You're hosting a Thanksgiving gathering for the extended family. You want to set a table that's refined and elegant but not too fussy. A table that makes loved ones feel merry and comfortable. "Go for maximum impact with minimum effort, keep shapes and forms simple," says Susan Spungen, author of "What's a Hostess to Do?" and culinary consultant for films such as "Julie & Julia" and "It's Complicated."
Sculptural and versatile carafes, vases and platters can all serve as centerpieces. (Even better — they'll last through Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's.) Then add natural elements to create an authentic mood. "When it comes to Thanksgiving, I use all sorts of fruits and gourds to decorate, because that's the way it used to be," says Camille Saum, an interior designer in Bethesda Md. Using well-made, long-lasting pieces with natural elements is also a way to honor an American tradition four centuries after the first Thanksgiving. So set your table, and then say thanks.
Ideas for dressing up your dining room:
— "My number one thing to tell people to get as a gift is the Oval Oak Wide Carafe ($38, www.tabletopdc.com) for wine," says Daphne Olive, co-owner of Tabletop DC in Washington. "It's so modern and so classic at the same time. There's not a house that this wouldn't go in."
— To create a centerpiece on short notice, "pile up some beautiful seasonal produce on pedestals," says Susan Spungen, author of "What's a Hostess to Do?" (Artisan, 2013). Spungen recommends Round or Square Pedestal Trays from Serena & Lily ($78-$198, www.serenaandlily.com). "These pedestals make instant centerpieces easy — just pile them with beautiful seasonal fruits or vegetables."