Emilia talked with Rachel (right)—an American who has lived in Scandinavia for many years—and her Swedish partner, Miriam (left). Every year, they invite several friends to party and partake in the traditions of American Thanksgiving. Emilia took their ambitions, styles and ways of thinking and transformed them into a dreamy, harvesty dinner party rooted in thankfulness. You can of course use the ideas for any kind of get together, but we hope you’ll be inspired to try out a gratitude gathering, too!
“The party should feel like a special occasion, but welcoming and relaxed, too,” Rachel says. “Nobody should feel intimidated if the celebration is something new.”
To set a theme, Emilia focused on creating a laid-back and out-of-the-ordinary atmosphere. She chose darker seasonal colours from nature like tones of grey, green, blue and mustard, especially in natural materials like wood and straw. For festive ambience, Emilia set up an unexpected first impresssion in the stairs—and made this decoration from a play hoop, wire, lights and cut paper leaves. “The theme can be in the whole house, like putting natural objects and lighting in the bathroom or hallway.”
Miriam is a professional musician who likes to bake and make cocktails, so she’s pretty good at delighting different senses! To set the mood and treat as many senses as possible, she takes the lead on making a song playlist and a pot of fabulous smells. “Who doesn’t feel welcome in a home that smells delicious,” Miriam says.
Emilia took this idea and boiled slices of ginger and lemon with cinnamon sticks, cloves and raisins. “You can prep the mix in advance and store it in a sealed container until you’re ready,” she explains. “Or even just use a scented candle.”
Rachel and Miriam usually invite 8-15 people and don’t assign seats. “The food is in focus, but the party is really about being with friends and family, meeting new people, making memories and taking time to be thankful,” Miriam explains.
For the table, Emilia balanced a wow factor with a welcoming feeling. She chose natural tones and decorated with pumpkins and dried flowers to connect to the season. Use whatever nature offers like acorns, pine cones or wild herbs. For the textiles, she went with the relaxed, natural linen. “It’s easy to dye in different shades and just rip into whatever size,” Emilia explains. “The less you do to it, the more beautiful it is—no seams, no ironing. Wrinkles are charming!”
“I borrowed an idea from Swedish weddings. I make a program so guests feel included and know what to expect and what’s in the food.”
Rachel Cooper, harvest dinner hostess
Rachel loves glitter, sparkles and sequins. She also likes to knit and make homemade cards and gifts. “I think it’s easier for people to understand and feel included in a new tradition or celebration when they do an activity together,” she says. One year, they made turkey head bands for guests to decorate and wear because turkeys are a symbol and key part of American Thanksgiving.
“I really like that they are so creative and crafty and create something to be worn during the party,” Emilia says. “If your guests are super crafty, they can make the hats themselves, too, like as an icebreaker activity while you finish up in the kitchen.”
“There’s so much prestige and demands today. It was wonderful to work with Rachel and Miriam as hosts who focus on spending time with guests.”
“Part of our tradition is each person says something they’re thankful for, but some people are shy,” Rachel says. “So we started writing it down and putting it in a bowl. Then we take turns reading them outloud and guessing who wrote what.”
Emilia says she really liked this tradition and thought it would be lovely to make into a decoration, so she turned the paper into birds. Each person can write what they’re thankful for on the bird and then put them up together on a wall. “Everyone can see how much there is to be thankful for,” she explains. “It’s meaningful, memorable and ready for a selfie or two.”
Interior designer: Emilia Ljungberg
Digital designer: Cecilia Englund
Copywriter: Marissa Frayer
Photographer: Mats Ekdahl/Max Alm Norell
Editor: Linda Harkell