Hol­i­day ta­ble re­ceives some new twists

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa Ray­worth

Per­haps more than any other hol­i­day, Thanksgiving is about tra­di­tion. The menu and table­ware of­ten vary lit­tle from year to year, and the day feels as re­li­able as a cozy sweater.

It can also feel repet­i­tive.

So as you honor tra­di­tion, why not bring a dose of fresh style to your Thanksgiving cel­e­bra­tion? As in­te­rior designer and HGTV host Vern Yip puts it, just “get to the heart of why those tra­di­tions ex­ist and what they’re about. That opens up a whole new box of decor ideas.”

Here Yip and two other de­sign­ers — Maxwell Ryan, founder of apart­ment­ther­apy.com, and crafter Lia Grif­fith of lia­grif­fith.com — of­fer ad­vice on cre­at­ing a mem­o­rable Thanksgiving ta­ble.

Sum­mer’s blooms may be a dis­tant mem­ory, but na­ture can still brighten up your ta­ble. Go out­side and see what’s avail­able, says Ryan: Col­lect pine cones, berries, vines and any­thing else that strikes you as beau­ti­ful. Clus­ter them on the ta­ble in dif­fer­ent ways, adding other nat­u­ral items like squash or pump­kins to the mix.

An­other nat­u­ral touch: “Scoop out the mid­dle of an ap­ple in the same shape as a vo­tive,” Ryan says, and then tuck a vo­tive can­dle into it. Do this with a half­dozen ap­ples ar­ranged on a dish, then light them. The can­dle flame warms the ap­ples, re­leas­ing their sweet scent. As long as the top of the can­dle ex­tends a few cen­time­ters above the edge of the ap­ple, the tiny flame re­mains a safe dis­tance from the ap­ple.

Yip sug­gests lining up tiny top­i­aries down the cen­ter of the ta­ble. He asks guests in ad­vance what their wish is for the com­ing year or what they’re thank­ful for, and then he writes those words on tiny pa­per tags at­tached to the top­i­aries. This gets guests talk­ing about what’s mean­ing­ful to them this Thanksgiving.

Amid all this nat­u­ral green­ery, Grif­fith points out that you can mix in pa­per flow­ers to cre­ate a striking cen­ter­piece or nap­kin rings.

She also sug­gests cut­ting an im­age of a bare tree out of butcher pa­per and hang­ing it on the wall. Cut leaves out of col­ored pa­per, have kids (or grownups) write what they’re thank­ful for this year and paste the leaves on the tree branches. (You can find tem­plates for the leaves at lia­grif­fith.com.)

Fea­ture the food

This year, try adding hand-writ­ten or typed pa­per flags or la­bels to your serv­ing dishes, says Grif­fith. Be­yond help­ing guests with food sen­si­tiv­i­ties or al­ler­gies, this lets you draw at­ten­tion to the history of dishes, the rel­a­tives who made them and who con­trib­uted them this year.

Con­sider letting the food take cen­ter stage on Thanksgiving, skip­ping a tra­di­tional cen­ter­piece. Try dis­play­ing the food at var­i­ous heights, says Ryan, by us­ing cake stands or wide bowls over­turned to serve as pedestals.

And don’t keep dessert hid­den. Thanksgiving desserts, he notes, tend to look phe­nom­e­nal.

“It’s such a shame that these beau­ti­ful cakes and pies and cookies are kind of left in the kitchen,” he says. Dis­play­ing them on cake stands in place of flow­ers or other dec­o­ra­tions lets guests en­joy their sight and scent through­out the meal — and serves as a re­minder to save room for dessert.

Just be sure, Yip says, that noth­ing on the ta­ble is so tall that it blocks the view of other guests.

Try fresh col­ors

If your usual Thanksgiving pal­ette is browns and or­anges, try some­thing new this year: Grif­fith sug­gests dress­ing your ta­ble in soft shades of pur­ple with ac­cents of me­tal­lic cop­per and gold.

“The me­tal­lic trend is so hot right now,” she says, and the warm beauty of pur­ple is a striking back­drop for white china.

Con­ver­sa­tion starters

Yip likes to ask guests be­fore Thanksgiving to tell him some­thing spe­cial about themselves, and then use that to per­son­al­ize the ta­ble. For in­stance, he might ask ev­ery­one to name one place in the world they’ve al­ways wanted to visit. Then he or­ders post­cards (Yip says they’re eas­ily avail­able on­line) to dec­o­rate each place set­ting. Guests can find their seat based on the des­ti­na­tion, and talk with other guests about their choices.

Or ask ev­ery­one for the ti­tle of a fa­vorite book, and then place those books on the ta­ble in stacks or on each nap­kin. Each guest can ex­plain why that book res­onated with them, and each can go home with a rec­om­mended book.

On­line: www. lia­grif­fith.com, www. apart­ment­ther­apy.com, www.vernyip.com/

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This un­dated photo pro­vided by www.Lia­Grif­fith.com shows printed recipe cards de­signed by crafter Lia Grif­fith and avail­able for down­load on her web­site.

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