Dressed to impress: The three stages of decorating your fabulously festive Christmas table

Cropped shot of a dinning area set up for Christmas day

If you're hosting Christmas lunch or dinner this year, no doubt you've given a lot of thought to the food you're serving, whether it be ham, turkey, or a vegan nut roast. 

But perhaps just as important as the food is the table its served on - no festive feast is complete without some fabulous decorative touches. 

Try these tips from expert stylists and you may just create the perfect table setting this Christmas.

Get set  

First up, decide on a general theme or colour scheme. For a modern twist on traditional shades of red, white and green, try a neutral base with green and metallic accents or a mix of earthy colours such as sage, terracotta and sand.  A minimalist, monochromatic all-white setting looks pristine, or plain white paired with brights gives your feast a fun, playful vibe.

Citta's visual merchandiser and interior stylist Federica Contardi says while she changes her colour palette every year, in general, she keeps it "fairly natural". 

"My favourite colour palette this year is total white with a touch of green given by foliage. To give the table a luxurious look, I like to add an accent of gold on some elements, cutlery or decorations."

white green christmas table
White and green with touches of gold gives an elegant, luxe look. Photo credit: Getty.

A linen or 100 percent cotton tablecloth will ensure your table looks elegant.

"We only prepare the Christmas table once a year and it has to look and feel special to us and to our guests," Contardi says. "A table cloth will give that sophisticated and special touch." 

Interior designer and stylist Justine Van Kekem agrees. "Last year we couldn't get a table cloth and my husband pulled out a new calico drop sheet for painting and worked perfectly for that linen look," she revealed. 

The next step is to choose a mix of glassware for water, champagne and wine, before adding in your other tableware like cutlery and plates. Ensure they're polished properly to avoid fingerprints or soap residue showing, especially as they reflect the light. Add napkins tied with a ribbon with a festive bauble or a sprig of rosemary or lavender resting on top. 

Contardi recommends adding a placeholder with a nametag that will make your guests feel special, particularly if you include a little present or a decoration they can take home. 

A name tag at each setting adds a personal touch.
A name tag at each setting adds a personal touch. Photo credit: Getty.

The centrepiece

Whether you're opting for a few fresh flowers in a vase or a full-blown nativity scene, the centrepiece of the table is your chance to make it feel truly Christmassy. Adding in round baubles, stars, bows or any other festive decoration will set the scene. 

While Contardi is a fan of trusting your instinct when it comes to designing a centrepiece, she does have a couple of important pointers. "The height of the centrepiece shouldn't create a barrier between the people seated at the table, so it's better if it's kept low," she says. "And it shouldn't be too bulky - good proportion with the size of the table is important." 

She begins her design by choosing a theme to follow, which it could vary from a simple colour palette or a "story" such as a village of ceramic houses with baubles and other decorations dotted around. "I always play with the different heights of the objects to create a pleasant visual balance along the whole table." 

Tell a "story" by dotting around decorations.
Tell a "story" by dotting around decorations. Photo credit: Getty.

For a nice smell and a burst of greenery, Van Kekem recommends freshly cut eucalyptus branches, either in vases or just laid out down the middle of the table. You could also try branches from pine or other conifers (they look particularly good with the cones still attached) or even a Pohutukawa in flower. 

For this year's table, Van Kekem is adding sprigs of pine and white candles to glass bottles and sitting them on top of log rounds for a natural look. Garlands of foliage look particularly dramatic when trailed off the end of a long table towards the floor. The faux kind will be the most reliable for this unless you're a dab hand with florist wire. 

Lighten up

A festive table isn't complete without lights. Contardi loves the cosy atmosphere that candles create, but recommends choosing unscented ones so they don't interfere with the smell of the food. Mix and match candles together such as pillars of different sizes, different coloured cone or ball shapes or tapers in different sized holders for a luxe look.

Fairy lights are a festive way to lift the table.
Fairy lights are a festive way to lift the table. Photo credit: Getty.

Fairy lights are another festive way to light the table. Look for battery-operated LED seed lights as they don't need to be plugged into the wall. Wind them in amongst your centrepiece or coil them up in glass jars for a starry glow, or for a dramatic option, suspend a bare branch above the table wound with seed lights and baubles for a festive take on a chandelier.