Life & Design

Top 5 Thanksgiving decor mistakes to avoid, according to interior designers

Don't let these Thanksgiving decor mistakes cramp your festive style

Oatmeal linen napkin, Piglet in Bed
(Image credit: Piglet in Bed)

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we're all looking forward to making our homes look festive. Thanksgiving is a special time to spend with family and friends, and naturally, you'll want to do your best to create a warm and inviting decorating scheme to match the significance of this time of year.

However, Thanksgiving decor ideas aren't always the easiest to implement in your home, with plenty that can go wrong. Thanksgiving decor walks a sometimes tricky line between elegant and rustic, and getting the right balance can be difficult. 

Searching for shopping inspiration when it comes to decorating your home for Thanksgiving? See our edit on the best Thanksgiving decorations for 2021.

Thanksgiving decor mistakes

To make sure your Thanksgiving theme is just right this season, avoid these commonly made Thanksgiving decor mistakes, as highlighted by professional interior designers. 

1. Overdoing it

Oatmeal linen napkin

(Image credit: Piglet in Bed)

By far the most common Thanksgiving decorating mistake is going over the top. Yes, Thanksgiving is all about abundance, but it's easy to overdo it to the point where the decorations interfere with the celebrations. 

Nichole Abbott, Interior Designer at FLOOR360, especially cautions against overdoing it with your tablescape, and advises to 'test to make sure there's enough room on your table for your serving dishes and decorations; remove decorations if there's no room for the food!'

Likewise, if you have many guests arriving and you have 'floor décor items sitting on the floor in traffic patterns in your home, put them away so nothing gets broken and no one gets hurt.'

2. Going too heavy on fall colors

Halloween table decor

(Image credit: Unsplash/Libby Penner)

All those browns and oranges are quintessential Thanksgiving, but these strong colors really can weigh down a room. Interior decorator and the editor-in-chief of Household Advice Nora Mitchell cautions that overly traditional Thanksgiving color schemes 'can be overwhelming and look tacky instead of quaint.'

Nora's top tip is to 'avoid using too much dark brown, and bright oranges, reds and yellows and instead go for more neutral colors like beige, white, softer yellows and reds. When you are shopping for the best Thanksgiving decorations, try to imagine all the items you plan to use and really ask yourself if they simply match or do they actually complement each other?'

Sam Jernigan, Interior Designer at California-based Renaissance Design Consultations agrees: 'Don't use autumn colors in your Thanksgiving decor if those will actually clash with your dining room or wherever you plan to host your dinner guests.' Instead, she recommends opting for 'neutral hues in pinecones (including bleached pinecones) and other natural fibers like corn husks, reeds, etc.'

3. Making the table centerpiece too tall

Autumn table, Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Nothing is quite as awkward as having to tilt your head in order to talk to someone sitting opposite you at the Thanksgiving table. Marco Bizzley, Certified Interior Designer at House Grail, urges not to make the Thanksgiving centerpiece ideas so tall and wide 'that people have difficulty talking to one another or eating comfortably.' 

Sam concurs, adding that 'being able to readily make eye contact with those sitting across the table from each other is a must, especially for such a special holiday gathering!' 

Try sitting down in front of your centerpiece before the guests arrive, and adjust as necessary. 

4. Being too literal with the decorations

The Old Rectory - Cotswold Bun Knob

(Image credit: @oldrectonewoldrec and @armacmartin)

This is another common pitfall of Thanksgiving decorating – choosing decorations that are too literal in telling the story of Thanksgiving. Marco advises to 'go easy on the figurines and gourds', and avoid anything turkey-shaped at all costs, apart from the actual turkey: 

'Eating turkey for Thanksgiving is great, but no one wants to see turkey-shaped glass bowls filled with candy.'

5. Sticking to the single-table setup outdoors

rustic seating area with red and orange cushions

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

Al fresco Thanksgiving celebrations are becoming more and more popular, but assuming that an outdoor Thanksgiving table should be an exact replica of the one in your dining room is a mistake. 

Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping, explains that 'If you want people to stay outside, having just one large table could be a mistake. Large groups tend to split into smaller sets for conversation, and they will often seek cozy places to do so. If your garden already has multiple seating areas, that is ideal! If not, you can create them by creating gathering places for two to four at a short distance from the main table.'

When zoning your garden for Thanksgiving, don't forget 'the variability of temperatures in your outdoor space.' As Cassy points out, 'most gardens have microclimates, spaces that tend to be warmer, cooler or breezier. Use this understanding to place group seating and to ensure there are blankets or space heaters at hand in cooler areas to keep people cozy.'

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.