It’s the most important dinner date in the diary – and it takes a great deal of swank to make the festive table look so splendid.
More a theatrical production than a Christmas chore, the good news is, showcasing your creative flair to sync with the food has never been easier, with such a wealth of wonder within reach.
"Tablescaping is the latest buzzword in interiors when it comes to dining in style," says Emmie Brookman, interiors expert and creative director of Silver Mushroom. "If you’re hosting a festive feast this Christmas, the table should be as memorable as the menu.
"The first and most important thing to consider is the mood. Are you hosting a large family event, or an intimate affair? Think about what space you have, where you want everyone to sit, and who you’re catering for. If there are children in your party, the theme will certainly be different to an adults-only soirée," suggests Brookman.
Find your theme
Such is the expectation, 'party architect' Johnny Roxburgh says he can already feel the excitement and festive cheer. "Christmas is my favourite time of the year to host and this year, celebrations are back on the agenda!"
The party planner says: "In this day and age, most people have enough matching tableware for a small get-together, but when numbers tend to increase for Christmas, it’s fun to mix it all up. As long as it’s reasonably coordinating, it can look much more festive and not overly formal," says Roxburgh.
However, if you’re happy and willing to "twin your table with the rest of your décor", as Brookman puts it, then keeping your theme consistent is important.
"If you have a red and gold theme running throughout your home, for example, it’s probably best not to contrast it with blues and silvers. Your table décor should be an extension of the rest of your home."
Add an accessory
She also says to make sure every accessory adds something to your table, "whether that be personalised name cards, or beautiful statement serving plates".
Practical and on point, to save your dining table from any spillages: "Dress it with a tablecloth and table runner in contrasting colours," suggests Brookman. "If your theme is gold and white, for example, choose a white tablecloth with a gold runner, and add in splashes of both colours through your accessory choices, such as place settings, napkins, cutlery, and crackers."
Attention to detail
Another neat idea for napkins, Jessica Hanley, founder of Piglet in Bed, suggests adding seasonal winter flowers like holly, dried oranges or berries to your place settings, for an extra special touch.
"Tie these to your napkins with some natural twine or string, to bring a burst of nature in from the outdoors, and pull your festive tablescape together."
Short on napkin rings or holders? Roxburgh says you can give napkins a really professional finish with a few simple updates.
"Firstly, I like to spray mine with a delicious scent that matches the Christmas ambience. Habitat has a Hyacinth and White Birch room spray that’s perfect, and when your guests shake out the napkin, it will emit a refreshing fragrance.
"Then, I handroll the napkins before tying them with coloured ribbon – choose whatever colour best matches your table scheme – and you can even tie on a little decoration or mini bauble."
To create a more pared-back look, Emily Dunstan, home buyer at Heal’s, says to opt for a palette of earthy, natural tones, and focus on building texture to make the most impact. "Add greenery with sprigs of holly, fresh rosemary or fragrant fir branches, to create a scene that all your senses can enjoy," she notes.
"For the dinnerware, keep to a simple white palette and look for hand-glazed ceramic pieces, such as the Nordic Sand collection, which will carry beautifully natural imperfections. Layer against beige and pale grey linens to create a sophisticated Scandi-inspired setting," adds Dunstan.
"To finish, mix different heights of pillar candles along the table, before filling a vase with fresh pinecones, baubles and fairy lights as an elegant, festive centerpiece."
Blending the old with the new, think about the extra wow factor when you bring the best of both worlds to the table. "Tradition is important, so our overall decorating always feels familiar, but at the same time, it’s always nice to try something different – old pieces that have been collected over the years mixed with some new buys," says Mark Winstanley, chief creative officer at The White Company.
"Crisp tablecloths and napkins, greenery (often a mix of faux and fresh gathered from the garden) and an abundance of flickering candles," he continues.
"An all-white scheme bounces the light off your glassware and cutlery – add extra brilliance with a beaded charger, placemats, coasters and napkin rings, and add softness and texture with shearling and faux fur cushions."
After dinner drinks
Once you’ve added all the finishing touches, don’t forget the final flourish to get the party started: "The dedicated drinks station. Whether you like concocting classic cocktails or indulging in a mulled wine, set up a stylish home bar filled with glass beakers," says Brookman. "It’s a simple but a practical décor idea that saves you trips to and from the kitchen."
Last but not least, simple table favours: "These really are the cherry on top and a decadent final embellishment for your table," says Roxburgh.
"In the past, I’ve used cookie cutters – platinum, copper or bronze, whatever best suits your colour scheme – turning them into place card holders with a simple paperclip in a matching shade," explains Roxburgh.
"The best part is, each guest can take these away and send you Christmas biscuits as a thank you gift!"