth napkin is recommended. Source.

Anything goes when it comes to the table linens (see: Shibori), so use them as another way to express yourself. Start with what you have and build on that. If you don’t have a tablecloth or table runner, then you can skip it all together, though I do recommend you have at least cloth napkins. Like china, cloth napkins elevate the dining experience to meet the quality of the meal head on. We love the napkins and table runners from Alexandria artist and textile designer, Sue Henry. Tulusa, her line of linen table linens, are all hand blocked by her in her Alexandria studio. We just got restocked for the holidays so pick up a set or two soon!

Mix-and-match silver looks charming and intentional when bound by a simple, velvet tie. Source.

If you find that you don’t have enough place settings, chairs, napkins, etc., then don’t be afraid to mix and match. Just do so in a manner that makes sense and seems purposeful. For instance, alternate napkin styles, have the tall chairs on the ends and the folding ones along the side of the table, or mix your formal place settings and silver with everyday dishes so that everyone gets one element that is special.

Mix in unexpected natural elements. Pheasant feathers, rosemary, apples, flowers, and gourds all add interesting and organic touches to your table. Keep your centerpieces low so that your guests can carry on a meaningful conversation without straining to see each other. Incorporate a little candlelight if dinner is in the evening. Candlelight always adds warmth to any event. Just be sure the candles are not scented so they don’t compete with the turkey.



And it bears reminding: save yourself the time and energy you will need to cook by setting the table one to two nights before. That way you make sure you have everything you need and aren’t scrambling at the last minute to find your gravy boat. Label all your serving pieces so that your helpers on Thanksgiving Day will know where things go. This strategy will also help you determine if dinner is served family style or buffet style, an important distinction for setting the table.


Finally, relax and enjoy your friends and family, and, equally important, yourself.  You’re going to need all your energy for all the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday fun in Old Town!!


  • The latest from Amy
Owner Amy Rutherford started Red Barn because she wanted to deliver a service — to provide both old and new in one place. No longer will busy shoppers be limited to reproductions or forced to shop multiple flea markets for the look or gifts they want. The trick in blending old and new, vintage and modern, classic and quirky, is balance. And Amy’s knack for mixing rustic antiques with urban chic has created a look that is both fresh and familiar.

Red Barn Mercantile opened its doors in September 2007 with a single vision in mind: providing old and new to offer our customers signature whole-room designs at great prices.

We’re more than a furniture boutique and provide more personalized service than a big box retailer. We work hard to bring you the highest quality furniture and gifts, the most unique conversation starters, wall hangings and accent pieces, whether they come from off-the-beaten-track flea markets, or the latest designers.

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