Setting The Scene by Katherine Sorrell

Style a festive table for delicious meals with family and friends

Carefully setting and dressing the dining table for a Christmas meal is part of the ritual of Christmas Day. It is best to plan ahead, consider how to achieve the desired look and what key ingredients are required.

The theme can be simple and natural, in muted, neutral colours or sparkly with white and silver, frosting and tinsel. A classic look employs red, gold and deep green, while a modern effect might use pastels or neons. Stick tightly to the theme so it all looks unified.

If your dining table is not up to scratch, use a tablecloth to disguise scratches, stains and separate tables butted together – plain white cotton or unbleached linen are classics. Decorate with a lace, embroidered or scalloped trim, or opt for a festive all-over Christmas pattern.

Perhaps add a slim runner along the table, either of ready-made fabric or with a narrow row of suitable decorations along the table – such as an evergreen garland with pinecones and berries, micro lights, tea lights in saucers, lanterns with candles, or floral displays.

An alternative to a runner is a centrepiece, perhaps a classic wreath with candles, an arrangement of fresh flowers and foliage, or containers with Christmas bulbs. Other variations are a grouping of lanterns or pillar candles, a pile of small presents, a bowl of coloured-glass baubles or a Christmas ornament.

If you can hang something above the table, ideas include a selection of greenery entwined around a slim metal frame, a scattering of metallic-paper origami stars, a mobile made from baubles on ribbons hung from a wooden bough, or a simple swirl of fairy lights.

Similarly, wreaths, baubles, pinecones, even small wrapped gifts, can be tied to or hung from the backs of wooden chairs for a pretty look.

Place mats and napkins are important elements and napkins can be folded or rolled and prettified with additions such as cinnamon sticks, candy canes, mini wrapped gifts, tiny baubles, small wooden stars, ribbons or coloured twine.

Finally, add crockery, cutlery and glassware. Use your best set arranged super-neatly: bowls on top of side plates on top of dinner plates; cutlery for all the courses; glasses for water, wine and fizz. The result? A gorgeous, welcoming Christmas table.

PICTURE CAPTIONS

1   Glowing reds and golds with ornaments, gifts and baubles creates a dramatic table setting. Faux-fur stocking, £5; cable-knit throw, £15; fur-trim pillow, £10; stag ornament, £8; trio of frosted tree decorations, £8; all B&M: 0330 838 9000; bmstores.co.uk.

2   Christmas-themed, red-and-white crockery for a warm and inviting table. Red and white Fair Isle 12-piece dinner set, £20; White Christmas Wreath 12-piece dinner set, £20; both George Home at Asda: 0800 952 0101; direct.asda.com.

3   Jazz up a table with chunky crockery, golden goblets and baubles in bowls. Grey wooden micro star, £17.99; midwinter garland, £34.99; 50 warm white LED green micro fairy lights, £12.99; set of three antique gold glass baubles, £19.99; TruGlow® LED pillar candle trio, £26.99; Lights4fun: 01423 816 040; lights4fun.co.uk. Photograph: Oliver Perrott