Whether you are taking a break from the annual travel marathon and hosting a Friendsgiving, or your family has passed the turkey baton on to you, hosting Thanksgiving is no small feat. But there’s no need to panic. We chatted all things holiday decor and T-Day with the lovely Serena Dugan from Serena & Lily, a home decor shop that sells everything from festive table linens to modern serving dishes and utensils. Her decor tips and hosting advice will help you host your first Thanksgiving in style and help get that 20-pound bird on the table without a hitch.
1. How was your first Thanksgiving as a hostess? Any mishaps, victories or blunders?
Serena: In a word — hilarious! I was 30, and I think I had 30 people to dinner. My big learning was that timing a feast is harder than it seems. I think we ate at 9:30 pm. My big win was that there was plenty of wine, so no one noticed that the turkey was dry. Truthfully, it was all about atmosphere and great company — a mix of family and wayward friends. We cleared out my living room and joined assorted tables together, with various fabrics covering them like a gypsy caravan. There was a roaring fire and candles lit everywhere and it was pouring rain outside.
2. What decor advice would you give to someone hosting their first Thanksgiving?
Serena: Don’t overthink it! Holiday decor is about drama and creating emotion through ambiance. But there are easy, natural ways to get there. Candlelight. Metallics that shimmer. Glass for more shine. Beautiful textiles on a table that’s perfectly set to make everyone happy and remind us all that we came to gather and dine and celebrate, regardless of how relaxed the vibe is. We’re a California brand, so we like a fresher, lighter, more informal touch. However, I’m a stickler for beautiful plates, glasses and silver, set amongst our table linens. When it comes to entertaining and cooking itself, I say, stay calm and save the dishes for after the party… they’ll still be there.
3. What are some household essentials you recommend for a first-time host or hostess?
Serena: I think a really good hostess recognizes that entertaining is about the people you’ve invited to gather, and approaches everything from that point of view. I like to make sure my guests feel comfortable and taken care of at each stage of their visit. Provide plenty of seating and maybe consider adding an ottoman with a tray as a surface to set glasses. For smaller gatherings, I always have a basket of throw blankets in whichever area we will be gathering after dinner — whether it’s the living room or deck. I also scatter candles around for ambiance.
For overnight guests, a guest room should be thoroughly stocked with everything they might need (a robe, water pitcher and glasses on the nightstand, a stack of magazines or books you think they would love, a classic leather stool for their suitcase and a throw to curl up with at night.) The bathroom should have fresh linens and towels, and scented candles are always a nice touch. We introduced a new collection this season inspired by coastal beaches we love. These thoughtful touches can make all the difference in someone’s experience in your home.
4. What are some of your favorite festive decor/tablescape finds on your site for Thanksgiving 2015?
Serena: We just launched our Holiday Collection and have many pieces that look good on any table, any time of year. Our plated glass votives are a nice touch, as they add just the right amount of sparkle. Candlelight is everything! We have faux antlers that make a beautiful and unexpected centerpiece. I also love our Bergen table linens, with metallic embroidery on linen for an effect that’s festive, but also very sophisticated.
5. How do you recommend incorporating your personal style into Thanksgiving decor?
Serena: It’s challenging to be overly prescriptive when it comes to self-expression, because that defeats the purpose. I’m a firm believer in going with our own instincts. Find what speaks to you, follow that instinct and you’ll have a look that reflects your own style.
6. What are your favorite fall color palettes for Thanksgiving?
Serena: There’s an endless array of great color palettes. That said, I’m loving a muted palette this season. It’s beautifully simple and gives you plenty of room to play with weight and texture. I’m especially loving our palette of winter whites.
7. What advice do you have for people that can’t afford to spend an arm and leg on Thanksgiving decor?
Serena: Try using the items you already have in a new way, like using your summer table linens in fall for a vibrant palette, and add seasonal touches to keep it feeling relevant. If you have the option, I also recommend exploring items from other family members. Perhaps your grandmother’s linens would pair beautifully with your China. And always try vintage or thrift stores for special finds like votives, glassware or a cocktail shaker for the bar cart.
8. What decor hacks do you have for Thanksgiving/tablescape decor?
Serena: Start with what you love and build around that. Layer in items with color and texture and dimension, then take a step back, and if it’s not working, try a different direction. The most important part is that it speaks to you and pleases your eye. If you love it, your guests will too.
Make sure you check out Serena & Lily for even more inspiring ideas, pretty pieces of decor and general awesomeness.
Are you taking on your first Thanksgiving this year? Tell us about your favorite hosting experiences in the comments below!