The Christmas table is one of my favourite things to design and create over the festive season. It’s a tradition that my mother taught me and I start thinking about it months ahead. Other than a good cook at the helm on Christmas Day, the table setting is key to creating the right mood for friends and family to spend time together over the most yummy meal of the year. I like to excite my guests with a veritable cornucopia of delights as they take their seat. Igniting their senses using colour, fragrance, texture and light can make the occasion so much more than just a roast dinner. This year, I’m doing a nature inspired Christmas table. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but there is a process that I take to get it right. Here’s how.
Where to Begin with Your Christmas Table
A lot of people start with the central display on the table. I think that’s jumping the gun a little. I always start with a central colour. In previous years I have been much more traditional, opting for just white with hints of dark green and red from holly and ivy. I have done a white and indigo blue inspired Christmas table though and I think one year it was mainly black, which didn’t go down well.
In the past year my favourite new colour has been olive green and I’m showing no sign of getting bored of it. I used it as the main accent colour in our holiday rental @theharbourdeckhouse and it made a pleasant change from the obvious coastal blue. I was recently at Neptune Home in Chichester and they had the most beautiful olive green natural linen table runner and napkins. There was no way I could resist and knew they would be perfect for my Christmas table.
So, I now have my central colour and I also have what I consider to be the next most important thing: the table runner and napkins. The runner forms the backdrop to everything else that you place on the table and provides a clean symmetrical line. Our table is rectangular, but it works just as well on an oval table. For a round one, a tablecloth is a much easier choice.
So, I’ve got my Central Colour and my Runner, What’s Next?
Just like when I design a room, there is one central colour and then I add a second and often a third accent colour. It’s exactly the same for a Christmas table. Because I’m using nature to inspire me this year, I want to use earthy tones. So, I chose the warm, rich brown of pine cones and, in fact I’ll be using actual pines cones on the table itself.
I’ve pretty much colour matched the pine cones with my table mats, which are a dark rattan weave. The cosy, dark brown reminds me of festive treats like chestnuts, dark chocolate, brandy and Christmas pudding. I’m secretly hoping this colour will subliminally get people in the mood for a feast!
In the dining room I recently made a winter display over the fireplace using hazelnut coloured dried bracken, frosted teasels and crisp white gypsophila. This is going to act as the backdrop to the Christmas table, which is in front of the fireplace. I’m going to borrow the idea of the white gypsophila and mirror it on the table. So, I have my three colours, olive green, chocolatey brown and white.
Now for the Centrepiece
I usually have some form of slightly over-the-top floral display as my centrepiece. My first thought was to continue using the bracken as the central showstopper, creating height and interest in a simple rustic urn. But, I was slightly concerned it was going to look a bit bland and thought the fronds might get on people’s nerves. So this year, I’m paring it right back. I’ve chosen a vintage warm walnut wood champagne bucket with aged brass fixings. Obviously, it’s very beautiful, but it will hold the most important thing of all – the champagne!
Either side of that, about 60cm apart, I have added miniature Christmas trees in pots, wrapped in sackcloth. These create height, but also fill the room with Yuletide scent. Be careful with tall items on the table though. I’ve placed them away from peoples faces. The last thing you want on Christmas Day is to spend dinner talking to Nordic Spruce, although that could be more exciting than Uncle Fred!
The Crockery, Cutlery, Glasses and Accent Dishes
Now, this is where I got to when I was writing this blog post for last weekend. I suddenly realised I hadn’t added the cutlery to the table! I had to re-style and reshoot the video and photos all over again. Not annoying, luckily, doh! So, first rule is: add the cutlery! My gold cutlery is from Cox and Cox and was part of a previous collaboration.
The off-white crockery I have used is by Sophie Conran for Portmeirion. We’ve been collecting it for years and I absolutely love it. It’s contemporary, but with a nod to old school country charm. A lot of the table styling this year on Instagram seems to be about matching your plates to the table decorations. I’m a huge fan of keeping the crockery simple so it can be used in any design. Who wants, or can afford loads of different china sets?
The little green Hydrangea side/accent dishes are from Aurora Home England and were a PR product as part of a collaboration. They just went perfectly with my nature inspired Christmas table. I used two different champagne glasses to show you how a different shape and colour can totally change the look. The fluted smoked coupe/cocktail glasses are from Design Vintage and the clear champagne flutes are from Cox and Cox.
The Christmas Table Decorations
I try to use real live greens for the decorations as much as possible, partly because I prefer them, but also because they fill the room with the smells of Christmas. I’ve chose fresh Eucalyptus, Gypsophila (which has no fragrance, but looks pretty), and fresh pine cuttings. I then added olive green glass baubles from One World and antique mercury glass baubles from The White Company. I finished the look with pine cones that I have collected over time.
Light the Lights
The lighting is so important for setting the right mood. I don’t just mean on the table itself, but in the room around it. We make sure there are plenty of lamps that have a soft glow. I used two large pillar candles as the main lighting on the table itself along with tea lights in little mercury glass holders from Culinary Concepts London. Incidentally, the Christmas tree wall hanging is by Cox and Cox.
Once you’ve cracked the lighting you are pretty much all set for the big day. Now you’ve just got to make sure that dinner is absolutely delicious and that you’ve cooked enough for all your guests. No pressure! If you want some really handy tips on how to take the stress out of cooking the Christmas dinner, then click here.
Just under two weeks to go ‘till the magical day itself. Are you ready? If not, get going!