Nine eye-catching ways to set that Christmas table

Best in Class: festive tables for those party people who leave nothing to chance

Best in Class Christmas tables: London Flower School

Best in Class Christmas tables: London Flower School


Tableau manners

You eat with your eyes, so bring a sense of drama to your Christmas Day meal by creating a tableau, which in dramatic writing means a vivid living scene.

This opulent still life by the London Flower School (LFS) features a velour tablecloth. Select Hickey’s Home Focus stores stock a glamour cranberry colour, €24.95 per metre, laid with foraged pine cones, fruit and a blood-red centrepiece of roses and dried fruits.

Gilded tea light holders, (Nordic House, from €6 each), tall candlesticks (Reflection candlesticks, €45 and €49 at Article, Dublin); and goblet-shaped glasses (Ikea’s Rattvik range, €2 each) will help to set the scene. When laying the table, allow about 16in of space per guest, advises party planner Tara Faye of Xena Productions. LFS’s Inspired by Art classes take place on Tuesday, January 9th and Sunday, January 25th and cost just over €300.;;;;

Season’s seatings

If you have a gang for dinner you may need to beg or borrow chairs to seat everyone. You can have guests bring extra seating, buy folding chairs that compress down to store when not in use or hire seating from firms such as Caterhire, Hire All, Event Bars, Select Hire, Hanley Event Group or Budget Event Hire, where folding chairs start from €1.15 each ex-VAT.

Whatever option you go for, one way to weave the overall look together is to hang wreaths on the chair backs to add festive glamour. These faux lambs-ear wreaths cost about €35.50 each from UK-based Oka, but Dunnes Stores is selling a sweet snowman shape, €10 each, and a robin in a holly heart, €8 each, by Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic. Chains like Penneys and Home Stores and More also offer affordable options.;

Set a cool Yule scene

For a small gathering you can transform your existing table and overhead lighting to set a cool Yule scene by using the lighting pendant to hang decorations.

This set-up by Marks & Spencer features natural willow, Christmas tree baubles and even strings of lights. Use battery-operated or LED light strings and don’t illuminate the pendant, as some of the materials you use could be flammable. Scatter the tabletop with more baubles and fill a low-set centrepiece with fruit.

This botanical etched glass trifle bowl costs €40. The 12-piece Toulouse dining set costs €129 for four and instead of the clear tumblers pictured you could use lovely rose-coloured Ophelia tumblers, €34 for a pack of four, to serve wine and even champagne – it will also cut down on the washing-up. Instead of place names use M&S’s adorable Alphabet glasses, €11 for three.

All there in red and white

A red and white Christmas colour scheme, like this Argos-designed one, is a simple but really effective way to stage a room come December 25th.

Central to this look is a crisp white tablecloth. Select Hire has a variety of sizes starting from about €9.95. Matching napkins costs from €1.39. Use a broom handle, hung from the ceiling using screw hooks and lengths of string, to attach the baubles; a 48-piece Homespun pack costs €6.99 and LED cotton ball lights €4.99 for a string of 10, in the same colour scheme. A 2ft flocked snowy tree, €11.99, forms the centerpiece while a half wall hung with candy-striped paper will really knit the look together.

American-based Party City sells a jumbo roll that is over 9m long and 40cm high for about €4, ex-shipping, but you will need to use Parcel Motel or another such service to ship to Dublin. You could also use a roll of fabric or have the kids create the backdrop for a more homespun effect.;

Have a bit on the side

December 25th really is an indulgent day, so let your guests feast their eyes on further edibles by setting up a side table, complete with crockery, cutlery, and laden with after-dinner delights such as mince pies and accompanying brandy butter and whipped cream or a savoury cheese board, crackers and quince. Festive-red candles, lit for ambience, will add to the richness of the occasion.

This Royal Doulton Hemmingway dinnerware, from €10, will make any food look good. This Grey and Willow concrete pendant, about €85, chimes with the grey tones of the tableware.

Get trolleyed

Make guests feel at home by setting up a bar cart so that they can serve themselves.

This black wire frame one is by House Doctor and costs €339, ex-delivery, from UK-based Amara. Decorate with ice buckets for Champagne and white wines. Top-of-the-range suggestions include Georg Jensen’s Manhattan bowl, €327, or Tom Dixon’s copper-faceted Hex, €224.

It you don’t have a bar cart then set up a second side table. If tables are in short supply then a bedside locker with a tablecloth or swathe of fabric thrown over it will work. Break out the Waterford Crystal, dust off the decanters and create another visually interesting corner of a room that you can decorate with baubles or another faux wreath.

Place setting for peace

Sitting down to a table with place settings makes everyone feel special. You can minimise conflict too by keeping certain family members at strategic arms length from one another.

Gigabytes of data on Pinterest and Instagram have been given over to this art form, but hand-written notes by kids is still the best way to warm the stoniest of hearts. Hessian-style linen napkins by Danish designer Ib Larsen is one way to go. You could also try Irish Linen House’s Fusion napkins, €39.99 for two, or Jennifer Slattery’s Wildflower range, €85.95 for four at Kilkenny Shops, simply rolled, tied with festive twine, using buff strung tags as place names. Eason sells the Owl brand, €1.25 for 10. A sprig of rosemary tucked into each will add to the sensory experience.;;

Smells like Christmas

The smells of the festive period remain the most evocative element of Christmases past. So set the olfactory mood with pine cones foraged from the garden or nearby park to burn in fires, fragrantly spiced mulled wine set low on the hob and fresh foliage on mantles, picture rails and on the dinner table.

Pine boughs, eucalyptus and spiced fruits will conjure up this most wonderful time of the year. You can chop a couple of branches off the back of the Christmas tree, forage for holly, add some of the aforementioned pine cones and order in some fresh eucalyptus from your local florist. A few tea lights, like these perforated Blossom designs, €49 each, ex delivery, and available in gold, copper, silver, white or black, are enough to create an atmosphere.

Best in Class 9

As the meal draws to a close, there is a pause while everyone takes time to digest their dinner. And then the lights go down low in anticipation of the grand entrance of the Christmas pudding adorned with a blazing crown of blue light.

In this writer’s home the practice was to use poitín, the thinking being that its higher alcohol content burned far better than traditional brandy or whiskey. But how to best present the flaming drama? Charlotte Leonard Kane and Shane Palmer of Dublin-based Scéal Bakery swear by brandy and serve theirs, Fred Flintstone style, on a slice of seasoned felled timber that Shane found on his uncle’s farm in Co Laois.

Co Kerry-based Ambri Boards 17in Ring, E155 25, is of a similar size and can be customised for an additional E11. You may be able to buy the last of Scéal’s puds at Lilliput Stores made in Stoneybatter market, at 3 Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter, D7 tomorrow, from 10am to 6pm. Their mature option, E30, is a rich confection made in October 2016 and cured with brandy regularly ever since.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.