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How to: lay the Christmas table

Beautiful plates, elegant cutlery, just-so serveware and linen napkins that are a joy to unfurl – there's a bounty of festive decoration waiting in the wings for your Christmas dining table. They're all delectable ways that genuinely add atmosphere to the day.

As your family and friends sit down to dinner, all eyes are naturally drawn to how the table has been laid. A special place card or an original centrepiece can prompt a smile of joy. Touches like these all add up to reflect your personal style. And they enhance the experience for your loved ones sitting all around you.

As December draws ever closer, now is a great time to start thinking about what mood you want to conjure up in your dining space (see our earlier blog on setting the scene). You might like to evoke a natural, Nordic feel this year. Or perhaps a more structured and sophisticated monochrome take on the season. Whichever direction you go, your tabletop elements can work together and echo your look, with each working beautifully in its own right. It's time to let your tabletop shine.

A touch of nature

With this look, start with your centrepiece. Because once you’ve got that right, the other details will fall more easily into place. Drape swathes of ivy and evergreen foliage along the length of the table. Using a mix of freshly picked winter walk's greenery and life-like stems will make your display easier to maintain, because you don’t want your berries to drop off before the brandy butter is even served! Intersperse greenery with garlands of frosted pine cones to add to the nature-table atmosphere.

Then, place pillar candles along and around the ivy trail, ensuring they're spaced so that guests’ faces are not obscured. Table ornaments with woody tones, such as our cheerful robins Sherlock and Watson, or Mr and Mrs Frost, look lovely peeping from a natural leafy setting.

The slightly rustic character of Bowsley crockery and serveware, hand-made and with a strong tactile presence, is the perfect partner for this natural table setting.  Alongside. consider the slightly more formal Hoxton wine glasses and our Ella tumblers to keep the natural theme going, with hand-blown glass bubbles and a hint of jewel shades intertwined.

Glamorous monochromes

We’re not suggesting you see Christmas in black and white – but a mono base does provide a timelessly refined backdrop. To a white or dark base, you can add metallics, warmer colours and some seasonal sparkle and gleam without anything competing for attention.

A dark or light linen tablecloth is your simple starting point. One or more hurricane lanterns filled with a swirl of fairy lights works with this base. Or you can add gleaming tealight holders – either grouped in clusters on our Ariana centre plates or wending their way in a more serpentine line down the table. With antique gold or mercurised glass finishes, they lend myriad reflective surfaces in an elegant way. Candle holders are also an opportunity to inject some colour to a muted base and the mustard tones of the Neve bring in warmth and glow for a Christmas table. Then pare things back slightly with the deep tones of the Barton cutlery – deliciously Deco in feel.

Individual touches

The centrepiece and decorations are there for everyone to enjoy. But it’s the individual place settings that will feel truly personal. A hand-written place card is a treat that takes very little time but makes each and every guest feel especially welcome. Napkins that have a festive mood, such as the embroidered linen Zara napkin, are a lovely touch. And cutlery that’s a pleasure to hold and has a reassuringly solid heft is a wise investment. (The Stuart is our absolute favourite for special occasions). Finally, plates, bowls and chargers that are from the same family – such as the Fenton with its platinum rim and filigree edging – make the day feel well planned and considered.

These are merely a handful of ideas to whet your appetite. Take a read of our blog 'The Christmas table: in three looks' to think about pulling your entire dining scheme together, and keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming blog on decorations outside of the Christmas tree for even more tips and creative tricks.

To the tabletop

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Words by Jo Leevers.

About the author
Jo Leevers writes for some of the UK's most acclaimed lifestyle magazines and national newspapers, from The Telegraph to Homes & Antiques.