How to decorate your Christmas dinner table

Take turkey with all the trimmings to the next level with a charming Christmas-inspired tablescape.

IMAGE | Truffle Tablescapes

words | Natasha Radmehr

Everyone knows a few curious souls who order a takeaway on Christmas Day. But for most of us, Christmas dinner is the big-effort meal of the year; the one we sweat, stress and salivate over.

We pay our respects to the feast by dressing up for it (then afterwards to our full bellies by dressing down).

Meanwhile, the table is set with the same gravy-stained tablecloth that, like Les Dennis, has made an appearance every festive season since 1995.

IMAGE | Nancy & Betty

This year, I have decided, will be different. All being well, it’ll be the first Christmas in a few years that has felt somewhere approaching normal: a celebration worth decking the table in gladder rags for.

So where to begin with mastering the art of the tablescape?

CHOOSE A COLOUR SCHEME

“Consider your colour scheme first,” advises Kate Fairlie, owner and director of Truffle Tablescapes.

“Some people prefer neutrals, others like rich greens and reds – but you don’t have to go classically Christmassy.

IMAGE | Mind The Gap

Black, white and gold looks chic and modern; rich blue with silver is beautiful, especially in the evening styled with candles.”

The palette doesn’t need to perfectly match your home décor, but an accent colour that fits with the context of the room will elevate the overall appearance of your tablescape.

Stick with two or three colours to keep it cohesive.

LAYER IT UP 

Once you’ve chosen a theme, construct your table in layers.

The foundation is your tablecloth – or if you have a gorgeous rustic wooden table, you could leave it exposed, save for a stylish runner.

IMAGE | Grant Anderson for Truffle Tablescapes

“Table linen is one of the easiest ways to make an impact,” says Fairlie.

“You might be using plain white crockery or standard silver cutlery, but if you have a stunning Indian block-print tablecloth, that’s a hero piece from which you can build.”

Do the settings next. Would you like placemats or charger plates – or both?

Again, think in layers; pattern heaped upon print could get messy, but alternating, say, jazzy crockery with plain linen (or vice versa) looks considered.

IMAGE | Truffle Tablescapes

Don’t be afraid to mix and match, though: colourful glassware of varying sizes and styles is a joyful touch.

If low-key and pattern-free is your preference, create depth by combining textures (velvet and linen is always a winner) or incorporating subtle detailing.

An embroidered napkin or scalloped edge is thoughtful but understated.

THE CENTREPIECE

Finish with the middle of the table.

“Think about what you can repurpose – a garland that sits on the mantel throughout December could be moved to the table on Christmas Day,” says Fairlie.

“A bowl filled with plums and pomegranates makes a quick-but-beautiful centrepiece, and greenery such as eucalyptus looks and smells amazing.”

Tapered candles interspersed throughout provide height and a warm glow without blocking sightlines.

IMAGE | Truffle Tablescapes

For a dose of kitsch fun, a smattering of miniature figurines will raise a smile from even the Grinchiest of guests.

Left it too late to plan something elaborate? Fairlie suggests filling jars or milk bottles with flowers (a supermarket bunch will do), and using elegant fabric napkins rather than paper ones.

“They give the impression an effort has been made,” she explains.

“Drape them across each place setting, or tie them in a knot and sit them on the side of each plate.

IMAGE | The Fife Arms

You could also tuck some herbs, such as a sprig of rosemary, inside them.”

Failing that, pour everyone a double brandy, pull a few crackers and hope for the best.

Everything looks better through booze goggles, eh?