How to tablescape like a pro
Tablescaping basically means making your dining table look nice in case some bugger Instagrams it. Here's how to wow your guests this Christmas.
Most of the year my family are lucky if dinner makes it to the table at all, let alone placed atop a beautifully crafted tableaux with napkins neatly rolled in their holders, impeccably arranged flowers and different cutlery for every course. However, Christmas is the one time of year when I do make an exception – if we’re going to be sitting around that table en masse for the entire afternoon then let’s make it look pretty, right?
For those of us who need some help in that department, Willow Crossley, interiors stylist and florist extraordinaire, who joined us at our recent Bicester Village event, is here to help. Based in the Cotswolds, she owns the super-chic Bull Inn in Charlbury with her husband, has arranged flowers for royals and A-listers and her new book The Wild Journal: A Year of Nurturing Yourself Through Nature is out next March.
The art of tablescaping is being driven by swanky fashion industry dinners plastered all over Instagram and now us normals are getting in on the act. But where do you start? Willow, spill your secrets!
Go big or go home
I really go for it and totally fill my table with flowers and candles – to the point where there’s no space for the food and it has to be served on another table! I want people to sit down and say, Wow, that’s beautiful! For me, it’s a creative expression and a way of showing how much I care about my guests.
Get inventive with your linens
I have three boys so a white tablecloth would last about one minute in my house. I love a striped cloth and I also have one with a fern print on it. Clothes and napkins are expensive so people tend to have one smart set that comes out for every occasion. To get round this, I buy a couple of metres of material from a fabric shop or John Lewis and then get a seamstress to hem it, it’s much less expensive than you’d think.
Harness the power of flowers
I try to buy British whenever I can but it’s quite a limited choice at this time of year so some of my flowers are from Holland. Look out for mistral anemones – they come in every colour and last for weeks. I also love ranunculus. Or maybe try plants – they last longer and are more affordable. A long line of terracotta pots with cyclamen, hellebores or hyacinths along the length of the table can look stunning.
Make sure your table decorations aren’t so tall that you can’t see your guests across the table. But also avoid making everything the same height – it adds interest when the decorations form an undulating line along the table. So that might mean you use some tall candles and some tea lights.
People are starting to get a bit bored of the same old Christmas wreaths with holly and cinnamon sticks so I’d suggest using gypsophila, aka baby’s breath, instead. White or gold looks good at Christmas. Make a chicken wire sausage shape and just feed it in – it dries beautifully. And you can use a small wreath on your table with a glass hurricane lamp and candle.
You can be creative on the cheap
I love scouring charity shops – you can often pick up cut-glass vases for 50p. Bonne Maman jam jars make great vases, as do glass pickle jars for bigger arrangements. Think about natural items you can sprinkle on the table to decorate – at Christmas I use red and green crab apples and nuts. I also have gold oyster shells that I use to hold salt and pepper or guests’ name cards. I got them from a seafood restaurant – I asked the owner for a bag of empty shells and then sprayed them gold.
Glide easily from day to night
If you’re hosting people throughout the day, there are quick ways to differentiate between your lunch table and your evening table. I don’t bother starting again from scratch unless there’s been a big spillage on the cloth. Instead, I might use different plates but keep the same cutlery or switch from coloured glass to clear glass (or vice versa). And I always add in a lot more candlelight for evening. Changing the colour of the candles can make a big impact too.