If conjuring a beautiful table setting is usually one final frazzled festive step too far – take heart!
Stylish food writer Anna Barnett, who’s worked in TV and magazines and knows a thing or two about glamorous effects and glittering occasions, has come to the rescue, sharing some of her insider tips and tricks.
She’s turned the tables on traditional table settings and given her own creative spin to three festively fabulous looks. And best of all, she promises they’re all easy-peasy to do!
“I love doing a Christmas table setting as it’s a chance to be super-creative and let your personality shine through,” says Anna, whose second book, How To Be Gluten Free And Keep Your Friends (Quadrille, £12.99), is published in January.
“It honestly doesn’t need many ingredients to give a setting the ‘wow’ factor. Just be inspired by your bauble collection and add a few more details, like foliage,” adds the author and blogger, whose enthusiasm is infectious. “Make it eye-catching and engaging – and a little bit different – and people will enjoy your feast even more. Then sit back and wait for the compliments – guaranteed to give you a seasonal glow!”
Simply choose your look, and follow Anna’s two-step guide to styling each one…
1. Serve nature with an Aussie flavour
“This is my favourite. It’s a refreshing, Australian-inspired scheme using eucalyptus stems. Their subtle, muted colour is so in tune with the fashionable country look. Fruits and metallics give it visual punch but this is still a lovely easy-on-the eye, tranquil effect,” says Anna.
Step 1: A hanging display
Use a small bunch of willow branches attached to two leather straps or ribbon. Hang from a ceiling centrally above the table or kitchen counter, or alternatively on a wall or from a pendant light or chandelier.
Hang a selection of lightweight baubles at different heights onto branches using invisible thread (fishing line works well).
Select a colour palette of two to three colours – gold and orange are a classic combination, Anna points out. “I’ve included miniature Christingles (oranges spiked with cloves).”
Anna’s colourful hanging display features: Cosmos Set Of 3 Gold Star Tree Decorations, £8; Roca Set of 6 Multi-Coloured Faceted Baubles, £8; Anngarsk Set of 40 Metallic Baubles, £8; Neal Set of 3 Glitter-Dipped Baubles, £12, all Habitat.
Step 2: The centrepiece
“Lay a line of eucalyptus stems the length of the table and intersperse with gold, copper or bronze baubles, which will reflect candlelight. These shades look incredible together and eucalyptus has a relaxing aroma,” says Anna.
“Bring the effect to life with pomegranates, artichokes, oranges and walnuts – I’ve spray-painted some of them gold too. A selection of candlesticks (marble or metallic) of different heights creates atmospheric lighting.”
Enhance with interesting texture, she suggests, such as a linen tablecloth and napkins, and creamy white hand-thrown pottery contrasting with sleek china dinnerware.
2. Decorate on the dark side
“Black isn’t normally a colour that people think to decorate with at Christmas, but this is a really different dramatic scheme, with a cool, contemporary vibe,” says Anna.
“This really suits pared-back Scandi-style decor, which is so on-trend, and I love the idea of dressing the table to match the room’s decor,” Barnett enthuses. “Ramp up the drama and go really moody with all-black dinnerware, or keep that lovely sharp contrast of monochrome. For me, this is a winning combination of playful and quirky.”
Step 1: The centre piece
“Black’s a great base to accentuate colour and texture, and I’ve layered gold and pine on the top,” she explains. Layer fir tree branches down the middle of the table, which will fill the room with a pine scent, and entwine with battery-operated fairy lights.
Pine fronds and pom-poms give warmth to this look, and stop it being too stark, Barnett adds.
Step 2: Bespoke a place setting
Baubles and gift tags, with every guest’s name written on each, conjure really personal place settings and make a lovely gift and souvenir of the meal for each person to take away.
3. Create a fiesta feast
“If you love colour, this one’s for you,” says Anna. “I’ve used a traditionally seasonal palette of red and gold as a base but then thrown in a ‘fiesta’ vibe with over-the-top patterned baubles, sequins and glitter. Lots of glitter!”
Step 1: The centrepiece
Any foliage will work – maybe a mix of eucalyptus stems and dark green ivy – with lots of fairy twinkling lights, says Anna. For added zing, weave in strands of red and gold ribbon or glitter string.
“Plunder your bauble collection and maybe add some new ones to the mix. And feel free to go OTT!” she urges. “The bigger the display, the more impressive it’ll be.
“If you’re worried about overwhelming a table and not leaving enough space for platters and plates, arrange the effects in clusters spaced at intervals.”
Step 2: Place setting
“Attach gift tags to small cocktail crackers for each setting. I’ve used wool tassel tree decorations (Habitat) here as a cutlery tie, or you could use them as a napkin ring. These are nice takeaway favours for guests,” Barnett notes.
“If you want to ‘cool’ down the look, substitute white or even silver china for the red plates,” she suggests. “It’ll give the same vibe but not quite as bold.”