Thanksgiving begs for a bit more creativity when it comes to setting an attractive table. So we asked a design consultant for inspiration...

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Thanksgiving begs for a bit more creativity when it comes to setting an attractive table. So we asked a design consultant for inspiration.

What evolved were six wonderful yet accessible themed place settings. The consultant, Victoria Thorne of San Jose, has a knack for seeing objects in a different light. A snippet of tatting, a scrap of 1940s millinery ribbon and a souvenir plate from Chicago find new life in her hands.

Although we all might not have a Civil War fork lying around the house, the hope is that Thorne’s creations will allow you to see items you do have in a new way.

One note: Something delightful happened as we gathered Thorne’s place settings. Together, they make for an appealing, intriguing table. Why not theme your place settings to suit your guests this year?


Rustic elements somehow lend themselves to elegance when you keep it simple. Thorne’s vintage Western-style plate, at left, with its circle of cattle brands, was probably intended for common fare, with its divided compartments. But she tops it with a circa 1781 pewter plate and a heritage German napkin acquired on eBay. Crossed atop the napkin are a Civil War fork and a coin silver spoon (coin silver generally refers to American silver made before 1865 or so). A tiny pumpkin and dried pod add interest. You could steal a bit of this geometric look by simply crossing any fork and spoon atop a napkin for your Thanksgiving table setting.


It might be a clay quail, at left, but the little bird looks just right on this demure setting. The base plate was Thorne’s mother’s wedding china, Wedgwood Edme, the salad plate acquired on sale at Anthropologie. Tying it all together is a simple matter: The salad plate is encircled by a grosgrain ribbon, easily found at craft or sewing stores in a color to suit your table. That’s a bit of antique tatting tying the quail in place.


A souvenir plate from Chicago is resurrected for this setting, and somehow, the type and the sepia tones are just right for this holiday. A linen napkin with a subtle herringbone pattern is tightly packaged in pumpkin-colored 1940s millinery ribbon, as are two miniature ears of Indian corn. To complete the look, Thorne might add a tourist’s guide to Plymouth from the 1920s, with its engraved art of a Pilgrim couple.


A $5.95 ruffled napkin found at Anthropologie carries the gracious setting below. A coin silver spoon, a bit of corn husk, a cinnamon stick and a sprig of dried flowers all add drama. The good china? A Limoges plate, originally from Gump’s in San Francisco, scooped up at a yard sale. The interesting black and white plate is German, acquired on eBay.


The plates, above, were Goodwill finds at $1.99 each, the detailed napkin on sale at Anthropologie. Add a pair of chopsticks tied atop the napkin and a last-minute inspiration, a small fish found at Cost Plus, and Thorne has created a rich, Asian-influenced palette that makes for an unusual Thanksgiving place setting. Small details add depth and interest: the silk ribbon that ties the chopsticks, along with the napkin; the cinnamon stick; and the bit of dried hydrangea.


The kiddie plate, above, needn’t be relegated to the kiddie table. Why not create a kid-themed plate with special touches from a family member’s childhood? Thorne created hers starting with a plate her son made. She included a girlhood favorite, a book of poems, then tied a 1939 World’s Fair spoon and a 1930s Bakelite fork to her own Steiff stuffed fox. And what about the boy in the photo? Well, Thorne acquired this new “relative” from an eBay dealer who specializes in other people’s old family photos.