Bob and Cortney Novogratz Blog: How to Set a Perfectly Imperfect Thanksgiving Table
Bob and Cortney Novogratz are a design duo—and parents to seven children—who recently bought a 1920s-era castle in the Hollywood Hills. Check back regularly on PEOPLE.com as they blog about the rewards, risks, messes, and successes of the project, giving their expert tips and tricks for home renovation. You can follow them on Twitter at @TheNovogratz.
Robert and I have thrown so many Thanksgiving and dinner parties through the years, and the reality is there’s always a big head count.
My number one rule when planning any dinner party is that nothing has to be perfect. Don’t think everything has to match when you’re feeding a lot of people. Here are a few of our tips for making your Thanksgiving table beautiful, no matter the number of guests.
Use mismatched plates — it’s an easy solution for big dinner parties, and if something breaks it’s not a big deal. We have collected vintage plates for over 25 years from so many different places, like tag sales, flea markets, and dollar stores. We’ve ended up with quite a set — some are chipped, some are monogrammed, some are quirky, some are floral, and some have birds on them.
The key to mixing plates is to make sure a blue plate isn’t next to a blue plate, and a bird isn’t next to a bird, so that the table is visually pleasing. It’s also fun for the guests — we can’t tell you how many times we hear guests saying they’ve got the best plate.
Mismatched chairs are also a great solution for big dinner parties. Use chairs you have in your home, borrow from your neighbors, or opt for inexpensive colorful folding chairs like we did at last year’s Thanksgiving. Last year’s Thanksgiving was really special for us- it was our first Thanksgiving in L.A. Since L.A. is such a city of transplants, a lot of new friends and neighbors RSVP’d, so we opted for these inexpensive chairs to be able to seat everyone comfortably and affordably.
A note on color: balance is key. Since we had so many guests at last year’s Thanksgiving, we opted to serve buffet-style with white plates and napkins, and incorporated the colors of the folding chairs in the flowers, which were in vase sizes ranging from olive oil jars to mason jars.
On the flip-side, if your plates and your table runner are colorful, keep your flowers green and white (think neutral). We’re big fans of using what nature gives you — bring in whatever natural elements you have in your yard, like leaves from a eucalyptus tree, for an organic feel. Our most important tip for setting a beautiful table is to have a common thread in your color scheme without overdoing it.
No matter what your table looks like, at the end of the day, it’s about the people at your party and creating the best atmosphere possible. Light candles, make a great playlist before the party, and open all the bottles of water, sparkling water and wine before everyone sits down, so no one has to get up during the dinner.
We always love going around the table and having everyone say what they’re thankful for — it’s a great way for everyone to reflect on the year and appreciate each other.
Whether you have long-standing traditions like us (deep-fried turkey, y’all), or are starting your own traditions, don’t put pressure on yourself to make the day perfect, because it won’t be. I sure know my cooking isn’t always perfect, try as I may from the recipes of our friend Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.
What matters is enjoying the day from start to finish. Invite your family and friends to help you set up (it would be hard to do what we do without my dear friend Stefan) and remember setting up and decorating can be just as fun as celebrating with your guests.
Happy decorating, and gobble gobble.