Setting the Scene for Christmas
If you’ve been experiencing a warm fuzzy feeling lately, it’s probably because Christmas is on its way and it will either be a result of sheer panic or uncontrollable excitement. Whether you embrace the festive season or turn into a scrooge, there is no escaping the Christmas shopping, present wrapping and putting up the decorations. Make your Christmas one to remember this year by planning in advance and being prepared. Here’s my guide on how to set the scene for Christmas.
This time of year always makes me think of cosy nights in by the fire drinking mulled wine, indulging in home made mince pies and department stores full to the brim with sparkly decorations. However, the thing I look forward to the most is spending time with friends and family where due to hectic schedules, I haven’t seen as much of as I’d have liked throughout the year. It’s the perfect opportunity to forget about work for a moment or two and enjoy the company of loved ones. So, it is important that your home looks its best, ready for when your special visitors arrive.
This column is dedicated to those of you who have been chosen to host the most important meal of the year, Christmas lunch. Firstly, well done for putting yourself forward; I know only too well how stressful it can be. Secondly, if you’re worried about how you’re going to create the perfect setting for your guests, fear not, I’m going to talk you through it step-by-step.
Let’s start with the essential ingredients; table and chairs. December is generally the dining table’s busiest time of year, so it’s important that it looks fresh and inviting. If ever there was a good time to replace a shabby, worn-out dining set for a lovely new one, it’s now.
There are so many options available to you, depending on the style of your home, be it classic, contemporary or traditional. From antique shops to High Street chains, there’s an option out there for every taste and every budget. In fact, you can pick up a brand new table and chairs for under £300 on the high street if you like in the right places! Or, if your dining table is still in tip-top condition but the chairs are looking a little weathered, why not put your creative skills to the test and reupholster your chairs with a beautiful fabric. This is the perfect way to customise your dining set and inject a sense of personality, without breaking the bank!
Now, to ensure your guests are as comfortable as can be, why not treat them to a cushion each. The cushions must of course complement the chosen colour scheme of your dining area but we’ll come to that a bit later on.
Undoubtedly the most creative part of this process will be dressing the table. It’s a very special meal so put as much effort into making a wow-factor setting as possible. Before you make any purchases, decide upon a theme. Make sure it’s consistent throughout and in keeping with your existing decor. For a traditional look and feel, why not get the children or grandchildren involved? Help them to bake and decorate gingerbread men, make edible napkin rings and prepare clove-studded oranges finished with pretty red bows. These little touches are fun to make, they look great and will give the day a truly special, personal feel. It will also keep the little ones occupied for a few hours, which is a hard task when they are counting down the days for when Father Christmas will arrive! Another fun and creative exercise the kids can get involved with is making scrolls for the table. Simply photocopy old sheets of music, dab with used tea bags, burn the sides with a candle and roll up and ribbon – easy-peasy and you can be rest assured your guests will be overwhelmed with all the effort that’s gone into these hand-made extras.
Whatever theme you decide to go with, make sure it runs consistently throughout the home, from the wreath that’s tied to the front door, into the hallway and then the lounge and dining room.
Next to think about is colour. Gold, Silver and red are always popular options at Christmas but if you want to shake things up a little this year, why not make a bold gesture and choose a more contemporary colour such as a dark petrol blue or deep mulberry. Black table and glassware would look incredibly en-vogue upon a crisp white table cloth. Then, to add the finishing touches, opt for a black, ornately styled table runner and a Silver candle stick for the centre piece.
If you want your guests to ooh and aah, really go to town by investing in the following items: plain but pretty table cloth, decorative table runner, cotton napkins and napkin rings, charger plates, a classic tableware set, new cutlery, a candle or two for the centre of the table and last but certainly not least, Champagne flutes and wine glasses. Don’t worry if your wine glasses don’t match, it only becomes noticeable when there is just one odd one out. If you’re planning to carve the Turkey on the table, it might also be nice to have a large, wooden block for it to sit on.
Here’s a little tip if you struggle to find the perfect table cloth to tie in with your chosen theme. A single or double bed sheet will work just as well and you’ll be able to select almost any colour under the sun.
Like most areas of interior design, it’s the little things that will have the biggest impact and with Christmas décor, the more detail the better. You won’t have to look far and wide for these key pieces. If you’re lucky enough to have a limitless budget, you could try a designer department store or if you’re trying to save the pennies, some of the larger supermarket chains will cater. If you can’t afford to go out and buy brand new pieces, ask your friends what they’ve got lying around. You’ll be surprised how many people hoard decorations and Christmassy tableware year after year so they’ll probably be grateful for you to take them off their hands. Car boot sales are also an ideal place to pick up quirky bits and pieces like wine and champagne glasses that will bring a unique and personal feel to the occasion.
The ambience of the room is of paramount importance too – you want to be able to set the mood perfectly for the occasion. Lighting is key here. A dramatic pendant light or chandelier hung centrally above the dining table will help to provide visual aid as well as act as a striking focal piece. Then when the meal is finished and your guests want to relax and unwind with coffee and chocolates, it would be ideal if you could dim the lights to create a more relaxing mood. A simple dimmer switch from your local DIY store will make this possible.
The aroma of the turkey will surely be enough to entice your guests to their seats but when dinner’s finished and you’re all sitting around chatting, a scented candle would really help to set the mood. Opt for a Christmas scent and try orange and clove for an invigorating punch.
Good luck with the preparations and give your guests a dinner to remember!