In our house, there are two main events that anchor Christmas day. First is the magic of Christmas morning and opening presents under the tree. The second is the lunch!
I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not much of a cook (why do I write that with such a feeling of failure! Doesn’t it feels like everyone is a domestic goddess these days!) Anyway, unbelievably in my 46 years I’ve never ever cooked Christmas lunch. Obviously, in my younger years, I was either living at home or going back to my parents. In my adult life, my husband always wanted to go away at Christmas time which is what we did in the early years of our marriage, but now we are a family we always host Christmas at home. And yet I’ve still got away without preparing the lunch. Cannily with my Mum next door, she continues the tradition and boy, I’m not about to stop her as she is a fantastic cook!
But one thing I do excel at (quickly grabbing back that domestic goddess pinny) is to make the house look magical at this time of year, and laying the table for Christmas is a particular ritual. Childhood memories conjure up very traditional scenes of ‘the wedding china’ being bought out, starched linen napkins, and sprigs of green holly and red berries and dotted down the table. One of my childhood jobs was to polish the silver, which I relished as it all added to the occasion. I don’t feel beholden to keeping to the rigid green, red and gold colour scheme, I don’t think anyone does these days. Other traditions have taken over. The Scandi style of rustic pine cones with white and silver has become oh-so-popular but obviously, that is never going to be colour soaked enough for me!
My Christmas table this year runs in theme with my decor of blue and pinks. Although this wasn’t entirely intentional, and I don’t think you need to match your Christmas Decor to your interior. However, I know what’s happened. When you get really clear on the colours you love (and for me, it’s often blue and pink) then you start finding them pop up again and again throughout your home. It makes it very easy to decorate! So the starting point really is this beautiful Spode china in Italian blue. I love to invest in something classic and for me, Christmas really is a time to embrace tradition, so this set is perfect and I love the way it all matches (it’s the only set of china I own that does) as this adds a feeling of formal occasion. And the colour is just gorgeous, it really pops!
The flowers play a huge roll in this tablescape and I think having fresh flowers in the house in the run-up to Christmas is the ultimate indulgence. I worked with my local florist Vanessa from Sage and Co, who is so creative with flowers it astounds me! She sourced these incredible flowers from the flower market, as it can be hard to find exactly what you want at this time of year. I decided on a palette of pinks through to purples with oranges. These are wonderful colours for a Christmas table as they are warm and rich and inviting. Vanessa interpreted my colour scheme by sourcing these ornamental mini pineapples and orchids which really capture the feeling of occasion and opulence. Adding the Ranunculus in the pinks and oranges adds more depth of colour, at a time of year where bright coloured flowers are not easily available. The hydrangeas, orchids, winter berries and pineapples also last a spookily long time! I then supplement my shop bought flowers with sprigs of greenery and winter berries from the garden.
The central display is arranged in a low footed bowl vase which works well on a table as you don’t want to create too much height. The trick is then a little chicken wire inside and cut the flowers short and nestle them in together tightly. Aside from the central floral display the rest of the table is peppered with my collection of small vintage bud vases. These aren’t a matching set, I simply collected up all the random little vases I have around the house. Just a few springs of flowers in each one, and then dot them down the table. A single orchid head in a tiny votive or tealight holder also helps play with the scale. And this is how I then slowly build up the interest. As well as flowers, fruit can also add some lovely colour. I’ve used pomegranates here but clementines, pineapples and pears also work well for a Christmas table. A trick I learnt from Skye McAlpine was to have bowls and cake stands laden with single foods, like a bowl of black grapes, or walnuts for example, as decoration which adds to the opulence but can also be scoffed!
I then finish off the table with plenty of candlelight. Light lifts the whole table as it flickers against the glassware and really brings the magic. So again, its a case of more is more! I have ten candles in total along this table, five in tall candlesticks and then 5 tealights in holders and I think the difference in height is crucial. Another idea is to wind battery operated fairy lights down the length of the table, in among the foliage.
I’ve not used a table cloth this time as I love how the rustic texture of this oak Heals table adds contrast to all the glitz and glam. I feel that when you use quite bright jewel-like colours, then a rustic timber can really help ground the whole look. However, I do have a pale blush pink linen table cloth that I think would work well here. My collection of Indian block-printed napkins add another element of pattern and colour in the ‘more is more’ setting. I’m actually not a huge fan of napkin rings or fussy bows around napkins. I’ve done bows and foliage on my napkins before and it all just ended up on the floor! I didn’t feel this table needed anymore fussing and so a simple patterned napkin folded simply on the table I think looks perfect and kind of relaxed. However, you could make the table feel more formal with a grander sense of occasion with starched white table cloth and beautifully tied napkins.
It’s all about personal preference after all and there are no rights and wrongs. Although… when my Mum popped round she wanted to check I’d laid my cutlery out correctly for the shoot! She’ll be checking I’ve starched my table cloth and polished the silver next!