I take inspiration from the seasons when I’m setting a table, and Christmas is my favourite time of year for this! I gather greenery, acorns, chestnuts, and holly, then buy pomegranates and citrus. Rather than a formal centrepiece on the table, I create a setting tablescape, with greens spilling across the table, interspersed with the fruit, baubles and other accents. It’s fun to do and not difficult, so go ahead and experiment a little. But remember to give yourself enough time – don’t start 20 minutes before guests arrive.
When I do want to have flowers on the table, I rarely stick to a single arrangement. I have a collection of vintage canning jars that I fill with frozen cranberries and lemon slices, then pour in water and arrange a small bouquet in each, sticking to one variety of flower in just one or two colours. The effect is much more dramatic! Try three shades of one solid colour or white and green coloured flowers only. Other favourites are dark red roses, amaryllis, orchids, and paper-whites: one flower type repeated throughout your table will give a cohesive, pulled-together look. This is also the perfect time to pull out those martini glasses you’ve been storing and use them for a table arrangement. Line them along the centre of the table, then float a candle or fully opened rose in each.
From large pillars in hurricane lamps to tea lights on tiny clay saucers lining a mantel, candles are an inexpensive way to create a holiday atmosphere. Just remember to be consistent with the look; stick to one colour and arrange them in groupings of odd numbers. Try five pillar candles in different sizes on a coffee table, or tea candles in a row along a windowsill safely interspersed with ribbons and greenery. Check out your local nursery, and pick up some clay pots in varying sizes. Lined with cloth napkins, they’re a great alternative to baskets on the table for serving bread, grissini or tortilla chips.
As a final note, never forget your bathrooms when entertaining. Flowers, candles and pretty guest towels make a real difference. At large parties, a visit to the bathroom is one of the only moments people spend alone, so they do notice the small details. Another nice touch is to put a branch of fresh rosemary or spray of lavender in the wastebasket, especially if it’s a wire one.