How To Lay The Perfect Christmas Table

If there’s one thing which will help make your Christmas Day extra special, it’s a beautifully laid table. But putting together a stylish arrangement is an art – one which can be easily finessed with a few helpful pointers. With that in mind, we went to the tablescaping experts for their advice.

Consider The Event As A Whole 

“It’s good to start with the number of guests, the size of the table and then move on to flowers, fragrance, decoration, linen and napkins,” says florist Nikki Tibbles from Wild At Heart. “The ambience of the room is so important, too – you want it to feel cosy and relaxed.” 

Once you know how many people are coming, think about how many courses you're going to serve. “That way you know what you need to lay out, with regards to the crockery, cutlery and glasses etc,” says Alice Naylor-Leyland. “Then, decide on the theme and the flowers, as these are what will make the table feel Christmassy. Arrange them once the linens are down so you know how much space there is left to play with. The key element has to be the decorations, though,” she adds. “There aren’t many other times when you can get away with having nutcrackers, reindeer, trees and glitter all in the same place.”

Work Out Your Linens

“Start with the base, which is table linens,” says tablescaping expert Fiona Leahy. “That is the canvas and the start for everything else. This year, I’m going for a burgundy hand stamped Italian linen tablecloth, which will inform everything else.”

It’s also worth investing in seasonal linens which you can enjoy year after year. “I have really lovely linen and napkins that match, designed by Karen Nicol. They are hand embroidered with holly and mistletoe,” says Fiona. “They are beautiful and always make an appearance at Christmas.” 

Seb Bishop of Summerill & Bishop suggests preparing the tablecloth well in advance. “Lay the tablecloth the night before if you can, so it settles. Give it a gentle mist of water to help any creases and folds fall away, too. That way, when you wake up the next day, there’s a ready-made canvas waiting for you to embellish. Part of the fun is to keep adding to the table as the day progresses.”

Make Space For Flowers 

Before it becomes necessary to make room for the vast array of serving dishes, decorate your table with fresh flowers and foliage. Nikki uses lots of winter foliage, including pinecones, holly and mistletoe. “Try adding petite Christmas trees to the table, which can be decorated or left as they are to add a festive feel. Then add beautiful pale green hellebores and white parrot tulips and anemones in small vases.” 

For Christmas, Alice mixes white berries and eucalyptus. “White ranunculus are beautiful as well as white parrot tulips, if you can find them. Arrange them in a selection of bud vases and maybe one or two larger vases. You can also place flowers around the room using oasis and planters, as it helps them stay in place.” 

Small vases are very useful to add floral touches without overpowering the table, and they can be easily moved around when it comes to serving lunch. “Bouquets that are as natural as possible, say powder colours or monochrome, are my preference” says Isabelle Dubern-Mallevays, co-founder of The Invisible Collection. “Bouquets in mini vases are where you can really let your imagination run wild.” Seb also suggests scattering gypsophilia stems: “Scatter them along the tabletop in delicate little bud vases – it’s like having snow on the table.”

Add Magic With Candles

“For me, candlelight is the most important element to encourage that Christmassy feeling,” says Fiona. “Go for burgundy or forest green tapers and many, many of them. Lots of tea lights also look magical – I like the mix of tall and lower – that is the art of tablescaping, the mix of higher and lower elements.”

“Gold candle holders and taper candles in pale and dark green are my favourite,” say Nikki. “Tealights also look wonderful when they’re carefully placed on the table. Candlelight is so flattering and creates the perfect atmosphere, too.” 

You can also use candles to highlight elements of your table decoration. Anna Zaoui, Isabelle’s co-founder, explains: “Place little candles close to the flowers to create a more dramatic ambiance, and then have some more generously scattered across the table, all at varied heights to add interest.”

Don’t Forget Place Names

Even if you’re hosting a smaller crowd than usual, don’t scrimp on the final touches, say the experts. “Handwrite the place settings, even if it’s just the two of you – these are the little things which make all the difference” says Seb. “Paper cards will do, or think on your feet and use dried leaves from the garden – trust me, these can look beautiful. Or, if you have any little helpers, ask them to write the place settings – when everyone contributes to the table, it feels warmer.”

If you’re worried your table may be getting overcrowded, try incorporating names into the elements you are already using. “You can use the crackers – place your guests initials on the bows or if you have time, embroider them,” says Fiona. “If you have room, you can use snow globes for place cards and write your guest names inside using calligraphy.” You can also use your decorations, which is a fun way to combine the two. “Try incorporating the person's name with a little animal. This Christmas, I have the sweetest glitter reindeer which I plan on using,” says Alice. But if you’re really tight on space, use the crockery – “Sometimes I simply write names on the plates in gold,” says Nikki. 
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