Last-minute Thanksgiving decor

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’ve been working all week and need a centerpiece or stoop decor stat, I have a super simple idea for you and your home with these last-minute Thanksgiving decor ideas. Head to the one open grocery store, and scoop up pumpkins—lots of them.

A dear family friend and Wendy James Designs reader, Cynde Garrett, sent me this photo from outside a Scottsdale, AZ resort. Cynde can only be described as the queen of holiday decorating. Her Christmas tree always twinkles brighter than any other, and her mantel looks like it belongs on the cover of a magazine. Her comment with this photo? She just needs a fountain!

Pumpkin fountain

I love the combination of pumpkins and twigs. So easy if you happen to have a huge fountain in your front yard, but let’s use this photo as inspiration only.

Here’s how you can achieve this organic beauty on a much more manageable scale—and in a pinch.

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In the garden, add fallen leaves and other trimmings from the yard to the bird bath, then place a pumpkin on top. Skip making a bouquet, and simply arrange several pumpkins and gourds around the base.

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Or float several small pumpkins in it instead.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.53.21 AMHas the greenery growing in the front urns seen better days? Stack a few pumpkins on the top of each, then dress the front steps with the remaining pumpkins and gourds you buy.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.57.32 AMPhoto from EAB Designs

Or keep the front steps simple, and tuck grocery-store greens around the base of each pumpkin in the urn.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.59.34 AMPhoto from Common Ground

Another idea: Skip decorating the outside of the house, and focus your efforts around the area where everyone will be, your dining table. Start with a small pedestal urn or compote dish. Fill it with just a few dry leaves and berries from the yard, and place a single pumpkin on top.

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Want more height? Stack your urn on top of some old books, and place more than one pumpkin on top.

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This one is my favorite. I love the touch of glam the silver urn adds to the monochromatic display of white pumpkins and candles.

Don’t forget to dress the rest of the table. My easiest idea? Just use dry leaves. You can read all about it here.

How are you decorating your Thanksgiving table? I would love to see pictures.



Creative ideas for your holiday table

Back in mid July, I was asked by friend and writer Sarah Stebbins to pitch a few imaginative creations for a story for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. She wanted thoughts for a Thanksgiving table–including kid-friendly options–things like centerpieces and simple projects. The idea was that it had to be quick, something you could do in less than 30 minutes and be proud to put on the table.
Rachael Ray November issue
Well, the November 2013 issue is on newsstands now, and I am thrilled to announce that Wendy James Designs is part of this story. It is an incredible honor to be featured with event designers like David Stark (his apple idea, below, is so simple and fun), TV personalities like Clinton Kelly (I am more than a little obsessed with his jewel-tone gourds) and my favorite environmental lifestyle expert, Danny Seo, who creatively repurposed a thrift-store find. Man after my own heart.
Rachael Ray page
My easy decor gets a thumbs-up from the kids’ table. Add googly eyes and a paper beak to inexpensive striped kids’ gloves, fatten (er, fill) with candy and tie with a ribbon (pictured in the bottom left corner of this page).
My Rachael Ray page

Pick up the November issue to sift through 15 fun ideas or keep reading and try one of mine that didn’t make the magazine, like these DIY polka-dot napkins, inspired by the ones pictured below from Anthropologie. (Dotted napkin photo courtesy of

Polka-dot napkins

1. Wash and iron cotton/polyester blend napkins. Don’t use fabric softener.

2. Put a piece of cardboard under the napkin to protect your work surface.

3. Dip a flat unused pencil eraser into gold fabric paint, dab on a clean paper towel once or twice and then onto your napkin.

4. Repeat this process, dotting away in whatever pattern you like.

I opt for plain white dinnerware because I tell myself that whatever I cook–no matter how messy or unattractive–looks better when served on white. But for dinner parties and holidays, sometimes I dress it up. For Thanksgiving, try tucking one large autumn leaf or a collage of a few smaller fall leaves between your a white dinner plate and a clear one.

Leaf platesMake your own tiered trays and serving pieces. I did something similar with a dinner plate and candlesticks to give a client more room to merchandise makeup compacts, but you could easily do this with rustic tree slabs, inexpensive candlesticks and epoxy that’s suitable for wood and glass.

Tiered traysTell me: How are you decorating your holiday table?





Pretty simple centerpieces

I didn’t want there to be anything complicated about the table settings for our wedding. I envisioned rustic elegance with pure simplicity and a touch of the unexpected.

Remember the mood board I created for the wedding here?

I love the look of burlap but wanted a bit more color on the table. I found a gorgeous dark turquoise embroidery floss and enlisted my mom to help stitch peacock blue seams down either side of each runner. Note: This was an incredibly time-consuming process because we hand stitched them, but the result was fabulous!

We then used the leftover burlap to fashion napkin rings for my off-white linens (we bought these because it ended up being cheaper than renting them). To tie in the peacock blue, we wrapped each of the burlap rings several times (I’m talking like 10-15), then just adhered it with a dot of hot glue.

I wanted my centerpieces to be a mix of texture, colors and heights and include something vintage. I painted these seven-inch wooden boxes the same peacock blue I used on my map project and handed them over to my very talented friend and florist Sally Preston-Gonzalez of Exquisite Blooms to work her magic.

I found the blue glasses at TJMaxx and Marshalls one shopping trip, then enlisted family and friends around the country to hunt down as many as possible. I wanted to use them on the tables as votives. To add a few more candle holders to the table, I purchased a variety of glass containers at thrift stores, then purchased cylindrical vases in 3.5″x6″ and 4.5″x4.5″ sizes and spray painted the insides of each a metallic bronze. I peppered the table tops with small twine balls to introduce a natural element. Alarm clocks (purchased on ebay) set to various numbers told guests which table belonged to them. Time to eat.

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