When I was growing up, my mom decorated for every holiday of every month. September was back-to-school, October was Halloween, November was Thanksgiving, and so forth. As a child, it was magical. The tastes shared by my mother and I have changed as I've grown up, and we’ve upgraded our Thanksgiving decorations from little pilgrim figurines to blossoming flower centerpieces.

This project was inspired by a pumpkin planter centerpiece I saw online; I noticed the shape of the planter was very similar to the kid’s flower box we’d done. The centerpiece sparked an idea. I thought of recycling some of our old projects and repurposing them by throwing in some new concepts to create a Thanksgiving tablescape that swaps traditional fall colors for bright, airy ones. The aesthetic of the tablescape mimics the crisp, cool, fresh feeling of the brisk, sunny days of the season.

To me, the table design is a big part of holiday hosting. I like the idea of taking the table design away from the traditional warm fall colors and going in a really different direction. It's a fun way to mix things up and have this year stand out from others. 

Temporary tables for holiday hosting

The table is where friends and family gather for the holidays, but many of us don’t have the luxury of a seating arrangement large enough to host 10 or more. To solve for this, we created two temporary tables—a round one and a rectangular one—with inexpensive plywood. The project is affordable, easy, takes less than an hour to complete, and most importantly—it makes room for more loved ones to gather around the table. Bonus: The temporary tables store easily when they’re not in use. 

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table set for holidays

Drop cloth picnic blanket

This summer, we took a canvas drop cloth and turned it into a festive picnic blanket by stenciling on a palm print. For Thanksgiving, we’re basically taking the exact same concept and turning it into a tablecloth. It’s especially great because you’re not going to get upset if anything spills on it. Why not—it’s just a drop cloth! I personally love the look of the bare canvas, but if you wanted to take yours in a different direction, you could get out a stencil and some paint and really personalize it. 

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holiday place setting

Pumpkin planter centerpiece

This is my favorite part of this post. It’s a really simple concept, but it’s really striking and different from almost every other centerpiece you’re going to see on a table.

I took the same design we used for the DIY kids flower box and made a larger version of it. This one is 36” long, which means you’ll need two 8’ boards to make it. I finished it with a few coats of a Minwax stain in Pickled Oak, which has a nice, subtle whitewashed look.

I brought the planter to Swansons Nursery, then picked out a collection of plants and arranged them there. That way, I knew I had exactly what I needed and nothing more, saving space for the mini pumpkins. Once the plants were arranged to my liking, I filled in the gaps with dirt and arranged the pumpkins on top at different angles.

I wanted to create a living fall centerpiece that would last longer than just a day or two. You can put this out in October and keep it up through Thanksgiving—just be sure to keep the plants watered (I’d move the planter off the table for watering), and take the pumpkins out while it’s wet so they don’t rot. So chic!

pumpkin planter centerpiece

pumpkin centerpiece

thanksgiving centerpiece

Mini pumpkin planters

This was another project I saw online. It comes from Momtastic, and follows the same feel of the cool, neutral tones used in the pumpkin planter. I love mixing up the classic fall colors, and I’m a sucker for succulents.

To start, spray paint the pumpkin (this is optional). I also used an acorn squash, because why not? Then cut out the top, scoop out the guts, fill with dirt, and plant the succulent. It’s that easy.

A word about this: Like any carved pumpkin, they don’t last all that long. I’d recommend making these no more than a day or two before your gathering.

mini pumpkin planters

pumpkin planter holiday

Cake stand

The holidays aren’t complete without sweets, and there’s no better way to display them than with our cake stand

We suggest using the cake stand to serve a Dunn family favorite: molasses cookies. They’re a tradition for this time of year.

cake stand

Table settings

I set the table according to the Emily Post Institute’s guidelines for a formal table. For the place settings, I borrowed a mix of different white vintage napkins from a friend to set atop each plate, then added a simple name card with a sprig of rosemary. 

holiday table settings

holiday place setting

place setting for thanksgiving

Folded napkins with rosemary

For some reason, napkin folding was always my job when I was younger, so I learned a bunch of different ways to fold napkins because if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right! This one is very, very simple, and one of my favorite ways to fold.

To achieve this look, start with a napkin folded into a basic square, with the top point facing upward. Fold the bottom up over the silverware, then fold in either side. Tie it in place with twine, and slip in a sprig of rosemary. For more intricate napkin folding designs, visit this tutorial

folded napkin place setting

Thankfulness cards

Thankfulness cards are simple, meaningful, and a Dunn family Thanksgiving tradition. Simply take a piece of heavy-stock paper, fold it, and write “I am thankful for…” on the front of the card. Your guests get to fill in the answers.

thankfulness cards

rosemary place setting

Flower arrangement

For Mother’s Day last year, I enlisted the help of floral designer Melissa Cushman to create a simple spring bouquet. When arranging flowers, the key is balance rather than symmetry. This Thanksgiving, I put my skills to the test with a fall-inspired arrangement that makes the perfect centerpiece for a circular table.

flower arrangement for holidays

holiday table setting

christmas place setting

If you’ve done some of these projects before and have them lying around, that’s a benefit, but if not—it’s worth taking the time. You'll be able to re-purpose them even after Thanksgiving is over.

how to make the most out of holiday hosting

I had so much fun bringing these projects back to life to create a bright, airy Thanksgiving tablescape. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving Day, when I’ll be able to host my friends and family, and fill my DIY creations with lots and lots of food.

Happy holidays!

(Can't wait to get started on Christmas projects? Check out these 12 festive DIYs.)