Always Sunday actually began as a supper club known as much for the food served as for the fantastical tablescapes designed by founder and creative director, Lexi Wareham-Dart so we know a thing or two about setting a table and making an impression.
As the holiday season approaches, you’re probably looking for creative Christmas table decorating ideas to surprise your family with. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas day and want to make it magical for your kids, or you’re hosting an intimate winter dinner party with your closest friends; here’s our step-by-step guide to crafting a Christmas tablescape that will seriously impress your guests.
Tablescapes are like onions; onions have layers, ogres have layers, tablescapes definitely need layers. The best hotels and restaurants in the world utilize multiple layers in their decorating because all that texture and visual depth makes the table feel even more luxurious.
Start with a tablecloth that feels neutral. It doesn’t actually have to be a neutral colour (you can choose neon green if that’s your vibe) but this is the base layer that will dictate how everything else looks from then on so it needs to be somewhat versatile.
From there, include a central runner and placemats that either coordinate seamlessly or contrast completely (we favour snow-white placemats on a midnight black metallic tablecloth), charger plates with a bit of eye-catching shine to them, and napkins tucked into handmade napkin rings. We would always recommend napkins with a bit of a softness to them, like stone-washed linen or muslin cotton, so they drape over the edge of the table and into laps.
SO GROWN UP
We’re particularly frond of foliage at this time of year and will never stop at just a traditional wreath. For a low-cost holiday decor idea you could cut back the parts of your tree that won’t be seen and use these branches to create the table garland.
An equally eco-friendly Christmas idea is to ask your local tree farm for any off-cuts because it saves them from disposing of it and tends to be cheaper for you than buying from a florist. We love Rainbow Wood Farm for this; in the past we’ve purchased a bundle alongside our tree for less than £10 for a giant bunch.
Once your garland is in place, treat it just like you would the Christmas tree; with lights tucked in (hide those wires!), baubles and ornaments and perhaps some natural pinecones. When your tree matches your table, it makes Christmas decorating feel so much more intentional.
TAKE YOUR PLACE
Personalise every place setting with a different plate for the person rather than just the name card.
Sure, you may have that matching dinnerware set that was a wedding gift from your aunt (the one who likes to remind you how much it cost at every visit, we GET IT GERTRUDE). It will definitely look impressive en masse, but is it really you? Will it make your guests feel special or will it make them feel like they need to cut their carrots an inch above the plate to avoid scratching it?
Lexi has cabinets crammed full of vintage plates collected from flea markets and vintage stores, with a particular favourite being the English Rose Royal Albert dinner service for the gilded, floral edge. Look for embellished edges that will layer well together.
You should also be thinking about what colour plates to choose. Pinks and greens tend to be the most complimentary with any food, whereas blues, greens and yellows can be more difficult because the combination can actually make the food look less appetising.
CUT ABOVE THE REST
Glassware is like jewellery; it may be small in stature but will often be the detail that elevates the entire look.
Invest in handblown glassware that has been made to capture attention; either in the way it feels in your hand (even after a few drinks) or the interesting pools of light it casts when it’s filled with bubbles.
Let’s face it, no one wants to hand wash that many glasses when they’re a few drinks in, so make sure your collection is dishwasher safe so it’s beautiful and easy to use.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Have you got a collection of antique bells or vintage metal airplanes you’ve been hoarding? 1950's baking tools or snow globes from around the world? Repurpose them as decorations for an unconventional Christmas table that resonates with your personal style.
EYE TO EYE
The best tablescapes play with different heights, shapes and sizes but we’ve found this can get in the way of the actual conversation. We want to be able to see our friends and family not be constantly peering through an extravagant display.
To make a dinner table feel dynamic and still ensure eye contact, we will always use our favourite Ester & Erik candles. They are so finely tapered; you will barely notice them and we've been putting our candle painting skills to the test to make them even more special.
RAISE A TOAST
For everything else, keep it below eye level. Platforms and stands are perfect for adding height without dominating the space. And don't stop at cake; try placing your showstopping mushroom wellington on a pedestal or arranging your roasted vegetables on each tier of a cake stand. It simultaneously adds visual interest and makes space for other dishes.
CHEESE & CRACKERS
As an alternative idea for crackers, you could include your Dad’s cheesy jokes in with the place settings or a miniature deck of cards assigned to every other person. Guests can challenge their neighbour to a game in between courses and it works particularly well to keep the kids quiet and entertained.
TAKE A SEAT
Remember to pay attention to seating because you spend hours at the dinner table; eating and chatting (and then complaining about how much you’ve been eating). Soften seats and benches with Christmas-themed cushions and faux-fur blankets as comfortable and inviting as any sofa.
Okay, so who's on the washing up?
It’s a bit of a wild card but instead of a napkin, why not assign a printed tea towel to each place setting. When your guests are done eating they can take them home as gifts or.. read the signs and get in the kitchen and do the washing up!
We hope you’re feeling inspired to make your Christmas the most magical yet. Happy Tablescaping!
Love from Lexi, Bella, Lauren and the team x