When it comes to big gatherings and feasts, the preparation and build-up can almost be as enjoyable as the events themselves. I don’t mind if it takes as many hours to set a festive table as it does to cook the turkey! Seeing a resplendently laid tabletop creates a wonderful first impression of abundance and generosity, and brews excitement about the meal and the prospect of the medley of courses to come.
Spread out before you, the many layers of crockery in an elegant stack at each place setting with outward fans of cutlery, is the promise of the entire meal and the array of dishes. Jostling, glinting glassware hints at a generous selection of drinks in the cabinet. Each place has everything to hand that the guest will need so the food, drink and spirits can flow. This is a table that asks you to get comfy, indulge and stay at it for a good long time.
Left: the intense red of the Lawn plate picks out the red accents on the surrounding plates and the red elements of the table linen. Right: the red Old Rose flowers connect with the holly berries atop a fruity Christmas pudding.
Mix and match
If you’re lucky to have a complete set of crockery this is its moment! If not, mix and match sets that share a common colour or motif that connects them. The paring will create abundance through variety and cohesion through colour or design. Even the smallest flash of a particular colour is enough to unite them - the red of a robin’s breast or of berry dots with a ribbon around a napkin. An effective way to ground a more eclectic collection of tableware is through the linen - a table runner or placemats that match the napkins or the ribbon they are tied with works a treat.
These paper decorations can be recycled and the sliced fruit garlands composted. No need to store them in between times. Each year you can make whatever fresh, new decorations take your fancy.
To embellish the table top and surrounding area I like to make table decorations from materials that can be recycled (or composted!). There’s plenty of inspiration out there; folded stars and paper chains from the pages of old books, sheet music and maps; garlands from upcycled used tomato paste tubes cut into reflecting festive shapes; strung together translucent slices of dried citrus fruits with cinnamon sticks and star anise. Beautiful when hung above the table from a wintery branch or trailed around the centre of the table in and out of candlesticks and condiment mills, all these decorations will either gently spin or sparkle a gorgeous dimension of festive energy and spirit into your setting.