All set to celebrate: Wow-factor festive table ideas from the experts

Whether it’s your Big Day get-together or a New Year’s Eve dinner, the table’s where it’s at over the festivities. Here’s how to make it a talking point.

Lay it on like a supper club host

Karen Mordechai, founder of Brooklyn-based food and design community Sunday Suppers, explains how to create an understated, chic festive table.

Neutrals make a beautiful backdrop for the deeper tones of the seasonal food, so I like to keep things simple with a white tablecloth. You can add a touch of colour by decorating with foliage, greens, herbs and fruit.

For a super-minimal approach, I place a small sprig or leaf at each place setting and add tall white candles to elevate it.

When it comes to the food, I want everything to be as fresh as possible so I only cook on the day of the dinner. To make it easier, I give myself a prep day to measure out all the ingredients. My favourite winter recipes are braised brisket with merlot, beech mushrooms and garlic parmesan mash and slow-cooked risotto with meyer lemon – they always please a crowd!

festive table ideas
Photo by Greg Cox/Bureaux

Winter white

This is so simple, but so glamorous: a bleached-out palette is paired with natural finishes and foliage to create a standout yet easily achievable setting. For similar dinnerware, try bloomingville.com

sundaysuppers.com. Karen’s book Simple Fare: Fall and Winter (£25, abramsbooks.com) is out now. 

Photo by Beth Evans/Aline Caron

Take your seats for the performance…

Want a dinner party with a difference? Sam Bompas of experiential culinary duo Bompas & Parr, who turn dinners into theatrical events, explains how to turn a feast into a showstopper worthy of an encore.

As your guests will have been invited to several parties over the season, your celebration has to stand out as unique. I do this by focusing on a fun and memorable theme that is suitably festive but not generic, then get creative to exaggerate it for the party.

The centrepiece is the most important element on the table – pyramids of stacked food such as lobsters or quail are striking and also make for great sharing platters. Quirky stand-alone pieces such as pineapples covered in glitter or flaming punch bowls also achieve the wow factor. Colour plays a major role in creating your table. I favour a darker palette such as sapphire blue teamed with deep red and flourishes of gold for a visually rich modernised Christmas look.

My absolute must is a thoughtful seating plan. I once hosted a party and placed personalised pewter tankards, which were £1 each from a market, as part of the spread. Guests were able to take them home as a keepsake afterwards.

Dark drama

Break away from traditional Christmas colours with blue, black and gold. This setting – by Aline Caron, founder of lifestyle blog mylittlefabric.com – shows you how to work with deep colours and still bring a festive feel. Winter blooms such as hellebores (aka Christmas roses), along with gilded cutlery and candlesticks, nod to the seasonal theme. For similar cut-crystal wine glasses, try zarahome.com. For similar stonewashed table linen, try linenme.com.

For more information, see bompasandparr.com or follow @bompasandparr.

The art of the party

Photo c/o Stillstars.com

TV presenter Laura Jackson, who hosts supper clubs in London, explains how she makes them personal, simple and sustainable.

At this time of year, handmade Christmas crackers are a must – they are so simple to make. I use fabric, wallpaper or wrapping paper and a large velvet ribbon in a statement colour to tie the ends.

For the tablecloth, I recently commissioned a wonderful artist called Lucy Auge (lucyauge.co.uk) to hand paint a design on brown craft paper. It’s eco-friendly and easy – all you need is some natural paint and a friend who can draw!

I also like to make initialled napkins (anthropologie.com sells fabric letters that you can stick on), and I finish off the look with hand-tied bunches of flowers, herbs or even holly sprigs.

For the meal it helps to keep things straightforward. I always cook something that’s already in my repertoire and although I love a fancy cocktail, I find that flavoured G&Ts with homemade syrup or a glass of prosecco jazzed up with pomegranate seeds work just as well.

Revved-up rustic

Photo by Alexander van Berge Amsterdam

How to make cosy cool? The weathered woods of this ultra-chic loft space are warmed up even more by sheepskins and shades of amber and gold. Oversized circus-light letters and bare-bulb fairy lights add a touch of fun. For similar wooden dining benches, try coxandcox.co.uk. For similar circus lights, try rocketandrye.co.uk.

Report by Nicole Gray