How to Create a Statement-Making Thanksgiving Centerpiece

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition, from the day’s progression to the dishes we serve to the heirloom pieces we incorporate into our place settings. However, there is one area where we enjoy experimenting each year: the centerpiece. And while we love a classic look and appreciate a nod to simplicity, this year we’re bringing a bit of drama to the table—in a good way. Here, we dissect the details behind a statement-making arrangement inspired by a recent table-setting Master Class from interior designer Jan Roden.

Take your inspiration from art. Roden, who majored in art history, often looks to antique Flemish still life paintings and depictions of dinners in the 1800s for table-setting ideas. In these works, the food is the star of the table, adding color to the tablescape in the absence of florals. Sticking to a tight color palette can lead to a beautiful arrangement as well. In the example above, all of the colors represented are earthy, from the bright orange persimmons to the deep purple grapes, which adds a sense of sophistication to the simple grouping.

Aim for a feeling of celebration. When welcoming guests to your table, whether it’s for Thanksgiving or a weeknight dinner party, you want it to feel like a celebratory occasion. Including an abundance of elements in your displays is an excellent way to make the gathering feel festive. Roden likes to group likes with likes—think bright orange satsumas or green apples piled in a vessel—and gets creative with bread and branches to bring height to her tabletops.

Let the season guide you. Just because fall and winter don’t offer the sort of florals as their warmer seasonal counterparts doesn’t mean you still can’t forage for natural elements to incorporate into your decor. This time of year yields beautiful branches, magnolia leaves, and Osage oranges, among other items. Letting the produce at your local market guide you is also a good approach.

Add something unexpected. Mixing in something that speaks to you in addition to the usual suspects of candles, fruit, and florals will make your tabletop feel even more soulful. Roden favors antique books, which are perfect for adding height and texture. A length of velvet in a rich hue is also one of her go-tos.

Use what you have. Chances are, you already have the necessary infrastructure to create your own statement-making tablescape. Pull out the silver compotes and trays, and don’t worry if there’s a little tarnish.

Arrangement by Christy Ford, co-founder of The Scout Guide and co-owner of And George in Charlottesville, Virginia. TSG Tip 337 features advice from Jan Roden of Jan Roden Design and And George antiques and home furnishings store in Charlottesville, Virginia.