How To Lay A Christmas Table

It’s the most convivial meal of the year. Make sure your table dresses the part too.

One of most sage pieces of culinary advice we’ve ever been given – and one that anyone who finds themselves designated cook on Christmas Day will surely benefit from – is to lay the table first, before the cooking begins in earnest. That way, by the time you’ve sploshed bread sauce down your clothes and your hair is a frazzled mess – and crucially before the moment hits when ready to throw up your spatulas and spoons as you gasp for a sherry – you can somehow pull back some calm serenity in the knowledge that everything looks the part. On the table at least.

Here are just a few suggestions for creating a merry table. Our very top tip of all? Make it a Christmas Eve job to gather some tendrils of ivy on your winter walk and then simply scatter across the table – free, easy and festive.

By Nancy Alsop
November 2020

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At Christmas, we’re firmly of the more-is-more mentality. While don’t go as quite far as to tip over into novelty crockery, we do nonetheless find ourselves gravitating towards festive plates and serving dishes – whether overtly Christmassy, in festive reds, greens or golds or hand painted in wintry tones. These are just a few on our wish list.

Astier De Villatte

Etoile Dessert Plate, £90

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion

Mistletoe 1 Pint Sauce Boat and Stand, £55

Labour & Wait

Enamel Small Jug Red, £18

Sophie Conran

Sol Statement Bowls, Set of 3, £295

Astier De Villate

Cardinal Flower Plate, £120

AG Hendy & Co

Officer’s Mess Gravy Boat, £95

Emma Bridgewater

Hawthorn Berries Plate, £17.95

Summerill & Bishop

Tom Bowl on Stand, Large, £265


Sara Miller London Frosted Pines Serving Plate, £18

The Conran Shop

Bright Side Plate Red, £22

Astier De Villate

Handmade Extra Large Bowl, £375

Napkins, Tablecloths, Tray and Placemats

How often do you dress your table with the full complement of fancy accoutrements? For us, it’s almost never. But on Christmas Day, it feels like a wonderfully ceremonious to bring out the proper linen napkins and placemats, and to throw a cloth over the table – an easy and completely transformative act. Here are few ideas for festive inspiration.


Stripy Bea Napkin Ring, Set of 2, £50

Summerill & Bishop

Falling Stars Linen Tablecloth With Gold Stars, £625


Tarifa Tablecloth, Napkin & Tote Bag Set Red, £195

John Lewis

Hem Stitch Cotton Tablecloth, £25


Chilewich Pressed Vinyl Dahlia Round Placemat, £15

Central Living

Jasper Morrison Trays, £89

Summerill & Bishop

Stripe Linen Table Cloth In Gold And Silver, £695

The Conran Shop

Cuero Round Placemat, £19

Sophie Conran

Soleil Cord Napkin Rings, Set of 8, £32

David Mellor

Square Napkin Red, £7

Molly Mahon

Mini Star Green, £8

Matilda Goad

Scallop Trim Linen Napkins, Set of 4, £65


For those who have inherited beloved sets of family heirloom cutlery, it is a joyful thing to bring them out and be reminded of beloved forebears. For those who do not have such bequests stored safely away, there are a host of beautiful sets that will cheer up any Christmas table.


Christofle Mood Cutlery Egg, Set of 24 Silver Plated, £1250

David Mellor

English Silver Plate 6 Piece Cutlery Set, £160


Mami Cutlery Set 5 Pieces, £47


16 Piece Cutlery Set – Ivory, £95


Paloma Matt Gold Cutlery Set – 24 Piece, £250, NOW £175

The Conran Shop

Stonewashed Cutlery Collection, from £10

AG Hendy & Co

Set 6 Dinner Knives, £48


If, like most of us, you save your finest vintages for Christmas Day, it stands to reason that you’ll also be in need of some suitably stellar glasses, carafes and decanters – no matter your tipple of choice. Ensure the glass is sparkly and squeaky clean, and nothing with look more alluring lit up by candlelight.

John Lewis

LSA International Deco Assorted Tumblers, Set of 8, £60

Freight HHG

Hand-Blown Crystal Glass Carafe, £130

Not On The High Street

Set of Six Mixed Design Wine Glasses, £75

Sophie Conran

Red Bobble Jug With Gold Handle, £155

John Lewis

Cut Glass Tumber, Garnet Red, £12

Central Living

Fia Carafe Amber, £60


Mario Luca Giusti Milly Acrylic Tumbler, £20

The Conran Shop

Spirale Decanter With Corolle Stopper, £135

Rowen and Wren

Isla Fluted Champagne Coupe, Set of 2, £36

Sophie Conran

Giardino Hand Etched Wine Glasses, Set of 6, £79

David Mellor

Flute Red Wine Glass, £17

Champagne Buckets

Sherry, red wine, champagne: for us, the ideal triumvirate of Christmas Day drinks. If you’re in the market for the latter – and indeed, nothing cheers up a table, or guests, better than the promise of a good bottle of fizz – then you’ll be in need of an ice bucket. Deliver instant glamour to your Christmas Day repast with these beauties.

Nordic Nest

Alessi Ice Bucket, NOW £68

Sophie Conran

Chamberlain Silver Plated Champagne Cooler, £149

The White Company

Ultimate Champagne Trug, £195

Sophie Conran

Lancaster Silver Plated Footed Bowl, £95

Central Living

Groove Champagne Bucket, £65

Rowen & Wren

Lena Brass Champagne Cooler, £72

The Crackers

Is it even Christmas lunch if the soundtrack of cracker bangs isn’t omnipresent? The jewel tones of these mini gifts always look festive, while pulling them is a source of classic Christmas intergenerational fun. Try these to brighten up your table this year.

Meri Meri

Christmas Trees Crackers, £23


London Christmas Cracker, Set of 6, £49.95

Harvey Nichols

Saucy Christmas Crackers, £6.95

Meri Meri

Meri Meri Festive Elf Medium Crackers, £21.45

Cox & Cox

Luxury Handmade Black & White Splatter Cracker, £50


Dacha Christmas Crackers, £115

Fortnum & Mason

Christmas Forest Crackers, £295

Emma Bridgewater

Christmas Joy Scattered Crackers, £20

The Candles

Candlelight is a sure-fire route to creating atmosphere, plus being bathed in its flickering warm light is flattering to all. It also happens to make the whole house smell delicious. These are the wicks and candelabras we’ll be scattering across our tables this year.


Sapin de Nuit Candle by Diptyque, £32

Sophie Conran

Maple Candle Holder, £48

Rowen & Wren

British Beeswax Candle, Set of Two, £12

Flint Collection

Bronze Glass Candle Holder, £9

Matilda Goad

Pack Of Emerald Beeswax Candles, £42

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.