Dress up the Christmas table

Dining room with Christmas setting
Helen Stone,-Interiors Writer

Lay the table for friends, family and good food this Christmas and celebrate togetherness in style

If there’s one time in the year when you can really go to town with tablescaping, Christmas is surely it. It's all part of the tradition and excitement that stretches from Christmas Eve dinner to New Year's Eve, with the mighty Christmas Day dinner itself in between. What you put on the table should match what you’ll be serving, and a welcoming scheme will set the scene for sharing special times.

Whether you are setting the table for 16 or arranging a smaller, more intimate feast, there are easy ways to impress. Mixing and matching tableware is totally fine for place settings for larger numbers – just stick to a common theme and find a rhythm to the mix up of plates and glasses. A loose and relaxed central garland of foliage can look wonderful on a long table and will still leave room for the sprouts, while baubles and decorations with simple paper tags make great place settings that guests can take away as keepsakes. Check out our fun selection of novelty shapes to add personality to your theme. 

And whether you love to dress up with glamour or prefer the more relaxed county or Scandi look, we have beautiful ideas that will make sitting down to dinner with those you love even more special this Christmas. We simply can’t wait…


Go all out glam

The secret to a glamorous luxe scheme is to layer up the place settings and to play with the contrast between moody dark colours and the glisten of gold. It’s a big style statement so consider how it works within the room. 

In an immersive green room, a shot of silky green runner is enough to pull the look together, but don't worry if your walls are light – you can pile on the glamour by layering cloths. Start with a dark undercloth in a luxe fabric then add a lighter shade on top and finish with a runner. The fun part comes with what goes on top.

The charger plate is the mainstay of the glam setting and that glimpse of gold (or silver) beneath a white plate instantly lights up the table. Pick up gold in small details – the gilded rim of a plate or glass, cutlery if you’re feeling bold. Mixing in vintage pieces works a treat for this look – try old-school favourites such as candelabras, serving spoons or gravy boats, and add in one or two unusual pieces of china. And while beautiful crystal glassware always looks grand, metallic goblets are this year’s decadent choice.

For a final flourish, think theatrical and fun. Woodland creatures, mini parcels and real plants…pick your theme and go for it unabashedly.

Christmas table ideas
Christmas tablescaping country charm

Traditional colours and country charm

There is immediate comfort in the traditional festive scheme of red and green – it is Christmas, after all! The colours hark back to the holly and the ivy, and natural elements will always have a place in a country scheme.

To keep the look fresh and modern, go for the brightest berry red and look for patterns that sit together happily without being too matchy-matchy. Fine china adds a little finesse for the big day (gold chargers will work here too) but more organic designs, perhaps in stoneware and with a handmade feel, offer a more relaxed approach that’s perfect for Christmas Eve or breakfast on Christmas morning. 

Time-honoured scents such as spruce, spice and clementine add an extra dimension and don't miss the chance to get crafty with home-made place names and foliage arrangements. Make dinner a comfortable affair with plenty of cushions and sheepskins on chairs to get truly cosy.

Christmas table ideas
Snow mountain tablescape

Light the way with Scandi twinkle

If you prefer understated style, a white and snowy scheme is perfect for Christmas. Think linen for tables which is still smart but more relaxed than stiff starched formal tablecloths. Be generous with length and drape, and build interest with textures such as mirror, burnished silver, and gilding on glassware and wood if you are going the Scandi or Alpine route.

Mini trees are perfect for creating narrative in the centerpiece while pine cones, foliage and berries always have natural charm. Mix and match serving platters in natural materials, layering up wood, slate and glass, and adding in some organic shapes. Recycled glass has a wonderful hint of green that’s perfect for this look, and of course you can never overdo the candlelight – it's just the thing for amplifying the sparkle and magic.

Christmas table ideas
Christmas table ideas

How does events designer Fiona Leahy dress her Christmas table?

‘I love the sense of occasion and the visual decadence of Christmas,’ explains Fiona. ‘When I was growing up, it was the one time in the year when my mother would go all out on decorating the table. It went up days in advance along with the tree, like an installation of sorts. I’m hoping to be home with my family in Tipperary this Christmas. It will be truly magical to be together again.”

What are your favourites?

• ‘I love nature for a Christmas table and always have greenery, berries and lots and lots of candles. And then there’s that whimsical side too – the baubles, the crackers and snow globes. I love it all.’ 

• ‘Inspiration for most of my tablescapes begins with the plates as they are such a big part of the look. For Christmas, I like to layer bowls over charger plates for a visual feast to match the occasion.’

• ‘White for Christmas-time reminds me of crisp snow. Mix with shades of green and blue and fresh, cool Scandinavian tones. My new favourite find at John Lewis is the Just Slate Company salt and pepper bowls and the recycled green glass tumblers from LSA International which add a lovely green hue.’

See Fiona’s festive tablescape in the special Christmas edition of At Home magazine.

All you need for Christmas

Now you have your tablescape sorted, head to Waitrose for some great advice and recipes for the big day – from a guide to buying your turkey, to the essential Christmas dinner prep list.

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