Festive table-setting tips

Get inspired with these Christmas table setting looks, and deck the table before laying out a divine spread.

For a traditional table setting

Reds, golds, green and are the essence of this traditional set-up. The look is timeless and rich, but tasteful, and is something you can’t go wrong with. Unmistakably festive, it is perfect for anyone looking for a cosy, country home feel. Keep the table simple and let the fabrics and ornaments shine – less is definitely more in this case!

Achieve this look: The table cloth is the most significant element of any table. Choose a plaid tablecloth in red and green, or to make it truly unique, simply visit the fabric shops in Satwa to buy the fabric and texture you like and get the hems tailored. For placemats and runners, choose rich reds and maroons as they work well with plaid.

Gold baubles add a touch of sparkle complementing the rich colours of the fabrics perfectly, and making the table look more festive. Green napkins and acorn candle stands are all you need to give the table a traditional, yet relaxed look. Mini gift boxes wrapped in red and green are the perfect way to add a festive touch in traditional colours to the table. To mix it up a bit, you can also add a hint of silver in ornaments like pinecones for a bit more sparkle.

For the centre piece, just fill a basket or vase with gold baubles and it’s ready in an instant. Candles add a warm glow to any dinner table and are essential for this look. Opt for unscented candles so that the aromas of food are not masked with other fragrances, while dining. Always choose taper candles in dripless options, as you don’t want wax falling all over the table.

For the plates and chargers, choose dark colours to tie it all together. To complete the festive look, place a tree ornament on top of the napkin – make sure the colour of the accessory is a shade lighter than the napkin.

Personalise it: Simply add a place card on every plate, or tie a gold string with a name card attached, to every candle stand or ornament placed near each plate.

D-I-Y tip: For an easy way to make your own table decorations, wrap small jewellery boxes in red and green wrapping paper – or any other colours that coordinate with your table setting – and ribbons. You can also use them as alternatives to place cards by making one for each guest, and putting individual names on the gift tags; to make it extra special, you could include a small gift inside the boxes for your guests.

For a modern table setting

If you’re looking for something more fresh, sophisticated and chic, then this stylish contemporary setting will work well. Blue and silver with whites – the white Christmas look – has become something of an alternative classic when it comes to festive tables. Stick to two main colours, with sleek, minimalist accents, to keep the table looking elegant and simple.

Achieve this look: Glittering silver star ornaments bring the festive theme to the table, while crystals placed all around, add a touch of glam. An ice bucket is a great way to combine style with functionality for this sort of a table setting, as it fills up an empty space and helps everyone keep their drinks topped up, while giving the décor an additional pop of silver.

Choose tall glass candle stands, for clear visibility, and place tea light candles in them. Coloured, decorative marbles placed around the candles will add colour, while keeping with the theme intact.

Stick to plain, minimalist silver cutlery – funky designs, rather than intricate engravings are more suited for this look. Keep the dinner plates white – providing a neutral base for the food served on it – and in keeping with the subtle colour scheme, choose a light blue napkin. To add a bit of colour, and in a nod to tradition, simply decorate with a small branch of red Ilex berries on each dinner plate.

Personalise it: Place white and silver Christmas crackers on each dinner plate, as a fun way to work in a Christmas tradition. They also make great keepsakes for guests.

For an outdoor table setting

Christmas in the UAE offers the unique opportunity to enjoy a festive meal alfresco. Take your party to the beach for a truly unique and memorable Christmas dinner. An outdoor table combines a relaxed beach vibe with festive elegance. Alfresco dining can be stylish too, with a few clever tricks and a little effort.

Achieve this look:Take advantage of seaside finds such as seashells, colouful pebbles, or simply some sand in a glass bowl, and add these to the table to highlight the holiday theme. A regular plastic dinner table and wooden chairs will work just fine as long as they are covered and decorated.

White lanterns and candles will add a magical touch; place the lanterns in wire baskets to maintain the outdoor theme. Pack battery operated candles, if you’re not using lanterns.

For tableware, use natural earthy colours – think warm browns, off-white, beige and white, and keep cutlery simple. Play around with textures for placemats – such as these wood-finished table mats shown here – or try bamboo or rattan, as they provide the typical outdoorsy feel, instead of having regular cotton fabrics.

Use white plates for the food and wooden plates to serve appetisers or bread on, for a rustic effect. Place your cutlery inside simple white napkins and wrap it with a gold ribbon, and stick a little leaf inside to give the table a festive sparkle; the leaf adds a natural touch. Dotting a few gold baubles around the table will complete the look.

If you really want to go all-out, bring a LED-lit artificial Christmas tree along for the setting. If that isn’t feasible, simply decorating the table in a festive fashion is enough. This look is easily replicated in a garden as well, and can be made even more festive with fairy lights strung up all around.

Personalise it: Make name tags out of recycled or handmade paper and tie it to each person’s glass stem with a piece of twine.

Styling and tips by Kelley Norman, an interior designer from Canada currently working with McNally Design International in Dubai. With over 16 years of experience in interiors, Kelly also does catering and party styling as a hobby. She can be contacted on kndesign@hotmail.com.