Nantucket Thanksgiving Table 2014

~Nantucket Island~

There is nothing more beautiful than these words that so eloquently described Nantucket in the off-season.

“Paths of bramble, rose hip and sand. Skitter down a powdery cool dune and fall upon: more than 10 miles of untouched beach. Endless ocean, endless sky, fiery sun peeking over a shockingly broad horizon. Not another mammal in sight. Only piping plovers, which flirt with the Atlantic as it glides in and snaps up twirls of spray and froth.” 
Ted Weesner Special to The Washington Post

The mere thought of Nantucket in November begins to excite me every year around the time of my September birthday. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that is filled with so many of the elements that appeal to my aesthetic senses; family, friends, cozy bathrobes and slippers, hot toddies, fires in the fireplaces, candles burning, glasses of Cabernet and the coming together celebration of kindness. For me, there is no place better to celebrate this holiday than on our beautiful island of Nantucket 30 miles out to sea. where the spirit and enthusiasm of the locals and travelers light up Main Street!  I begin to dream about the idea of decorating, cooking, and entertaining and look forward to arriving on island to prepare. We have an open-door policy, as most islanders do, and welcome a knock on the door from friends and neighbors. Please stop by!

Over the years I have collected many china and dish patterns and sets of colored stemware allowing for the fun exercise of designing a mix and match, or a mis-match, or whatever suits my aesthetic whimsy of just how fabulous can I make it this year? Much of my inspiration over the years has come from the very talented Carolyn Rohem, who has always been my idol. My husband and children have gifted me with every book she has authored. I was always fascinated by the selection of dishes and stemware she has graced so many table settings with over the years. Sheer beauty! At first I assumed that it was all high-end until I began to follow her blogs and took a cue from her helpful shopping hints, realizing that it is all about the art of collecting. Take advantage of sales! It doesn’t have to be expensive to look fabulous!

My collection of stemware hails from everywhere, from the very expensive to the very, very inexpensive! There is the challenge of storing it all! I have purchased from everywhere I could find a deal; flea markets and estate sales, where I’ve found some exciting colored glass, to the very inexpensive, but fun, post-holiday sales at Pottery Barn, where I bought my ginormous collection of red, to maybe favorite and fun, frosted polka dot champagne flutes that I bought at a close-out sale at Pier 1 for a $1.99 each! (I’ve moved them everywhere with me and not a one has ever broken!). My most precious, however, is our, Saint Louis crystal, which we bought in green, my favorite color, and which we've had since 1985.  At first I only brought them out on very special occasions or for small gatherings.  I quickly realized that every day is a special occasion, and thus use them frequently, often pairing them with super-casual elements too.

For Thanksgiving Day, I like to formulate a more elegantly casual table design, different from my Christmas Eve table when I pull out all the silver, pinecones, greenery and satin ribbon I could find! For Thanksgiving 2014, I channeled nature. I used natural elements, feeling an animal and bird vibe! I liked the idea of using rustic branches from our yard, my collection of bird ornaments, natural live berry branches, lots of variegated feathers and some of the pieces from my leopard print Ralph Lauren china. As the kick-off to the holiday season on Nantucket begins the day after Thanksgiving, I always like to incorporate a hint of Christmas on Thanksgiving Day. This year I used lots of live greenery, real cranberries in the bottom of candle globes and red glassware.

For linens, I decided upon no linens other than my leopard print napkins which I used with the wonderful rabbit and hare silver, hand-painted napkin rings given to me by nieces Monica and Amy Lyons. The warm chestnut color of our farm trestle table contributed to the warm color palette.  To enhance the casual feeling of natural elements, I used rattan placemats to receive my natural rattan chargers. The dinnerware I use most frequently for Thanksgiving Day dinner is my vintage set of Ralph Lauren hounds tooth china (purchased in 1984) in black and white with a traditional fox chase hunt scene in the center.

The red jacket of the huntsman and burnished orange and brown of the horse and dogs creates an autumnal scene that combines beautifully with the black and white hounds tooth to receive almost any and all accessories and stemware on any table. I mixed and matched combining rattan charger, hounds tooth dinner plate and a leopard soup bowl. The accessory of red stemware brought holiday color as well as height, and picked up the red jacket of the huntsman. I like height on most of my tables to give drama, but transparent enough so as to not to block anyone’s view. I used high clear candle vases in varying heights with cranberries on the bottom to give a boost of holiday color to the three-inch pillar candles from Pottery Barn I often use. I topped each of them with birds from my collection. For the center of the table, I opted out of flowers and instead ran natural vegetables down the center of the table using different squashes, tiny white pumpkins and pomegranates which gave a natural horn-of-plenty look without the horn. To add to my “animal/bird” theme, I interspersed feathers of varying sizes and colors in and around the vegetable display. We celebrate Thanksgiving dinner after dark and so candlelight for me is the ultimate accessory! Tiny votives topped with frosted glass shades at each place setting created a cozy and warm feel and cast the perfect glow on this wonderful night on our magical island, where we held hands and went around the table giving thanks for all that we have been blessed with.

Nantucket Wine Festival Inspiration

When thinking about a tablescape, I begin by gathering colors, textures, elements and "things" I feel will measure up nicely to the level of the event. Here is an example of me "gathering nuts" for a dinner at our home I was planning for our island's 2016 Nantucket Wine Festival. I like to sleep on it. So I gather and then look at it for a day or so. I love green in spring and pulled from our collection of china, keeping it neutral and pairing it with my love of animal prints. The needlepoint frame would house the menu and each place setting would have a tiny, tea-light lamp with shade, providing the perfect glow for guests who had been wine tasting all day! I planned a small vase of flowers, also a place card holder, to be at each place setting. The flowers would be neutral and the table "art" would be our 30 year collection of Lalique figures. Collections add interest to a table and serve as a conversation piece! This dinner was to be more formal, so I thought the elegance of the Lalique would work beautifully.  Don't be afraid to use your "stuff"! I'm a huge fan of boxwoods and like to incorporate them into everything. And I mean everything. These plastic boxwood napkins sent me over the moon when I found them many years ago! And the baby boxwood plants find their way onto almost all of my tables. You just have to have greenery on every table, no matter what.  Chilled wine would be in straw ice buckets, because I love the juxtaposition of straw and crystal!