Giving thanks with style

Greeley gives tips to create a unique holiday meal
By Stina Sieg | Nov 16, 2012

Your Thanksgiving feast can be fancy or informal, large or intimate, even homemade or store-bought. As local interior designer and author Kathryn Greeley sees it, those little things aren't what matters. What really makes the difference is that your holiday celebration is your own.

Everyone has a unique "personal style," she explained, and she sees Thanksgiving as just the time to tap into it.

"Style is a way of saying who you are without saying a word," said Greeley, owner of Kathryn Greeley Designs in downtown Waynesville.

What speaks to you and what you're passionate about can come through, she went on, regardless of whether you're spending hundreds of dollars or next to nothing on your Thanksgiving meal. Greeley, who's known across the county (and beyond) for her parties, is used to more than just playing host for soirees. She's also comfortable giving advice on the matter. Her recent book, "The Collected Tabletop," is chock-full of tidbits about how to make any get-together memorable, meaningful and fun — no matter the size or budget.

Thanksgiving tips

First off, be organized, not all "helter skelter," Greeley said. An admitted list lover, she joked she sometimes writes things on a list just so she can have the pleasure of crossing them off. Laugh if you want, but as anyone who's ever rushed out to the grocery store for nutmeg on Turkey Day knows, you can never be too put together on Thanksgiving.

"Planning ahead I think is the best advice, and it gives you that time to kind of sit back and enjoy the fruits of you labor," she said.

She's also quick to caution people not to "fuss over the food." While she enjoys spending hours upon hours cooking up her Thanksgiving feast, usually for a group of 24 to 36, she knows that's not everyone's forte.

Not being a cook is "no excuse" for not having a great meal, she explained. With so many caterers and restaurants offering already-cooked birds, there are plenty of ways to get around even turning on your stove. You could always go potluck-style and invite some good cooks to the meal, she said, only half joking.

When it comes to decorating, Greeley's best advice is not to do what she does — or what anybody else does, for that matter.

"Don't try to copy someone else's style," she said. "Let your table and your Thanksgiving celebration reflect your own style, your family's style."

Greeley's style is famously focuses on a "collected" look, rather than a decorated one. She likes to mix and match the new and old, the precious and the not-so-precious. When it comes to Thanksgiving, she knows what she likes, but stressed that for everyone else every option is on the table — literally.

That can mean anything from buying fresh flowers for a centerpiece to going into the yard and collecting autumn leaves to decorate the table. While Greeley has a penchant for white-and-blue china, maybe you're into plates and bowls made from burgundies, browns and golds. Maybe you have your grandmother's precious old dishware or some affordable, colorful placemats recently bought your local big-box store.

To Greeley, it doesn't matter, just as long as it goes along with a mantra of hers.

"Use the very best you have, whatever that is," she said. "And make sure every detail is covered."

From cleaning your house beforehand to personally inviting people to your holiday meal, Greeley believes these little touches make all the difference. When people break bread on Thanksgiving, they're not just eating a meal together, she knows. They're creating tradition — and that matters for more than the turkey, gravy or Jell-o salad.

Growing up in Bryson City, she always loved going to Thanksgiving at her grandmother's home. In her words, all the comfort and familiarity "meant everything."

Though she had no understanding then of how much time it took Granny Crisp to make all those pies and other dishes, she's now wowed by it. Greeley has taken on some of her grandma's habits — and is proud to say so. Every Thanksgiving, she makes an assorted group of friends and family feel welcome by providing a large, tasty meal with all trimmings. That's her gift to the people she cares about.

"But if I didn't have anything to give them but my time and effort and a turkey sandwich, it would be just as meaningful," she said.

That's because, in the end, Greeley knows Thanksgiving isn't about the food at all, but the love behind it.


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