festive table settings
I thought that you might like a few very quick and simple ideas for lovely festive tables. Ideas that are visually gorgeous, easy, and most importantly, stress free. Well really, let’s face it, is stress free even a thing at Christmas? More than anything else, we just want to create a sense of occasion around the essence of getting together with friends and family to share food prepared with love, a good bottle of wine or two, and some great conversation. And if my culinary skills don’t quite cut the mustard, this is where I hope that a little visual distraction might come in to play via a beautiful table.
When I was growing up my Mum was always entertaining friends for dinner. Her table setting rules were absorbed without my even knowing it – things like the wine glass is always at the tip of the table, how the cutlery lines up from the outside in order of how it will be used, so entree cutlery outermost, and the dessert spoon closest to the centre, and that the knife blade faces ‘i for in’. Even now, when I set the table I can hear myself voicing some of this out loud! Of course, some rules are made to be broken, and with a more casual table the cutlery might not be lined up quite so – however I’m pretty sure that knife will still be facing ‘i for in’!
I hope that these ideas will inspire a little creative table decorating of your own making.
Firstly, the naturalist.
Our Christmas tables are often long affairs. Tables that are lined up together so that we can all sit down together for dinner. Let natural brown paper be your friend, and simply roll out a long roll as a big, long table runner all the way down the tables. It will disguise the differences and turn them in to one instantly. Depending on my festive mood, and if time allows, I will often paint stripes of uneven width on the runner, or stencil a flower or pattern, or perhaps for Christmas white with gold stars. But plain brown paper looks lovely too once you finish dressing the table.
This is brown paper, painted with white poster paint, and a few random gold stars. The napkins are made from plain linen purchased from a fabric store, cut to size, and deliberately frayed at the edges. I had a bit of fun with my food descriptions, and then a festive menu is easily typed up on the computer and printed on to a nice textured paper. A gold stamp or stencil is used on both the menu and the handmade, very simple place card, which is just made from a packaging tag. This carries the little bit of gold through from the brown paper table cloth to each place setting. Greenery down the centre of the table is very simple and can be anything from the garden. I have an abundance of rosemary so often use this, as it also smells fresh and lovely.
No time for painting? On this plain brown paper runner I have added simple Christmas greenery such as spruce and cypress to the centre of the table, and then added a little height with some vintage bottles that are filled with gone-to-seed parsley, wild carrot, weeds and other roadside gatherings. A collection of small vintage trophies is absolutely perfect for tealight candles dotted randomly along the table.
The napkins are made from lovely old linen teatowels that I gather up whenever I come across them. None of them are the same, but they are a perfectly imperfect mismatch and I love them all the more for this reason. I’ve also added a little brown paper tree decoration to each place setting. These are sewn on the sewing machine using a big stitch length, with a little piece of string for them to hang from.
For this table centrepiece, the greenery has been arranged haphazardly in a shallow dish, and a candle added. This is literally the quickest and easiest non-arrangement arrangement! With a little water in the bottom of the dish, an arrangement like this will last for several days. Pine and spruce smells deliciously Christmassy too.
The ‘linen’ table cloths used here are both less table cloth and more linen – I have just used long lengths of linen bought from a fabric store. beautiful vintage pink and a soft blue grey are my go to colours. Because I’m usually disorganised, I take advantage of the selvedge edge (I love selvedges) and more often than not, my good intentions to hem the other two edges don’t always come together, but ideally, that’s all I do.
Bring the outdoors in with a floral table. This runner is an offcut of a beautiful Designers Guild wallpaper, and it instantly sets the scene for a vibrant Christmas table. Christmas in the southern hemisphere is of course a summer affair, and my treasured dahlias are beginning to make an appearance, so naturally they are the stars of this table, but any flowers will work beautifully. Agapanthus, hydrangeas, zinnias, salvias – whatever is in your garden or at the flower market. Here they are arranged in vintage bottles and randomly staggered along the centre of the table. I use 5 or 6 bottles of slightly differing height along an 8-10 seat table. I don’t want too many so that it blocks the conversation from one side of the table to the other, but I want it to look pretty. Just one, or at most two flowers per bottle with a snippet or two of greenery – parsley or fennel or salvia or whatever is at hand.
The lovely old vintage napkins are all slightly different. Each colour is reflected somewhere in the wallpaper which brings them all in to play. If you have a beautiful printed or patterned tablecloth or table runner that you adore, like this vibrant patterned wallpaper, then let it be the star of the table and keep everything else simple around it. Each place setting is finished with a vintage glass ornament which has been threaded with a little fabric ribbon made from a remnant, and a snippet of flower greenery. I have also tied a little fabric remnant ribbon around the neck of each floral bottle and left the lengths trailing. For the candles on this table I have used white taper candles which are anchored in an old glass using rock salt.
Layers of Colour.
Beautiful napkins, beautiful table runners, beautiful colour. Don’t be afraid of a mixed-up, mis-matched table. It’s the ideal solution when your everyday dinner table for 5 suddenly expands to 12. Decide on your colour palette and let this be your guideline to thread the ideas together. On this table, the link is pink. There is a little bit of it on each napkin, and each runner, in the flowers, the rose petals around the candles, and even on the star garland that weaves it’s way around the table.
And it all works.
Also, don’t fret that your table runner isn’t long enough for your table. It doesn’t matter! Either, use it off centre, or layer it with another one in a t-shape, or run it the other way across the table rather than along it. Perfectly imperfect is so much better honestly!
Hand Made With Love.
I’m the girl that crated up, and carted back from London, an entire hand-painted dinner set – back in the days when I was on an OE with my backpack. If like me, you have a collection of hand crafted plates and bowls, then setting the table with them is pure pleasure. Let a few special pieces shine. This beautiful charcoal Bonnie and Neil runner is paired with napkins cut from ombre grey linen. The napkins are stitched around the edge (or maybe not, wink wink) and deliberately frayed.
The florals are deliberately green and very simple. Snippets of rosemary again! A friend gave me these beautiful old glasses, and they make perfect vases. A scattering of white agapanthus flowers along the centre of the table and at each place setting completes the look.
Another friend gave me these lovely handmade decorations years ago. Made from white clay, each one is embellished with an old glass chandelier bead. I think they are a beautiful finishing touch to a simple ‘hand crafted’ table setting.
Now if only the weather comes to the party, then Christmas dinner might look something like this!
Merry everything and happy always!