Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

DIY: Foraged Thanksgiving Tabletop with Berries and Branches

At my house, we always have a foraged floral arrangement for Thanksgiving. Some years, we decorate with persimmons and bay boughs, and others with herbs and berry sprigs in juice glasses. Whatever’s outdoors is on the table too.

Here are a few easy tips for making your own zero-cost holiday centerpiece, which by the way looks prettier than anything you can buy:

Photography by Michelle Slatalla.


Above: With a free-form arrangement of branches and berries, you can make a dramatic garland that runs the length of the table, or you can confine foraged florals to centerpiece territory (and use the space at the end of the table for serving dishes).

The Basics


Above: Some things never change. Every year I set the table with silverware that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother; low wine goblets (because they’re less tippy than tall stemware), and white plates. This year, the dishes are hand-glazed Organic Dinner Plates from Hudson Grace ($ 21 apiece), which look and feel as if they came straight from a local potter’s studio—and yet are perfectly safe in both a dishwasher and a microwave oven.

I love fancy china and crystal. But I’ve learned over the years that white dishes and unobtrusive glassware will make a beautiful backdrop to foraged florals. I want greenery and autumn colors to take center stage at the center of the table.

Foraged Finds

thanksgiving-table-clippers-gardenista smoke bush hydrangeas

Above: I headed into the garden to see what still looked good enough to come indoors. From a smoke bush near my front door, I clipped some branches with moody, mottled purple leaves. In the backyard, past-their-prime hydrangeas had flowers at that bruised-pink stage that looks good with everything.


Above: In autumn, shrubs sport all color of berries. Branches with green leaves and colorful berries make pretty garlands. In my Northern California neighborhood, there are lots of orange bittersweet berries, black privet berries, and purple privet berries. Other berries to look for: purple beautyberry and orange winterberry.

Foraged branches rinse in sink Thanksgiving ; Gardenista

Above: Before arranging foraged finds, rinse them—extremely well—in the kitchen sink. Bugs are not welcome at the dinner table.

The Look


Above: I used garden twine to tie a sprig to each napkin. You can also get fancier and make a tiny bundled bouquet for each guest’s napkin. See how at Botanical Napkin Rings for Thanksgiving.


Above: I like a big napkin, preferably made of soft linen because the fabric drapes beautifully—and absorbs spilled wine better than cotton.

Available in nearly two dozen colors including Fog (as shown), 22-inch-square Linen Napkins from Hudson Grace are washable and can be tumbled dry (and if you pull them out of the dryer while they’re still warm, you won’t need to iron them—they fold beautifully). Hand-dyed in San Francisco, the napkins are $ 18 apiece.


Above: To assemble the floral arrangement, I laid a linen runner down the center of the table. The fabric defines the boundaries of the floral arrangement (a helpful visual cue for when you don’t use a vase or other vessel).

Next, I laid a line of smoke branches down the middle of the table runner. Into them I tucked shorter lengths of privet, allowing the smoke bush leaves to cup clusters of privet berries. For extra drama, I tucked one hydrangea bloom into each end of the free-form garland.

Foraged thanksgiving tabletop napkins DIY; Gardenista

Above: I placed the napkins on top of the plates to add some height to edge of the table and offset the bulk of the foraged floral arrangement. This prevents the table from looking like it has a big, impenetrable hedge in the middle of it.


Above: I wanted the table to contradict itself, to look glamorous and casual at the same time. So I skipped the tablecloth this year and instead relied on the runner to create a painterly frame around the florals.

The Day After


Above: After you disassemble the tabletop, turn the water pitcher into a vase with a sprig of long-lasting berries.

Feel thankful with us. See:

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Thanksgiving on a Budget: 7 Tips for Tabletop Decor from Stylist Beth Kirby

Yes, it’s about the food. We know that. We’ve been to a Thanksgiving or two. But, really? We like decorating the table. OK, make that love.

This year, we’re starting early. We asked one of our favorite stylists, Local Milk blogger Beth Kirby, to design a special no-cost Thanksgiving tabletop for us. It turns out that all you need for a Rockwellian moment are nice napkins, sparkly glasses, candles, and foraged greenery from the garden.

The best part, Beth says, is that anyone can recreate the look of her Thanksgiving tabletop. Follow her tips for how to mix and match items already on hand: 

Photography by Beth Kirby for Gardenista.

  Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 1: Create an unexpected hanging centerpiece using vines and greenery foraged from around your neighborhood or yard…

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

…and echo it with a few bits on the table.

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Above: A handful of S-hooks is all it takes to hang them. 

  Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 2: Use food from the meal as part of your centerpiece. A few leftover squash or a bundle of herbs in a small bottle pay homage to the meal as well as brighten up the table in a subtle, seasonal way. 


Tip No. 3:. Don’t be a afraid to mix and match your napkins—and let them be wrinkly and wild. The movement and the casual look of a table strewn with mixed napkins is inviting. When mixing, try to stick to napkins all of the same print—like the stripes here— or of the same color range. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 4: Serve family style and let your serving pieces and cookware be the stars of your table.

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Above: Do you have a cool vintage copper pot or an heirloom cast iron skillet? Put a trivet on the table and serve straight out of them. They look great and the food stays warm. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista  

Tip No. 5: Try using mugs as bowls. They give height to each place setting and make even a casual table feel as if it has personality. 

Thanksgiving tabletop decor tips from Beth Kirby ; Gardenista

Tip No. 6: A few candles go a long way and the more imperfect the better. Grab a few from around your house and light them as the light sinks lower. 


Tip No. 7: Keep it simple. Plain glassware and simple white plates always look good. Keep your color palette to one or two natural colors and patterns at a minimum, and you’re guaranteed a classic table every time.

Want more Thanksgiving tabletop ideas? For inspiration, see:

For a tour of Beth Kirby’s kitchen remodel, see One-Month Makeover: Beth Kirby’s Star-is-Born Kitchen on Remodelista.

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