Dress to impress – that means your Christmas table, too
So what if it’s just you and your Mum this year? Christmas isn’t Christmas unless you go overboard, and our favourite time to get a little extra is at the dinner table, glass of wine in hand.
By Becky Hardy
So what if it’s just you and your Mum this year? Christmas isn’t Christmas unless you go overboard, and our favourite time to get a little extra is at the dinner table, glass of wine in hand. But before we get to that, we need our table primed to perfection, ready for the gram (or Gran, whatever). So dust off your napkin holders, get your secateurs out and let’s get to work
PLAY THE OCCASION
First things first: think about who it is you’re setting the table for. It sounds daft, but you’d be surprised how quickly the occasion can run away with you when you don’t first consider the basics. So before you do anything else, think about: 1) how many people you’re setting the table for; 2) how many courses you’re going to serve; and 3) what your table theme is. Whether it’s chic Christmas or trashy Christmas, homemade Christmas or traditional Christmas, how clear your idea for what you want your dining room ambience to be at this stage will determine your success. Plus, you should really make sure your table is big enough for everyone to fit around. Makes sense, right?
ALL ABOUT THAT BASE
Start from the bottom and the only way is up. In Christmas table terms, that’s your linens. Think of it as your artistic blank canvas from which your masterpiece will be built upon. That’s not to say your linens should necessarily be plain, though – seasonal tablecloths and napkins (like these beauties from Ellie Davison-Archer) can do a lot of the work when creating your festive theme. So as long as they’re in keeping with the vibe you’re going for, then your choice of linens really can help you on your way to a winner of a spread.
HLN’s Top Tip: Lay your tablecloth the night before so it has time to settle, and give it a gentle mist of water to help any folds or creases fall away.
FIND YOUR CENTRE
If you’re preparing to dazzle with an award-winning centrepiece, you want to make sure your table design is going to show it off in all its glory. So don’t wait until all the plates are laid and the cutlery’s down before shoving it somewhere in the middle and hoping for the best.
In terms of which centrepiece wins, that’s entirely up to you (look, we’re not here to pick a fight during the festive season – that’s what Monopoly’s for). Personally, we’re loving this rustic centrepiece from Barrel & Bird, in which you can host everything from candles to foliage. It just seems like it would give a traditional flourish to even the most modern of tables which, really, seems like the essence of Christmas to us.
Whatever you’re going for with your festive table this year, a little bit of foliage is sure to help it on its way. If you’re feeling ultra-modern, we’d go for something chic like oriental lilies and white roses. If it’s traditional you’re after, then you can’t go wrong with some holly, ivy and mistletoe – or gypsophila stems if you’re wanting that snow-on-the-tabletop vibe. If you’re keen on something a little in-between, we’d recommend white berries and eucalyptus. And while a big bouquet right in the table’s centre may scupper your plans of communicating via ironic eyebrow gestures to your brother over your uncle’s drunken outbursts just as the sprouts are being served, mini vases are perfect for adding some floral touches without overpowering the table. Plus, they can be moved around to refresh the decor for when it’s leftover turkey sandwich time later.
HLN’s Hot Shop: If you’re worried fresh-cut flowers may be too fragrant near your food, Wilde Posies do incredible dried-flower bouquets that genuinely look and feel like the real thing. Their Christmas collection is especially epic, (shout-out to the Sleigh My Name bundle).
IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC
We don’t know what it is, but candles at this time of year just ignite the inner child within us. Maybe it goes back to making those satsuma Christingle things in primary school, who knows. But we’d go as far as to say that for a truly Christmassy dinner table, candlelight is essential. And ideally, it wouldn’t be the flicker of any old tea lights. Colour and style are important, so go for gold, burgundy, forest and pale green tapers for tradition and modernity in equal measure. And if you do opt for tea lights, go big or go home – a multitude of teeny-tiny flames sure do bring the festive sparkle.
HLN’s Hot Shop: the North East has a heavenly host of top candlemakers, but Rebecca Pitcher and Gracie & Bell are some of our favourites (they’re heaven-scented for sure). Don’t forget your candlestick holders as well – The Present House Company has a great variety of glass vessels, as well as some super-cool matchboxes you’ll want to ‘accidentally’ leave on show, too.
HLN’s Top Tip: Scatter candles generously across the table at varying heights, keeping them close to flowers (not flammable–close, though) to create a deliciously dramatic atmosphere. Because Christmas is all about the drams.
THERE’S A LOT ON YOUR PLATES
It goes without saying that it’s pretty pointless going to all of this trouble if you finish it all off with some lacklustre crockery. So whether you’re dusting off your great-Gran’s finest China or showing off your handcrafted pottery pièce de résistance, make sure your tableware is as impressive as your cooking (or way more, in our case).
That includes things like your cheeseboard. You don’t want to be resting manna of the gods (aka Wensleydale with cranberry) on a boring old chopping board. If you’re going for a pared-back, au natural theme, check out The Corbridge Farmhouse – their bespoke, hardwood cheese boards really hammer home that rustic vibe.
HLN’s Hot Shop: We love it when there’s a story behind, well, basically anything. So when it comes to your tableware, why not push the boat out and get a little arty? The Aviary have a cracking (although hopefully not literally) selection of ceramics that are bound to get people talking over the turkey.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
The devil’s in the detail, as they say. So even if you’re hosting a decidedly-depleted crowd compared to your usual festive feast, don’t scrimp on the little things. Place names are a good start; handwritten cards are a nice, extra-special touch that won’t cost the earth, either in money or time. If you’re concerned that your table is already groaning under the weight of all your decorations and you’re struggling for room as it is, why not incorporate place names into things you’re already using, like crackers or napkins? Alternatively, if you’re planning on being extra af, go all out and create bespoke snow globes with your guests’ names or (heaven forbid) photos inside. Make Mariah proud.
HLN’s Top Tip: Although it’s mainly about your Christmas table, the ambience you create will be in the whole dining room, so be sure to create your theme around your existing or seasonal decor. If you’re looking for any final festive features, check out this light-up wreath from Light Up North, or this It’s A Wonderful Life print from Sweet Fantastic. You’re welcome.
We hope that helps! Be sure to tag us in your Christmas table snaps @high_life_north.