Turkey may be the star of your Thanksgiving menu, but an autumn tablescape creates an inviting backdrop. “Decorating the dining table is a fun and beautiful expression of the season. It sets the stage for celebration and always adds to the festivities,” says Silvia Bianco, resident chef at Williams-Sonoma at the Danbury Fair mall.
“A traditional theme is one which expresses abundance in some form. This is why I love the harvest theme,” says Bianco. “This bounty can be represented through the décor with fruits and vegetables spilling out of a cornucopia or with the abundance of a beautifully set table laden with your best china, glassware, silverware, linens, and candles.”
Bianco shares other favorite ways to decorate. “For years I’ve taken fallen leaves, twigs, branches, and berries and spray painted them a clear lacquer, while on others you may want to use typical fall colors such as pumpkin, melon, forest green, and russet,” she explains. “Use nature as your guide, experiment, and have fun. The supply is abundant, too, by walking into your back yard or woods.” Bianco also uses small artificial wreaths. “I put them on each end of the table with three candles of various sizes in the center.”
Holidays are a time to be creative, says Bianco, suggesting an edible centerpiece. “I can see making cornucopias out of bread and filling them with cheese and salami, or hollowed-out pumpkins and squash filled with dips and crudité. Or maybe antipasto on long, narrow cutting boards or fruit and cheese platters running the length of the table.”
For a classic centerpiece, Merrilee Ganim DeFarias, co-owner of Ganim’s Garden Center & Florist in Fairfield, uses greens, such as eucalyptus and lemon leaf, along with hydrangeas, mums, asters, roses, larkspur, carnations, and more. “These hardy flowers mixed with other seasonal items make a long-lasting arrangement. We use greenery with flowers in yellow, orange, and red with hints of dark purple to give an extra pop of color,” says DeFarias, who adds dried flowers with gourds, leaves, mini pumpkins, grass plumes, and herbs. “Using different flowers in different shapes and sizes adds texture and color to the arrangements and makes it unique.”
Nancy Gardiner, designer at Hansen’s Flower Shop in Fairfield, says fresh flowers make an event special. “Fall favorites are mums in shades of bronze, gold and burgundy, roses in orange colors, and rich shades of green and purple found in the popular ornamental flowering kales of the season,” she notes. Surprise guests with protea, an exotic native South African flower popular in tropical designs. “We’ve combined them with lush foliage, dahlias, roses, even mums and carnations,” Gardiner recalls.
Tina Ahlberg, designer at Westport Florist and Hansen’s Flower Shop in Fairfield, observes that most people seek a warm ambiance using flowers in burnt orange, burgundy, purple, and lime green. “In addition to flowers, we’ve used elements like leaves, twigs or branches, fruits such as apples and pomegranates, and vegetables like carrots, beets, and Romanesco. We’ve also incorporated succulents, pheasant feathers, barley and wheat stalks,” says Ahlberg, using complementary containers in copper, brass, wood, or wicker.
For something traditional yet stylish, Ahlberg suggests pairing elegant china with a cornucopia and a selection of gourds and mini pumpkins. For a modern look, she uses sleek cylinder vases with monochromatic, mono-botanical designs. A rustic theme relies on wood containers. “Or, you can decorate a chandelier or hanging wreath with moss, hanging amaranthus and other highly textured flowers like pincushion proteas, succulents and fall mums,” she says. “Make it interesting and add a few surprises — maybe a cluster of nuts or the head of a sunflower.”
Linda Vinci, owner of Braach’s Flowers in South Norwalk, creates fresh floral arrangements with green hydrangea, soft white roses, gerbera daisies, and sunflowers. “This fall seems to be all about textures, from assorted eucalyptuses to artichokes, millets, berries, and thistle,” says Vinci. “It’s not uncommon for us to create arrangements with just succulents. We also incorporate them into arrangements along with flowers to add extra dimension. Sometimes we use small gourds or pumpkins around the table to heighten the fall feel, and maybe some candles to light up the table,” says Vinci. “Clear, simple glass cubes and cylinders are classics you can never go wrong with. It makes a modern statement if you use a single type of flower.” Vinci also noted that wooden boxes are a favorite with customers.
Nicole Palazzo, marketing manager of City Line Florist in Trumbull, says a beautifully decorated tablescape of flowers enhances the celebration. “They bring color and lovely smells. Flowers can easily take the place of boring everyday table décor, making a shabby table look stunning,” says Palazzo, who offers a modern twist on the classic centerpiece. “We put a bouquet in a glass cube or cylinder to give it a sleek, finished look. You can leaf-line the glass container or add river rocks and curly willow for a natural feel.” She adds, “We also create floral arrangements in wooden cornucopias and add seasonal berries, leaves, cattails, and gourds.” Palazzo notes that flower garlands are trending: “It’s one long garland made out of greenery accented with flowers and gourds. You can also add in votive candles.” For something nontraditional, Palazzo has gutted real pumpkins and planted succulents inside, adding moss as a finishing touch.
According to Chef Silvia, table setting, like any art form, is a way to set the mood. “Whether you use flowers, pumpkins, or any variety of natural elements to express your personal creativity, your intent to lovingly invite your guests to the Thanksgiving table will be clear and gratefully appreciated,” she concludes.