The challenge: How to change up a same-old, same-old holiday table without investing too much time and money.
Stylist: Grant Whittaker, a Minneapolis-based style expert.
Candidate: Jill Sonnesyn is a multi-tasking mom with a husband and three active children, ages 11 to 18. While she loves entertaining in her Plymouth home, working full time and getting her kids to and from their sporting events doesn't leave her a lot of time to fuss with setting the table.
All together now: Jill can have from 12 to 20 guests when she hosts Thanksgiving dinner. The more the merrier is her attitude, but she does have one rule: "Whenever possible, I want everybody to be at the same table, even if we have to squish a little," she said. "It's so much more fun and it makes everyone feel a part of the action."
Moveable feast: To accommodate a crowd, Grant decided to forgo the formal dining room, which, while well appointed, is smaller than -- and apart from -- the larger, less formal kitchen. The kitchen also boasts a fireplace and easy access to the great room. Grant made the kitchen table the center of the celebration and dressed it for the holiday.
Musical chairs: His first order of business was to swap the simple wood kitchen chairs for the dressier dining room chairs, which are upholstered in a warm, inviting red. (One of Jill's favorite colors.) That change helped determine the color scheme.
Mirror, mirror: Next, he redecorated the mantel. He edited the collection of family photos to a precious few and brought in the mirror from the dining room to give the space a more formal feel. To reinforce the color scheme, he filled two plain square vases with tufts of red and gold tulle.
On the table: Most years, Jill hauls out the formal china she got for her wedding. But Grant decided it was time to mix up the place settings. He paired her everyday dishes with bowls from her china set, then finished the table with an eclectic assortment of serving pieces.
Seeing red: For a fun and decidedly casual twist, he used Jill's red napkins as placemats and topped each place setting with bright yellow, orange and red paper napkins he tied with a red ribbon, "like a little gift-wrapped present," he said.
DIY: Here's how Grant suggests you make any gathering special: "Think of one favorite item in your home -- a chair, plate or candle -- and use that to inspire your table setting," he said. "If you start with something you love, it'll bring you joy."