How To Style Your Christmas Table: Three Easy Ways

I come from a family of obsessive table decorators.  Both my Mum, my sister, Annabel and my sister in law, Natasha, are of what can only be described as Olympic standard when it comes to styling any table that is to be used for a group meal, Christmas or otherwise.  The often mooted idea of simply chucking a table mat, cutlery and a bottle of Heinz on the table is met with what can only described as abject horror.  In the Kerman family, a celebratory table has a high benchmark and you have to be in it to win it.  Competition is stiff - Annabel is a Fashion Stylist, Natasha is a Director of PR for Michael Kors (and therefore Queen of Chic) and my own transient decorating style was inherited from my Mum - so there's no halfway house.  It's all or nothing.  If your fully set table doesn't get at least a gasp of awe, then you must consider yourself a failure.

The Christmas dinner table AFTER the main course. Chaos.

The Christmas dinner table AFTER the main course. Chaos.

Over the years, my family have pushed the table decorating boundaries.  My Mum always did a traditional Christmas table - red tablecloth, holly, napkins and a huge candelabra with red candles that used to grandly sit in the centre.  The crackers were always the most exciting part, although we always waited for our main course to finish before we pulled them.  I'm sure that in those days the prizes inside were much more fun - nowadays it seems as if the more expensive your crackers are, the more boring the present.  As a man with a larger than average head, Joe always struggles with the paper hats as most of cracker manufacturers appear to size them on a small child.  

Party poppers were also an essential and pulled at the same time - my parents had a big chandelier in the middle of the room that we used to aim at and it was family tradition that the streamers stayed there until the twelfth night.   We'd sit around the table for hours and hours, drinking wine, glugging Baileys and eating Elizabeth Shaw mints whilst smoking copious Silk Cut (these were the 1980's).  By the time that we were all trollied, we'd moved on to Walnuts, another family tradition that came from my Dad's side of the family that involves grabbing the nuts as fast as you can and which always ended in someone being gravely injured.  Such fun.

My friend Kat at Joe's birthday dinner many years ago showing the obsessive detail that I go into when styling a dinner table - I asked every guest to send me a picture of them in their teens. In those days, I literally had NOTHING to do.

My friend Kat at Joe's birthday dinner many years ago showing the obsessive detail that I go into when styling a dinner table - I asked every guest to send me a picture of them in their teens. In those days, I literally had NOTHING to do.

My scheme is planned a month before Christmas and I lay the table for the 25th at least two days before.  Obsessive, not. No one is allowed to touch it once done and should they remove anything from the table for normal day to day living such as plates, condiments, knives or forks, they do so on pain of death.  What goes on the table, stays on the table.  I collect vintage glassware and crockery and it's always a perfect time to get it all out, which generally means every place setting has at least three glasses and the seated person spends most of their time asking which one to use.  I'm a big fan of personalising each place - I often print a black and white photograph of each person and attach it to their wine glass or napkin rather than doing more traditional place settings.  As a total non traditionalist when it comes to table decor,  I love using lots of different colours and vintage bits and pieces when building up the look.  

So what's the best way to style your Christmas table?  Firstly, have a think about what your style is and what you love about Christmas - whether it be sparkle, baubles, greenery, candles - think of the word that best describes your favourite part and use that as your focal point.  Once you've decided on the theme that you want to go for, here's how to get the best result.


1.  Pile On The Layers

So, your table should look festive but not fussy and the best way to do this is by layering.  You don't want your table to be cluttered, you want it to look artfully done.  However large your table or your room, you can make it look bigger and more luxurious by adding height to your arrangement.  You don't need to make your glassware or crockery matchy matchy - if like me you are a vintage fan, it's great fun to mix it up.  

Mix modern with vintage for a cool look and layer your plates. Use two or three maximum for the best effect and use bowls on the top to lift it all up.  Add napkins to your setting in any way that you like - use them under the cutlery or central, or even to the side of the setting.  It's your table and it's your ideas so go for whatever you think looks good.


2.  It Doesn't Have To Cost A Fortune

Whenever I style my dining table, I do a trawl around the house to find appropriate bits and pieces to add to the setting.  Anything goes - look for pieces in silver, glass, wood - vases and candle sticks, bowls and trays can all add to the display. Use cake stands in unexpected ways - whether they are used for food or decorations, they are a fab way to add height.  

This week I've been on a charity shop mission to find vintage plates for my setting but you can also pick up old lace tablecloths to give your table an individual look.  Perfect.

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3.  Decide On The Colour Scheme

You don't have to stick to a colour scheme - I'm a bit of a nightmare for that, tbh - but it's good to stick to the same tones.  So pastels, primaries, neons - as long as the decorations are of a similar tone then it'll work.  Keeping to this makes the pieces you use look more like a collection - I'm an avid collector of coloured vintage glass and always display it in colour order.  Separately, it looks like a load of old tat (in the words of my husband) - pulled together, it makes it cohesive and looks like a collection.  

If you like to stick to a colour scheme, then stick to a maximum of three colours.  For example, if you're going for glam, stick to perhaps black and metallics.  If Scandinavian is your bag, then maybe white, grey and silver.  Always add some greenery or natural materials to give the arrangement textural contrast.


4.  Add Sparkle

Who doesn't love a bit of sparkle?  Use glitter, metals or sequins on the table to give it some oomph.  Small mirrors, used as table mats or coasters, are great for reflecting candlelight and making it cosy.  Use battery operated fairy lights to weave around the central arrangement and around the candle bases.  

You can't beat a fairy light at the Christmas table and nowadays they're everywhere - the wire versions are super versatile.


5.  Get Out Your Secateurs

Greenery is a God send when it comes to table decor.  Even me, who has a garden filled mainly with cat poo and no plants whatsoever, has a Leylandi in the front garden which is ripe for the snipping.  For those of you lucky enough to have a eucalyptus, a fir or a holly, you're on to a total winner.

Make the most of what you've got and place it central in the table to add that extra texture.  Use votive candles in between the branches but be warned - there's a terrible Dawson family story from a previous blog (click here) so make sure there's no chance of the flames catching the greenery.  Seriously, it didn't end well and involved a large insurance claim. Enough said.

So what next?  I've set out three different styles of Christmas table to give you an idea of how you can bring both new and old items into your scheme to give your guests a table to remember.

Wham, Bam, Super Glam

I went for a really luxe look for this one - I used faux greenery and pine cones in the centre of the table for a natural look and used marble crackers, napkins and candlesticks to make it cohesive. I mixed metals - gold, copper and silver - and added gold Christmas decorations from the tree.  I used a black flat sheet from Sainsbury's Home as a tablecloth - super easy.  The slate squares are from Topps Tiles (I use them as table trivets).  The liqueur glasses are vintage from a charity shop.

Halo plates & bowls:  Denby

Gold cutlery, tree candle, Monsoon Home for Denby glassware:  Debenhams

Marble crackers, faux garland:  Cox & Cox

Discoball place settings, table stars, marble napkins: Talking Tables

Marble candlesticks, candles:  JYSK

Gold coasters:  The Curious Department

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It's ONLY Natural

I went for a rustic look with this theme, using lots of natural materials and muted colours.  The white plates are basic IKEA, the pale green are Wedgewood from a charity shop.   I used cork placemats which was a good contrast with the wood and greenery.  Christmas present tags were perfect for attaching to twine to add to the linen napkins (stylists own - ha, I've always wanted to say that).  Again, I repurposed a flat sheet from Sainsbury's Home as a table cloth and it fitted perfectly.  I used vintage liqueur glasses and three mixed tea light holders that I already owned.  Some of the very sparse greenery from my garden completed the natural look.

Wine glasses:  Denby

John Rocha tiered wood stand:  Debenhams

Merry Christmas tags, black cutlery:  Cox & Cox

Wooden stars, brush trees, wood slice place settings: Talking Tables

Cork place mats:  JYSK

Wooden tree:  Mushroom London

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Eclectic Kitsch

Yes, this is a style.  I've just made it up.  It's basically all my favourite things on one table.  Vintage, glitter balls, Bambi's, pink and green.  Oh, and chocolate, obvs.  The plastic lace table mats are old favourites from years ago that I use for every dinner party (mostly because I have 15 of them from when I owned a Not On The High Street store ha).  Again, the tablecloth is a Sainsbury's Home flat sheet.  The white base plates are IKEA as before, the glass ones I picked up in the charity shop on Thursday.  The small Chinese plates are vintage, as is the glass cake stand.  The green glass Hock glasses and the liquor glasses are from my extensive collection (much to Joe's constant despair).  The Chambord is there just because it's bloody delish, quite frankly.

Gold cutlery, coloured chocolate coins:  Debenhams

Pink napkins, silver crackers, disco ball place settings, disco ball party poppers, table confetti:  Talking Tables

Letterboard:  Mandrawer

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Et voila.  Three easy ways to style your table for Christmas without blowing your Prosecco and mince pie budget.  By using what you already have, it gives your table that individual, non regimented look that will impress your guests.  It's really easy to make an impact on your table setting by multi tasking some of your favourite pieces and using what you love.

We're going out for Christmas lunch this year but I will be reproducing one of these styles on Boxing Day when we have friends for lunch (no prizes for guessing which one).  Anyway, I'd like to think that any of these three table settings would have my Mum, Annabel and Natasha exhaling a gasp of awe.  Not that the Kerman's are a competitive family in any way, of course.  Ha.

This blog post was originally published in December 2017 but I decided to repost as it was still relevant. Thanks for reading!