Chrissie Rucker OBE, The White Company
“A white tablecloth is a must. Arrange lots of candles – a mix of high, medium and low – as it’s lovely to have lots of twinkly lights down the table. Unscented candles are always a good choice for the Christmas lunch table (or any meal), so they don’t confuse the aroma near food.”
Katharine Paravicini, Interior Designer
“I love laying a festive table using slightly more unusual colour combinations. Recently, I’ve focused on soft pinks, greens and reds, combining festive placemats with marbled plates, pink linen tablecloths, simple pillar candles in vintage dishes, and winter berries and foliage in lots of little bud vases scattered over the table – all laid on a zinc-top dining table.”
Sophie Conran, Designer
“We always decorate our table on Christmas Eve, putting fairy lights everywhere, so when we come down in the morning on Christmas Day, it’s set for breakfast, all twinkling and looking magical. I love our golden leaf branches, which can be interwoven between place settings, and use gold charger plates to elevate the tablescape for that sense of occasion. I love putting glass baubles in a bowl on the table or sideboard as they bounce the light about, creating lots of little spots of light around the room. You can even decorate the chairs by hanging any type of garland and using a lovely velvet ribbon. Don’t forget to put masses of candles around, to bring in the magic and beautifully light up our longest nights.”
Leoma Harper, Interior Stylist
“Our festive branch has been above the dining table for over three years now and I love to decorate it to tie in with the table setting. We decorate it all year round for different occasions. However, the main event is Christmas, when I love adorning it with statement decor and creating a real feature of the dining area. I like to go big and sparkly, hanging baubles and décor at different lengths to give a cascading feel to it all.”
June Summerill & Seb Bishop, Summerill & Bishop
“In order to make something festive, it has to be warm and inviting. Deep, rich colours accented with silvers, golds and bronzes always help to add a little magic! Green is the obvious Christmas choice, but we always love an inky blue to add some drama. Pick your core colour with the tablecloth, then add subtle accents to complement that shade. Like when you are decorating your Christmas tree, try and keep a colour scheme running through the table. If you try to use more than two colours, the table will start to look messy and will overwhelm guests.”
Sophie Paterson, Interior Designer
“I use lots of candles to dress my table on the day, such as candelabras, as well as small tea lights at varying heights to add drama. I like berry tones for the flowers and then create a sumptuous look by adding red grapes in beautiful bowls – an affordable way of adding more colour rather than using vast amounts of flowers. Often I scatter Christmas baubles or home accessories to add further interest.
Gail Taylor, Interior Designer
“Flowers can be an expensive addition. Stems of greenery can be just as Christmassy; I like to seek them out in my garden or at my local market and lay them down the centre of the table – interspersed with tea lights or fairy lights to add a sparkle. Candles needn’t be expensive: a variety of sizes and widths in standard church candles, plus a good handful of inexpensive tea lights, is all you need to really make the table setting glow.”
Anne Dubbs, Co-Founder & Creative Director of Blithfield
“The best table settings are all about the balance of colour and pattern. This year I will use Blithfield’s Anoushka fabric to make a table runner – it is the perfect foil for blue and white plates and candle holders. I like to use colourful placemats with an imaginative mix of ceramic patterns, glass and silverware, and green or red candles are always a wonderful addition on holiday tables.”
Irene Gunter, Interior Designer
“I love using informal foliage arrangements and lots of candles, simply scattered across the table, with placemats and plates providing colour, gold cutlery for a metallic accent and clear glassware that sparkles in the candlelight.”
How To Plan A Festive Tablescape
1. Find your inspiration – that could be a particular plant or flower that’s in season, an item you’ve spotted out shopping or a visual from a magazine.
2. Start gathering the basics: tablecloth, plates, cutlery, napkins, placemats.
3. Move on to decorative additions: candles and candle holders, tea lights, glassware, serving implements, napkin rings.
4. Then think about flowers, or other adornments such as fruit and vegetables.
5. Consider what you are serving and how much room you need on the table for dishes or platters.
6. Always steam or iron your tablecloth first and ensure the table itself is wiped and clean.
7. When you’re ready to lay, start with the centrepiece, including candlesticks, vases, platters and serve ware.
8. Remember: people like to talk across the table, so try and create space for conversation to flow.
9. Once you’ve laid your biggest items, scatter smaller tea lights or foliage.
10. Finally, lay your place settings, starting with the placemat. If you’re tight on space, you can place cutlery with the napkin underneath and bundle in a beautifully tied ribbon.