Get your table all set for the perfect Christmas dinner

Table arrangements can set the perfect mood for Christmas

Wedding and event planner Sharon Griffin’s table setting. Shot  at Luttrellstown Castle, Dublin. Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

Wedding and event planner Sharon Griffin’s table setting. Shot at Luttrellstown Castle, Dublin. Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

 

Tara O’Connor
PR consultant and owner of the Designed Table
I start planning my Christmas table in September – it’s the most important table of the year for me. This year, I am hosting on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day so I will use the same floral arrangement on the table but will switch things up by using different tablecloths, napkins and candles.

Tara O’Connor: ‘I never follow trends when it comes to tablescaping.’ Photograph: Laoise Moggan
Tara O’Connor: ‘I never follow trends when it comes to tablescaping.’ Photograph: Laoise Moggan

I never follow trends when it comes to tablescaping. Because Christmas was lost on a lot of us last year, I’m going back to tradition with lots of greens and golds. This year it’s all about bringing Christmas back.

I always pick my centrepiece first and work around it. This Christmas it’s more about traditional foliage than flowers for me. You can use foliage from your garden or your local florist, even the offcuts from your Christmas tree. You don’t have to spend a fortune.

I’m a firm believer in using what you already have – your family and friends won’t judge you if everything isn’t matching. I pick up lots of things in vintage stores and antique shops and have stuff stashed all over the house that I pull out time and time again.

I buy lots of items for the following Christmas in the January sales – especially expensive items like charger plates or glassware. I bought these gold chargers 10 years ago on sale at John Lewis, the plates were a wedding present and the gold cutlery was bought on sale at Arnotts.

Tara O’Connor: ‘If you over-decorate your table it makes it tricky to see your guests and to pass dishes or wine around.’ Photograph: Laoise Moggan
Tara O’Connor: ‘If you over-decorate your table it makes it tricky to see your guests and to pass dishes or wine around.’ Photograph: Laoise Moggan

I love to add touches like pomegranates, place-name cards and sprigs of holly. You can handwrite menus and place names or use a gold or silver Sharpie marker on a pomegranate – you can always scoop out the inside afterwards and use it for dessert the next day.

A tablecloth is traditional and forms a good canvas for the rest of the table. I try to keep things quite simple, not overly cluttered or complicated. If you over-decorate your table it makes it tricky to see your guests and to pass dishes or wine around and you need room on your table for condiments.

Candlelight is key and candles in different colours can completely change the look of a table. I recommend Ester & Erik candles from Signature Editions – it’s worth spending a little bit more on non-drip candles. I love a mixture of tealights and tall taper candles as it creates layers and height.

The placemats (€19), napkins (set of four €60) and tablecloth (165cm x 300cm €140) here are all from my own online store, The Designed Table. I’ve kept things quite traditional with white and green and added a bit of bling with metallics. I don’t have a lot of bling in my home but Christmas gives people the opportunity to add sparkle and have fun – I would encourage people to push the boundaries.

I love seeing family and friends around the table enjoying themselves. Personalise your setting with ribbon, foliage from your garden and handwritten items. It’s the personal touch that can make things really special.

thedesignedtable.comInstagram: @thedesignedtable

Sharon Griffin: ‘If you love a splash of colour, keep your base simple and then be really brave.’ Photograph: Philip Lauterbach (3.plpix.com)
Sharon Griffin: ‘If you love a splash of colour, keep your base simple and then be really brave.’ Photograph: Philip Lauterbach (3.plpix.com)

Sharon Griffin
Wedding and event planner and founder of Frogprince Events and New Moon Blooms
When setting a table I always start by choosing my base cloth. Choose a colour you know will suit your room and opt for a contrasting or complementary colour. My preference is for the cloth to go right down to the floor to add that element of luxury. Once you have chosen your base cloth you can then start to layer on your accessories.

Next, decide what flowers or foliage you’re going to use – in winter you can opt for lots of Irish-grown foliage which should be available in your local florist. For a bit of sparkle you can add in metallic-dipped foliage. For this tablescape we chose bud bottles – small bottles of mixed foliage – to create a garden effect down the centre of the table. Flowers and foliage tend to last longer in water than in oasis – simply top up the water as Christmas week progresses. At New Moon Blooms we do a three-way foliage bundle which can be used for wreath-making, garlands or table styling.

Next I layer on candlelight, which adds a gorgeous glow to the room and creates atmosphere. I start with taller taper candles in gold glass and metallic holders and create a ‘river’ down the table from left to right. I then add in lower pillar candles on glass or metallic candle plates, and add in yet more candlelight with tea lights or votive candles to create a lovely sparkling effect on the table among the foliage.

Make sure you’ve enough cutlery for your courses. Here we used gold flatware. Glassware is also important – you can choose a cut-glass goblet for white and red wine. A top tip with chargers is to remove them before your main course because if the plate is not a good fit there will be movement.

When it comes to the napkins, I would describe this setting as ‘classic contemporary’. Simply fold your napkin in four towards the centre and let it hang down the side of the table a little.

Photograph: Philip Lauterbach
Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

Repurpose various elements of your Christmas decor by including baubles or other small Christmas decorations along the table. Don’t opt for anything more than 20cm or nine inches tall, however, to avoid obstructing the view across the table. This year I would advise people to shop local – there are lots of great independent shops here and ordering things for delivery from the UK isn’t as simple as it used to be.

Because I’ve kept everything else on this table quite neutral, I felt I could be a bit more adventurous when it came to the colour of the candles. Picking up that blue/green/grey tone made the eucalyptus shine and pulled the colour through the whole setting.

Sometimes, if you use lots of different colours, the eye doesn’t know where to go and your table can seem chaotic. If you love a splash of colour, keep your base simple and then be really brave – the eye will be drawn only to your colourful candles. Think of The Girl with the Pearl Earring – your eye is drawn first to the pearl and then to the other elements of the painting.

frogprince.ie and newmoonblooms.ie. Instagram: @frogprinceweddings and @newmoonblooms.ie

Kate O’Dowd: ‘I love ‘matchimalsim’ but I think ‘mis-matchimalism’ is a much more achievable aesthetic.’ Photograph: Philip Lauterbach
Kate O’Dowd: ‘I love ‘matchimalsim’ but I think ‘mis-matchimalism’ is a much more achievable aesthetic.’ Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

Kate O’Dowd
Wedding and event planner and founder of Love & Gatherings
I love Christmas dinner but I also love the smaller, more intimate occasions around Christmas time when you get a chance to chat to everyone around the table, so here I wanted to create an intimate setting. I loved the shape of this table at Lis na Carrig – a beautiful private residence that can be hired for small events – so that helped determine my tablescape.

Centrepieces are where I am at at the moment in terms of my own shop, Centrepiece at Love & Gatherings, so I started here when setting this table. Delft is quite traditional in the Netherlands at Christmas and many people have some Delft in their homes or something similar passed down from parents and grandparents. At Christmas I always want to use my best things, but the best things may not be the Christmas-themed things, and it doesn’t matter if things don’t match as long as they bring you joy.

Photograph: Philip Lauterbach
Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

On the mantelpiece I placed branches of crab apples. Personally, I like an asymmetrical mantle, so I have placed all the Delft items on one side and the branches on the other. I think people should do their own version of Christmas according to their own home and taste.

I started this tablescape with a Delft porcelain flower brick from my own collection (€63) – a foolproof way to create a centrepiece. I used flowers and foliage from one of my favourite florists – Paper Rock Flower. I wanted to really do the Delft theme so I added my grandmother’s crockery and some porcelain candlesticks (€34) from my shop. The napkins and glassware are from Zara Home which is a great source for on-trend pieces to add to your core vintage or more special pieces.

To me there is nothing more tasteful than a beautiful antique cutlery set. The bow and the clementine are simple, eclectic additions. Christmas is about things being a bit homemade and imperfect – I don’t like a perfectly polished table.

Photograph: Philip Lauterbach
Photograph: Philip Lauterbach

The stationary here is by Romeo + Jules, whose signature aesthetic is homemade (but in a way that you could never manage yourself). It is from their ‘At Home’ menu and place card ready-to-write collection. Even if you’re serving exactly what people expect you to, having menus and placecards makes guests feel a little bit special – that it’s more than the average dinner.

At the high end I love to source things from Maison Margaux, The Edition 94 and Matilda Goad. I love the idea of having little trinkets on the table too – try Zara Home, Søstrene Grene and Homesense.

I love ‘matchimalsim’ but I think ‘mis-matchimalism’ is a much more achievable aesthetic. It’s about what makes you happy. I would call this an ‘imperfectly homespun take on the classic Christmas table’. It’s all about comfort, joy and mixing your favourite things – even if they’re not supposed to go together. It’s a table for life, not for a catalogue.

loveandgatherings.comInstagram: @loveandgatherings. Shot on location at Lis na Carrig, Foxrock, Dublin. lisnacarrig.com