Four lessons I've learnt from setting over 100 Christmas tables as a professional stylist

From the colour scheme to the decorations and captivating centrepiece, here's my tried and tested formula for a stunning table

christmas dining table with red wall and wreath
(Image credit: Future)

As an interior stylist, I've laid hundreds of Christmas tables over the years. They've been beautifully decorated festive tables for magazine shoots, themed ones for workshops, extravagant designs for events, and then, of course, my own. This year alone I've styled many Christmas tables for shoots, influencers and media – one of which was for over 40 people!

Coming up with new Christmas table decor ideas and setting a Christmas table is such a fun thing to do and no matter how many I style, I never find it a chore. I know that's not how everyone feels about the task, however, and I always get asked where to start, and how to go about making a table setting look beautifully curated when there are so many items to display. 

It's easy to find yourself with a table full of garlands and candles and no place to actually eat! That's why having a clear vision in your head before you begin is important, rather than piling everything on and hoping for the best. 

With so much experience, I thought you might like to know my ingredients for a successful Christmas table setting – so you can impress guests and get your day off to a good start.

1. Have a colour scheme in mind – and tie it in with your Christmas decor

christmas dining table with centrepiece and red. tablecloth

(Image credit: Future / Simon Scarboro)

It goes without saying that a colour scheme can really make or break a table setting, but with Christmas it's even more important. Being that you'll no doubt have a Christmas tree and decorations already up in your home, it pays to match your table decor to those or at least continue the theme by picking out one of the colours. 

To really make it feel Christmassy, I'd advise going for a colour on your tablecloth or table runner – that way, when the plates are cleared you'll still have a table that ties in with the rest of your room decor. 

It doesn't have to just be one colour either – pick one main one, and then two accent colours. Use the main one for the larger items, such as the tablecloth, and then the accents for smaller items like candles or the pattern on your plates, for example.

2. Layer, layer… and layer some more!

christmas place setting with cracker and napkin

(Image credit: Future / Simon Bevan)

Building up your Christmas table is like decorating a whole room in many respects… While painted walls and a few items of furniture are perfectly functional, it's when you add rugs, curtains and cushions that the interior really starts to take shape.

That's the same for your Christmas table – it needs layers to bring it to life and soften the scheme. So go for a tablecloth and/or a table runner, stack crockery on top of placemats, add seat decorations and cutlery on top of napkins… all these layers will add interest and help give your table the wow factor. 

3. Height and texture are important

christmas dining table with candles and decorations

(Image credit: Future)

A lot of tableware items are low level – plates, placemats, cutlery – and even things like drinking glasses and gravy jugs aren't that tall, which means your table can look lacking. To really give it impact, you need a few items that are taller, such as candlesticks, cake stands with baubles or a floral centrepiece. Ideally, you'd have a mix of heights, which creates visual impact and helps lead the eye along the table, taking in all the different elements. 

Texture is another thing that I think is key when it comes to Christmas table settings. If everything is shiny, from the porcelain to baubles or ceramics, it doesn't have the same impact as a table that has some soft linens and foliage.   

4. The smaller details matter

christmas place setting with cracker

(Image credit: Future / Dominic Blackmore)

Now this one is key if you want to make your guests feel special. Taking time to plan a few small elements that surprise or make each person smile is something that will make your Christmas table setting stand out. Try adding a personalised gift at each place setting you could monogram napkins, write your guests' names on baubles or make bespoke air-dry clay Christmas decorations? Another lovely touch is beautifully designed mini menus or decorations tied on the back of each chair. Get creative and be prepared to enjoy seeing your guests ooh and aah at your table. 

It doesn't have to be expensive either. If you're looking for budget Christmas decorating ideas, something as simple as a hand-written note, a fortune cookie or cutlery tied up with ribbon can turn your table from basic to beautiful in an instant.

I still have a few more Christmas tables to lay this season and everyone will feature this tried and tested tips. So hopefully armed with them you'll be able to curate your own stunning Christmas dining table this year.

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at