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How to decorate and style your Christmas table like a pro

Olivia Heath
·12-min read
Photo credit: MADE.com
Photo credit: MADE.com

From House Beautiful

You may not be entertaining for as many, if any, this Christmas but that doesn't mean you should skimp on a decadent table setting for this special day. If you're looking for some easy Christmas table ideas, here we show you how to make Christmas extra special by decorating your table in style, just like the professionals.

Find out how to select your colour scheme and create a striking centrepiece, and why you should always iron your tablecloth!

Having a coordinated theme or colour scheme will work best, but also think about all those special little touches that make everything come together. For any Christmas table decoration, a smart white backdrop will give the room a real sense of occasion and sophistication, and think about ambience and atmosphere too, as well as creating texture and contrast.

Here we'll show you how to incorporate flowers and foliage for an Instagrammable tablescape which will stand out from the crowd, plus throughout we reveal how to decorate a festive table bursting with thoughtful touches that's kinder to the planet.

Treat these Christmas table ideas as an Instagrammable guide to everything you need to ensure your table is a key talking point this Christmas...

Christmas table ideas: pick a theme

'Start by picking a theme for your table. Having a defined colour scheme not only makes the table look extra special but adds a polished look,' explains interior stylist Diana Civil for HomeSense.

Traditional

Photo credit: MADE.com
Photo credit: MADE.com

'You can't go wrong with a classic Christmas, and in a year with so much upheaval, sticking to tradition can give you a sense of stability,' explain the design team at Made.com. 'Incorporate lots of reds and greens onto the table using foraged greenery, such as conifer and holly, pine cones, fruits and berries. Accent this with some gold accessories such as napkin rings and candle holders to create a cosy and decadent display.'

Luxe

Photo credit: Rockett St George
Photo credit: Rockett St George

Want to achieve the luxe look? Combine metallics – like brass and gold – with pink accents for a sophisticated Christmas table scheme. Come evening, place ornate LED glass baubles on top of plates for a twinkling display.

For a glamorously chic look, 'frosty silver and white looks cool, crisp and fresh, or team rose gold and copper for an indulgent glitzy look,' adds Diana Civil.

Alternatively, there's nothing more elegant than combining emerald green with gold accents for a Christmas table setting. Circular shapes and geometric patterns work really well here to create contrast. Choose colourful glass tumblers and flutes for serving drinks.

Scandi/Minimalist

Christmas doesn’t have to mean going over the top with colours, embellishments and décor, you can have a stylish, minimalistic festive table setting, Scandi style.

'Start with a base of a crisp white tablecloth, add plenty of candles and cut glassware to make for an indoor winter wonderland,' explain Made.com. 'Use fresh greenery, such as eucalyptus, to spruce up the table. Complement the icy-cool tones with shiny silver cutlery and matt black candlesticks. Just add a cheese board for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Christmas Day never looked so chic.'

You can bring texture to the table setting by choosing plates with embossed patterns and details, and draping faux fur throws over wooden dining chairs to ensure everyone feels comfortable.

Modern

Photo credit: MADE.com
Photo credit: MADE.com

Do you want to avoid using the traditional palette of golds, reds and greens? For a modern twist, make your tablescape merry and bright with colourful glassware, paper pompoms and origami stars.

Made.com add: 'Colourful blooms or even a succulent centrepiece will help add a botanical element to the set up. Use monochrome dinnerware and candle holders to create a blank canvas to let the bright elements pop. And as a bonus: this fun set-up works well for New Year’s Eve too, allowing you to get the most out of your table décor.'

Rustic

Fancy something more refined and eco-friendly? Opt for a rustic table setting. Decorate with plain linen napkins that are presented folded or tied with hessian twine on each plate, and forage for evergreen and coniferous foliage to adorn the centre of the table.

'Finish the look by opting for shorter candle holders, or even simple tealights in recycled jars, that will allow for no disruption in eyeline or conversation, but will provide a warm glow while you enjoy your meal,' suggest the team at Made.com. 'Include some pine cones and log slices to add more embellishment, and finally fill the glasses with mulled wine to bring the ultimate warmth to your festive celebration.'

Nature-inspired

Photo credit: Habitat
Photo credit: Habitat

Similar to rustic, channel a refreshing, nature-inspired scheme that brings together eucalyptus, fruits and warming metallics. 'Simply lay a line of eucalyptus stems the length of the table and intersperse with warm gold, copper or bronze baubles which reflect candlelight,' says food writer and cook Anna Barnett in collaboration with Habitat. 'The colours look incredible together and the eucalyptus gives off a great relaxing aroma.

'You can also add in fruits such as pomegranates, walnuts, oranges – here, I’ve spray-painted some of them gold too. Then add in a selection of candlesticks (marble or metallic) of different heights to create some atmospheric lighting.'

Monochrome

Photo credit: Habitat
Photo credit: Habitat

Black isn't normally a colour that most people think of to decorate with at Christmas but you can create really dramatic Christmas table schemes with a cool, contemporary vibe and it's a great base to accentuate colour and texture.

'I’ve used black dinnerware as the base to this look and then layered gold and pine on top,' says Anna Barnett. 'Adding texture – like the pine fronds and pompoms – helps add warmth to this look, rather than being too stark.

'Layering fir tree branches down the centre of the table and entwining battery operated fairy lights will create a stunning centrepiece, giving a cool Scandi feel as well as filling the room with a pine scent.'

Prep

Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting

Start by covering your table with a Christmas tablecloth or Christmas table runner, which not only looks good but will protect your table from accidental spills.

'Once you’ve chosen your theme (or themes), start designing them from the bottom up. Every table setting begins with the table itself, and the easiest way to dress it up is with a simple, plain tablecloth in the colour of your chosen look, whether that’s festive red, midnight blue or a crisp white that really lets your serveware shine. And a contrasting runner will really start to set the scene for what comes on top,' explain the team at Lakeland.

'You don't need the finest linens for it to look good, a paper cloth can look just as effective as the real thing once the table is dressed with its finery. Make sure whatever cloth you use it is ironed well (even paper) for a crisp neat finish. If you have a heatproof tableliner, you can iron the cloth directly onto your table for a perfect finish,' adds Diana Civil.

Christmas table decoration

Photo credit: House Beautiful/David Cleveland
Photo credit: House Beautiful/David Cleveland

Plates and glassware

Layer your table look with charger plates or placemats. For an instant placemat solution take an A3 size sheet of white paper, fold in half and fold again, then cut out small shapes from the paper through the layers, unfold, and iron for a decorative snowflake effect placemat.

'Once the linens are in place add your crockery and glassware,' advises Diana Civil. 'You don't need to spend a fortune on special Christmas china or crystal glassware to have a stylish table – budget plain white china and basics glassware is perfect as it can be instantly transformed with a few festive touches. It's worth having two sets of china so that you can layer your plates for an indulgent look; a charger layered with a dinner, side plate and bowl sets the scene perfectly and once finished with a touch of festive foliage or a bauble looks super stylish.'

Cutlery

When it comes to laying the cutlery – put the main course knife and fork either side of the charger plate, then put the starter knife and fork on the outside. Place the dessert fork at the top (handle left) with the spoon above (handle right).

Photo credit: House Beautiful/Tim Young
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Tim Young

Napkins

Napkins can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them, says Diana Civil: 'A simple option could be rolled in a napkin ring or tied with a length of pretty ribbon, or if you really want to impress your guests transform your napkins into fancy pockets for your cutlery or even an elf hat – it's easy to find a tutorial online for a quick and easy napkin know-how.'

Christmas table centrepiece

Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting

Christmas wreath

Ensure your table is the centre of attention with a striking centrepiece. For a quick and easy touch, a Christmas wreath can sit on the centre of the table filled with candles. Pick sturdy pillar candles in varying sizes on a heatproof mat and ensure the foliage is away from the flame. Alternatively, opt for battery operated candles which can look as good as the real thing.

A mirror tile

'Alternatively use a mirror tile in the centre of the table and top with a selection of glass candlesticks in different shapes and sizes,' suggests Diana Civil. 'Surround with a few baubles that coordinate with your colour scheme and some festive foliage. The mirror is a great way of accentuating the soft glow of the candlelight for a magical touch.'

Flowers & plants

Create movement

A tablescape with 'peaks and troughs' can create visual interest and the clever placement of houseplants and flowers are a great way to achieve this, says tablescaping expert and stylist Fiona Leahy, in collaboration with Thejoyofplants.co.uk and Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk.

'Eye level height can be added with candlelight or an asparagus fern plant, combined with small bud vases to create a lower level. Bud vases are easy to assemble with simply three stems and a great opportunity to really showcase your favourite flowers. Fill them with my new favourite, choco-rust rose,' Fiona says.

New centrepiece

A line of houseplants in pots can also look stunning and form a beautiful runner effect – cyclamen, hellebores and hyacinths are wonderful choices.

Lighting

Photo credit: Lights4Fun/Oliver Perrott
Photo credit: Lights4Fun/Oliver Perrott

'One of the most important parts of any Christmas table is to create a magical atmosphere. The romantic glow of candlelight is essential to set the tone for an indulgent Christmas celebration that lasts long into the night,' says Jane Rockett, co-founder of Rockett St George. 'Fairy lights are another failsafe way of achieving a luxe look and aren't just for the tree. Scattering fairy lights across to your Christmas table helps to showcase each individual place setting, with the twinkling lights perfect for lighting up both your table and the rest of the room.

Scents

Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting

Candles

Create an atmosphere with tea lights and candle lanterns. 'A quick way to add grandeur to your tablescape is adding tall candlesticks and lower level tea light holders, so your eyes are directed around the scheme,' says Sarah-Jane of Just A Little Build, in collaboration with Robert Welch.

'Be careful to place taller candlesticks in between, rather than directly in front of each place setting – so guests can still talk with ease across the table. You can also position additional candlesticks around the rest of the room to draw everything together.'

Fruits and plants

An easy and eco-friendly way to evoke a festive atmosphere is to add delicious smelling dried fruits and winter plants to your table. 'Arrange oven-dried oranges and cinnamon sticks over eucalyptus for a stylish runner with an incredible aroma,' suggest the team at Denby.

Place settings

Photo credit: Notonthehighstreet.com
Photo credit: Notonthehighstreet.com

Personalised

Create an extra special welcome to the Christmas table for loved ones this year with a personalised place setting. 'Edible table decorations with names piped in icing are a waste-free and delicious way to spruce up a table,' explain Denby.

Fiona Leahy echoes this, and says customisation and personalisation is a great way to make everybody at the table feel special: 'A miniature succulent or cactus in a reusable pot with their name written on with glass ink is the perfect way to give your guests a place at the table with the added bonus of gifting them a plant for their homes. A tiny narcissus planted in tea light holders also works wonders.'

Handwritten

Handwritten place cards are another simple addition that bring a personal touch – you could tie a name card to each cracker, or write each name on a bauble with a glittery marker pen and place on the dinner plate.

Crackers

Photo credit: Notonthehighstreet.com
Photo credit: Notonthehighstreet.com

No Christmas table would be complete without the crackers. To ensure the party gets off to a great start, make sure the crackers coordinate with your table scheme for the perfect touch. An eco-friendly option (and an easy craft) is to make your own Christmas crackers, or invest in reusable crackers that you can use year after year.

Christmas table ideas: extra finishing touches

Chair details

With the table complete, don't forget to add details to the chairs. 'A personalised bauble tied or pinned to your chair frames from a length of ribbon will make every person at the table feel like the guest of honour,' explains Diana Civil. 'Plain baubles can be personalised with a metallic marker pen, then simply hung from the chair. For more drama, go for a bauble cluster – thread four or five different sized baubles together and add in some foliage for a finishing touch.'

Alternatively, group some foliage together (a few medium length branches will be fine) and use a ribbon or string to wrap around the back of the chair. This is a great decoration if you're going for a Scandi, natural or rustic theme.

You could also wrap a thin garland or Christmassy twine, or even battery powered fairy lights around the chair frame or arms for a truly festive touch.

Photo credit: Rockett St George
Photo credit: Rockett St George

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