How to dress your table in style for Christmas Day

Best in Class: Here are nine ideas to get you going as you plan your festive feasts


Christmas Day is a day to dress the table, ideally doing the work on Christmas Eve so you don't have to stress it on the 25th. The day can start before light, when Santa's presents are discovered by little ones, and roll on well into the wee hours of St Stephen's Day. Set the tone from the start with a simple breakfast, one that family members can grab before heading to the sofa to pair with selection box favourites. Penneys is serving up some really simple ideas, styled to perfection, pairing its own red paper napkins with gold tree motifs, €2, atop an oatmeal length of linen, 150cm wide, from €35 per metre, from the Cloth Shop in the Westbury Mall. Argos has a 12-piece dinnerware set (cat no 895/5528), €25, in festive red and including dinner plate, side plate and cereal bowl, that is perfect for this occasion. Add some red candles, a few foraged pine cones and eucalyptus sprigs for atmosphere.;;


Luxurious linens are the base layer to any table setting. Pictured are some beautiful heirloom-quality designs from Once Milano. If you don't own such items put a call out to all your guests to see if one of them has such a cloth and borrow it, drycleaning it afterwards to prevent any long-term staining. Another option is to go for a tablecloth that doesn't really need any further adornment, like Carolyn Donnelly's Eclectic poppy cotton printed tablecloth, 300cm long by 170cm wide and with an overlocked edge, on sale for €30 as part of her yuletide range at Dunnes Stores.


Set up a table from where you can serve pre-dinner drinks, be it punch or wine or some form of bubbles. You could have jugs of punch, or if you have a punchbowl then show it off. Have glasses, ice and slices of lemon, lime and cucumber on hand so people can help themselves. Or appoint one guest as bartender and have them fix everyone's aperitifs. You could go full-on retro with a Lucite bar cart, like this one from Jonathan Adler. It's impossible to get through the London stores, so the most efficient way to order it is from the department store stockist in Berlin, KaDeWe (0049-3021210). It costs €1,700, ex delivery.;


Christmas Day is one of the few occasions when you get to show off formal dinner services. If you'd like to invest in a new one then one of the hottest collaborations is between British stoneware firm Burleigh and Soho Home, whose green hibiscus pattern is exclusively used in the Ned Hotel in London, housed in a Grade 1 listed building originally designed by Edwin (Ned) Lutyens but reimagined by Soho House & Co and New York's Sydell Group. The service is styled here in a simple fashion; the plates for dinner are about €22.50 each, the plates for salad are about €19 each and for the side about €12 each.


Each setting is dressed using a single clementine, one with its leaves intact, adding a fresh, zesty burst of colour to the table. You could tie name tags to each. The clementines hark back to a simpler time when one found in the toe of a stocking was considered a big treat. You can buy the range at Soho Home's website.;


Dark Nordic noir colours are in, so you could opt for a deep grey tablecloth contrasted with pale Salt porcelain tableware from Copenhagen brand Broste.

Each modern platter has a neat lip outlined in a contrasting colour. The dinner plates, 28cm wide, cost €27 each; the salad plates, 22cm wide, cost €19.50 each, while the saucers, also pictured and part of a two-piece cup set, cost €22 each at Arnotts. Smoke-coloured stemware, €18 for a coupe and €17 for a white wine glass, add to the atmospherically simple set-up.;


If you're hosting a large group for dinner then it might be worth divvying out the dessert-making to some of the guests. Ask one to make the trifle, another the pudding and another a meringue or another such crowd-pleaser. Set them all on a side table, complete with side dishes or cake plates, which means you can serve dessert without having to disappear into the kitchen quite so often. It might also encourage little ones to eat their Brussels sprouts.

Set the desserts in beautifully simple serveware like this Arch range from LSA, available from Brown Thomas, where you can buy the 25cm cake stand and dome for €93, and the Comport 24cm stemmed vessel for €57. Guests could even arrive with pudding in the dish, and give it as a gift, as a way of saying thanks for the invite.;


A dessert trolley is another way to go. Or you could use any tiered stands that you might have, or can borrow from friends, for the occasion, to layer with individual treats. This is also a great way to serve cheese to a group. You can fill the gaps between the cheeses with crackers, biscuits, fruit and quince. Ikea has several stands in stock, including the Foradla, a three-tier white and brass confection, 33cm by 34cm, €20, pictured to the fore.

You can also choose from Kvittera, a three-tier glass and stainless steel stand, 31cm by 27cm, €10; Garnera, a two-tier stand, 33cm by 29cm, €15, or a black three-tier Vinterfest design, 44cm by 32cm, €12, and made from powdercoated steel. These are not pictured. Another option is a single-tier marble plate stand, 23cm high, that costs €39.99 at Butlers Home, in Stephen's Green SC.;


Christmas Day dinner is a long, palate-tickling affair, so invest in a dessert wine to serve with pudding or a fine port to accompany the cheese course. These will look all the more appealing if decanted. Pictured is the Cló decanter, €280, and matching tumblers, €85 per pair, featuring elegant linear cuts from Criostal na Rinne that were inspired by the markings of ogham, an early Irish alphabet.The glass company was set up in the Waterford Gaeltacht by Eamonn Terry, a former master craftsman glass cutter at Waterford Crystal. Its designs are a gorgeous way to serve brandy, or a fine Irish malt like Redbreast 12-year-old single pot still, a 100 per cent heavy pot whiskey with a high sherry ageing percentage, about €70 from the Celtic Whiskey Shop.

You might also pick up a tantalus at auction, although all the current ones listed on The Saleroom are in the UK. Prices for them start from as little as €70, ex fees and shipping.;


Lastly, don't forget some decent crackers to help break the ice. These small dachshund-shaped ones by Meri Meri are dotey and can be found online at Amazon. A set of six costs about €40, ex delivery, which is a crackers price, but they will look doggone gorgeous on the table, as long as you only have a small group to lunch. All that's inside is a stick-on moustache, a joke and a paper hat.

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors