Thanksgiving Table Tips

Q: I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year, and even though our dining room is big enough to hold the whole gathering (27,  including nine kids), I’ll have to add extra tables and chairs in different shapes and sizes and use a mix of china patterns. Any ideas for an inexpensive way to keep it from looking like a hodge-podge? Mary K., Mount Kisco

I called a few of Westchester’s top event planners for tips, but apparently they were all out planning Westchester’s top events. It is party season, after all. So I appealed to Ned Kelly, Rockland County’s favorite style maven (or at least, my favorite style maven in Rockland County). Kelly has fabulous taste in things for the home and garden, as you can see at his flower-slash-home shop in Piermont, cunningly named Ned Kelly & Company (motto: “living well at home”). For years, he’s also helped set the tone and the tables at his brother Peter’s equally sublime restaurants. 

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Ned was actually in Westchester when we spoke, creating gorgeous flower arrangements for yet another of the county’s top events. “My first reaction is to say, ‘Not to worry — there’s nothing wrong with a hodge-podge for a family Thanksgiving,’” he replied. “But to bring some cohesion, match the tablecloths, napkins, flowers, and candle. Then take one element, whether a certain color ribbon to tie the napkins, or a leaf place card, so you see something repeated at every place setting, with the same candle throughout.” I assume the term “candle” is industry-speak for “candles.” Have you noticed how insiders use the singular for things that used to be plural, as in “skinny pant” from the fashion world, and “smoky eye” and “pink lip” from cosmetics gurus, as if we have only one? But where was I?

Ah, yes: “candle world,” as Ned put it, coming up with another idea. “A fun candle is to trim an artichoke so that it sits flat, and pull out the center just enough to put a little glass votive inside.” Sounds pretty.

If you don’t have enough matching tablecloths, he suggests you could buy a roll of heavy craft paper and use that. “Or burlap is a fun choice — it adds wonderful texture, and grounds everything in a sort of Puritan simplicity, especially with nuts strewn along the table,” he says, now on a roll. “You can even take burlap and make a quick and easy chair cover; just tie it with some twine.” (Burlap comes by the yard at garden centers.) “Get as good a quality napkin as you can,” Kelly suggests, and I second that — there’s nothing worse than those polyester-mix jobs apparently designed to be moisture repellent. 

As for flowers: “Hydrangeas and apples are good choices for a big statement that’s not expensive,” says Kelly. “I love green spider mums for their bold shape and strong color. They also look great with apples,” he adds. “Or find interesting autumn fruits, like pears, in a variety of shapes and colors, fill your favorite bowl, then clip some boxwood — boxwood is shiny, elegant, and green and holds up very well — tuck that in with a few green spider mums and it’s happening!”

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