Plus get amazing turkey-day recipes
“My goal is for guests to feel beckoned to a table—to sit and feel comfortable, a little bit spoiled, and engaged with those around them,” says Lisa Thomas, owner of Ooh! Events and Old Village lifestyle emporium Out of Hand. We enlisted the design maven and her team to deck out a Sullivan’s Island porch (what could be better than an alfresco dinner with views of the Atlantic?) as an inspired gathering space. Here, you’ll find her tips for creating a casual yet elegant holiday celebration filled with memories, gratitude, and a little whimsy.
The Art of the Tablescape
■ Zen Time: “Setting the Thanksgiving table is my meditation,” says Lisa, who prefers to do this alone the night prior. “I like to combine memories on the table—my mother’s glasses, my grandmother’s china. I’ll listen to music with a little wine in hand and take a trip down memory lane, remembering past holidays with family members who are no longer able to attend.”
■ Cover the Basics: Lisa suggests taking an inventory of your dishes, glasses, and flatware and then layering in the details with items that are easy to make or purchase.
■ Opposites Attract: “Depending on the dishware, I try to use linens or wood to balance a choice.” Planning to use fancy china and glasses? Put them on a wood table with a velvet runner to add warmth.
■ Make or Break: “Don’t stress over the little things—improvise!” she advises. For example, if you don’t have napkin rings, make them out of ribbon, cloth, twine, or whatever else works with your setting. In this case, Lisa used strips of leather and loosely tied the linens and flatware together.
■ Focus on Gratitude: “I always do a menu card with a question at the bottom to spark conversation,” says Lisa. “These ice breakers can help new friends connect and keep gratitude top of mind.”
Lisa Thomas and Mary Kathryn McConaghy of Ooh! Events
The designer divided the spacious porch into three purposeful sections. First up: a stylish lounge area for pre- and post-feast—complete with a plush velvet sofa, comfy chairs, and plenty of pillows—where guests can sit and enjoy a cocktail, the view, and good company. The centerpiece, of course, is the dining table. And finally, she created a dessert station. “At my house, we’re typically too full to eat pie and such right away,” she says. “Why not showcase them on a pretty piece of furniture?” Afterward, the lounge, hammock, and football games are only steps away.
■ Break It Up: Divide a large porch space into areas delineated with rugs, furnishings, and lighting. “Pull furniture from your house to transform it into an extended room,” Lisa says.
■ Keep It Cozy: “Whether you are doing a dinner for five or 500, the trick is to keep things feeling intimate,” she advises. Drop lighting lower over tables or seating areas, she says, to achieve this ambiance.
■ Get Crafty: “I like to incorporate a craft project,” Lisa notes. “It’s a great way for kids to be involved with the preparation of the festivities.” For this seaside setting, she fashioned “sea oat” accents from cardboard and wheat and added them to the chandelier and the dessert table. “They reflected the coastal setting without being too literal and created a mobile-like effect with the breezes off the water.”
(From left to right) Plump pillows and a soft throw make this hammock an enviable post-meal napping spot.; Lisa loves to mix it up, combining classic and modern, fancy and casual, such as antique china on a trendy gold-rim charger; Small vintage bottles filled with blooms and grasses add interest
“Order out,” says Lisa with a laugh. “Honestly, I work a lot! Years ago, I stopped beating myself up that I must be in the kitchen all day making everything on the table.” She’s devised a great compromise: she and her daughter, Emma, make a few family must-haves, such as Lisa’s mom’s green bean casserole and stuffing balls. “To me, this is honoring my mother and making memories with my daughter. It eliminates stress and allows us more gab and game time.”
(Left to right) Apple-Cranberry Pie from Pies, Cakes, & S’more, Sweet Tea-Brined Turkey from Cru Catering, Pumpkin Bundt Cake from Pies, Cakes, & S’more, and Lowcountry Oyster Stuffing from Hamby Catering
Whether you are cooking or ordering, check out these holiday recipes from some of our favorite local caterers below:
Special thanks to the Geils family for sharing their Sullivan’s Island home for this feature