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Tablesetting for Thanksgiving

Tips from the Gents at FRED + Tablescape Inspiration

November 15, 2018

Tablesetting for Thanksgiving

Tips from the Gents at FRED + Tablescape Inspiration

November 15, 2018

Thanksgiving is a time we come together. We recognize our abundance; we try to give to those who have less; and we connect with our given families and chosen friends. In the Hudson Valley, the holiday comes at the end of its most magnificent season, providing a moment to breathe and reflect before being thrust headlong into that final month of the year which for some is a time of busy, dizzy joy, for others an endurance marathon. A holiday more about eating than any other, it's also a time to set the prettiest tablescape anyone has ever seen!

In the spirit of the holiday, Maryline Damour organized the first ever Kingston Design Showhouse, to bring together the Hudson Valley design community and raise funds for those in need. We were happy to donate many lights to this project, which was open to the public throughout October and featured in Architectural Digest. Fixtures were later sold in a silent auction to benefit People's Place in Kingston.



Particularly dramatic was the dining room, above, designed by the equally charming and brilliant Michael Van Nort and Charles Farruggio, interior designers and shopowners at FRED.

We stopped in to talk with Michael and Charles in their beautiful shop in the sleepy hamlet of High Falls and the dynamic duo were gracious enough to give us some insights into the space they created for the showhouse, as well as a few excellent pointers on hosting a holiday feast and setting a tablescape for a Thanksgiving to remember. We'll be doing a full post on the Kingston Design Showhouse soon, so check back to hear how they put together that incredible space.

Below, get their pro tips for setting a table for an evening to remember, then scroll on for some more tablescape and seasonal inspiration.


Meet Michael and Charles of FRED

Step into the small but superb shop, FRED, across from The Black Barn in High Falls, NY, on a weekend day and you'll be greeted by a host of beautiful things to elevate your home. A collection of paintings and charcoal drawings by local artists. Elegant free-standing shelves adorned with gorgeous stemware, flatware, and eccentric decorative accents. Pillows and blankets and throws in profusion, wonderful to touch, enriching the eye with juicy colors. A central table with some very intriguing books. Vintage items adding depth to the space. Luxurious candles under cloches. Behind it all, a whimsical jungle-inspired wallpaper covering an accent wall in an alcove behind the wooden counter. And, of course, Michael and Charles, friendly as can be and happy to help.

But Michael and Charles are not merely shopkeepers with excellent taste; they're interior designers doing projects in New York City, Boston, Florida, the Hudson Valley, and wherever else clients beckon them. As well as marathon runners, adjunct instructors, former third-grade teachers, and more. And they love color.

They also do event and menu planning, and professional table settings. Like this beautiful one for a local friend's birthday party.

Tablescape by Michael Van Nort | Image via MVN Design

How to Craft a Stunning Tablescape

Asked "When creating a tablescape, what's your approach? Are there any rules?" Charles takes the lead. "Well, I hate rules. So the first rule is there are no rules. But first and foremost, it has to be functional. So all the stemware, silverware, and so on needed for the evening's meal must be there. That's first. After that, it should be dramatic, entertaining—"

"And PRETTY!" Michael interjects, to the laughter of us all. Charles is quick to agree. These two have been working together so long, they have a lovely way of finishing each other's sentences, bouncing off each other's ideas, and considering questions before thoughtfully deferring to the other for an answer on a particular question.

Michael joins in from here to emphasize the importance of different heights and elevations along the table, using candles and flower arrangements to get the desired diversity. He illustrates his point with a story of a time he was hired for event design for a wedding. Enlisting the help of children in attendance to collect rocks from the waterside setting, they stacked the stones like cairns around the candles to support them. Bringing nature to play and thinking of creative solutions makes for pleasing tablescapes and memorable occasions. 

Charles adds, "Bring out your best! That's what it's there for! But once the guests arrive, relax."

As if reminded by this key word—relax—Michael outlines the importance of asymmetry in plotting out a beautiful tablesetting.

"Asymmetry takes down the rigidity, while also being visually pleasing. It makes the atmosphere more relaxed." 

In their setting for the showhouse, you can see they applied both nature and asymmetry, as well as things that connected to the rest of the room, to make a beautiful tablescape. For the floral element, they adorned the Paul McCobb dining table with both a low-to-the-table autumnally-colored flower arrangement and a tall gathering of berry-bearing twigs which tangle up close to touching the branch-like body of the light fixture, Sierra, complementing each other beautifully.

Notice how the napkins feature the same classic Greek meander pattern as the sides of the freestanding shelving units, tying the space together?  Pretty cool.

Michael Van Nort's and Charles Farruggio's Tips for Tablesetting and Entertaining

  • Make sure your table is functional, first and foremost. Does it have everything needed for the evening's courses and libation? All necessary stemware, silverware, plates, and bowls for the evening's repast should be present.
  • You're entertaining, so make the table entertaining. How might it be a little dramatic? And don't forget, PRETTY! If it's not pretty, what's the point?
  • Think of the tablescape in terms of varying levels of elevation. What elements can you bring to it that will add height and dimension? Suggestions include floral arrangements (even clippings of branches and elegant twiggetry and berries in tall vases), candles, and things that support candles—lanterns, candlesticks, your own handmade creative solutions, etc.
  • Make things feel less rigid and formal by using asymmetry. Symmetry is expected. Asymmetry is unexpected. Add a dash of the unexpected. Asymmetry can include lantern heights. At the same time that it looks great, asymmetry will also make your guests feel more relaxed.
  • It's the holidays! Bring out your best! But once you've brought out and given it your best, making the most beautiful and inviting setting you can, relax! Whatever that means for you, whether that's prepping long in advance or having a drink right before guests arrive, loosen up and let go of expectations and attachments. If a glass gets chipped or a spill happens on your carpet, these things exist for occasions such as these, so don't let them ruin the occasion. 
  • Turn your focus from food and setting to guests. Make them feel special by shifting your attention to where it belongs: the people in your life you've chosen to share this special day with, be they family, friends, or both.

To this list we add one more:

  • Toward this goal of relaxation and putting guests at ease, have a layered lighting plan ready to go—chandelier above on a dimmer, candles on the table, nearby accent light from lamps if needed. 

More Thanksgiving Tablescapes Inspiration

Design by Macy Stucke | Chandelier: Sauterne by Corbett Lighting

We all know Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but what about Macy's Thanksgiving table? Macy Stucke, that is. Here's her table laid out for the holiday, with a soft palette of beige, gold, and orange tying into the season, the room around it, and the gold-flecked Venetian glass and Gold Leaf finish of the Sauterne chandelier by Corbett Lighting above it. Candles, asymmetry via different lantern heights, flowers, and so, so much prettiness all speak to the tablescape tips. There's a lot more to Macy's table, too. You can check out Macy's whole tablescape and hear about how it came together in her own words in her blog post here.

Design and Photo: Jordan Farmer of House Becomes Home | Fixture: Astoria by Hudson Valley Lighting

Design: Lea Johnson @ creekwoodhill | Photo by TEM Photography | Fleming by Hudson Valley Lighting

Image: HGTV Magazine & Jessy Fofana | Patten: Hudson Valley Lighting | Sconces: Mitzi

Homeowner: Emily A. Clark | Dillon chandelier by Hudson Valley Lighting

But hosting Thanksgiving is not all about the table and the meal. Have guests spending the night? We've got some great ideas for the guest room in this post.

That wraps up our Thanksgiving tablescapes post. We hoped you enjoyed Michael and Charles of FRED's tips for tablesetting. Stay tuned for a tour around the stunning Kingston Design Showhouse. We'll have more insight from these interior designers and much, much more. We hope you and yours have a healthy, happy Thanksgiving.




Photo Credits:

All photos of the Kingston Design Showhouse dining room by Matthew Petricone.
Design of the dining room by Michael Van Nort and Charles Farruggio of FRED