Coming from a large family, gatherings around the table played a big part of my childhood… there would be lots of bustle and banter! It was my job as a child to set the table and I took great pride in my table setting ideas, even then.
Setting a table is a symbol of sharing. When a table is set with intention, even the smallest occasion becomes a memorable one.
Setting the Christmas dinner table is a cherished ritual and I get great pleasure taking my time over it and considering the materials I use - thick French linen, artisan ceramics and vintage items found during my travels.
Lighting is everything – it sets the mood, especially during the dark winter months, something I really picked up on my trip to Iceland a few years ago. The warm flickering of candlelight creates a magical ambiance and enhances the look of everything on the table.
Differing heights of dinner candles creates depth and a visual interest that draws the eye down the length of the table, so I mix up tea lights, short stubby candles, standard and tall candles. I blend the warm natural scent of our beeswax candles with a scented Christmas candle such as our new festive, spicy, citrus Nuit D’hiver essential oil candle.
Styling the old alongside the new is a favourite tip. Vintage brass candlesticks introduce an element of gold which is softened by their aged patina surface, I also love blending the textures of brass candle holders with the clean simplicity of ceramic candle holders.
Leisurely meals call for comfort, so I layer double sheepskin rugs on benches and luxury sheepskin seats pads on chairs. I like to linger at the table, enjoying a break between each course, so there is nothing better than the warmth and luxury of sitting on a real sheepskin rug.
Christmas table linen needn’t be in traditional festive colours; I use natural vintage pinks and khaki greens. And never be precious with washed linen – a crinkled un-ironed finish adds to the gorgeous texture of luxury table linens.
This year instead of bud vases, I’ve filled vintage amber apothecary jars with foliage and berries found simply by foraging in the garden, which always provides a plentiful source of natural inspiration.
Raffia mats in natural and deep terracotta bring warm tones to the dinner table and define individual table settings.
Guest placement can make or break the evening. To get the seating arrangements right, consider the wider group and the individuals - some people enjoy a quiet corner of a table catching up one to one, others are the life and soul of the party. Do consider this the night before as you’ll be too busy on the night of the party.
A thoughtful table gift adds the finishing touch and makes people feel extra special. It needn’t cost more than a packet of Christmas crackers, but it will be so appreciated and will create less waste. (Watch this space for table gifts inspo.)
Think about the playlist the night before, as music can really transform the feel of a party. Each stage of the evening calls for a different tempo. Start with mellow and chilled music during pre-dinner drinks to allow conversation and catching up.
Keep the music in the background for the early part of the dinner (but upbeat... we don't want anyone falling asleep in their soup!) but as the evening progresses, let the music take the spotlight. And after dinner… Well, that’s when the kitchen disco starts in our house!
Our resident DJ JoJo has put together The Small Home curates… Vol #2 a playlist that takes you from aperitifs, to digestives, and beyond...
A huge thanks to my beautiful friend JoJo for the brilliant playlist.
And also to my super chic friend, Sophie Cabantous, aka Dame Chouette who kindly allowed me to photograph this Christmas table in her beautiful reception hall in Pujols, South West France.
Sophie's magical venue, is available to rent for special events and weddings. She can also offer accommodation for up to 22 guests.