James Tre­ble shares his bud­get-friendly ways to make your al­fresco feast spe­cial.

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If you’re en­ter­tain­ing out­doors, don’t miss James’ tips on how to make al­fresco din­ing spe­cial this sea­son.

THE BEST AND EAS­I­EST way to cre­ate a stylish Christ­mas din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence out­doors is to en­sure con­sis­tency through­out your space. Ba­si­cally, hav­ing one sim­ple colour pal­ette and/ or styling theme is the way to go, and can make even the most ba­sic back­yard stylish, invit­ing and ready for a fan­tas­tic fes­tive feast.


For the ta­ble set­ting, re­peat­ing the same type of ob­ject, like match­ing

hur­ri­cane lamps, or a row of vases with the same coloured flow­ers run­ning down the cen­tre of the ta­ble, is stylish but sub­tle and al­lows the food to shine.

For a day­time event, use the same colour plates and bowls on a neu­tral table­cloth, or do the op­po­site: use a brightly coloured cloth or ta­ble run­ner, with white crock­ery.

One thing we do each year is let a fam­ily mem­ber pick two colours, then we use them on ev­ery­thing from the tree to around the front door. Wher­ever you see dec­o­ra­tions, they’re the same colours. We keep the costs down by

up­cy­cling some of the dec­o­ra­tions to match the new colours. Re­spray­ing Christ­mas baubles isn’t as hard or messy as its sounds: just hang them on wire in­side a large card­board box and spray. We also make dec­o­ra­tions each year and of­ten add de­tails like the new colour in rib­bons, or coloured pa­per wrapped around boxes and placed on the side­board or en­try con­sole.


A white Christ­mas is al­ways stylish. One long white ta­ble cov­ered in many smaller table­cloths will look really spe­cial and you can add colour with flow­ers, crock­ery and servi­ettes. You don’t need to use ex­pen­sive linen table­cloths; a set of af­ford­able white

sheets can work bril­liantly – and if you are join­ing ta­bles, the ex­tra fab­ric hang­ing down on either side will hide dif­fer­ent styles of ta­ble legs. For a low-bud­get op­tion a roll of white

pa­per can do the trick.

Sim­ple slip cov­ers can make all your chairs match like a wed­ding but, if you don’t sew, see if white pil­low slips will slide over the backs of your chairs.

“Nat­u­ral el­e­ments can make an old ta­ble look quirky and hip.”


As with many things in life of­ten the sim­plest things are the most ef­fec­tive. Your fes­tive dé­cor doesn’t have to be per­fect or ex­pen­sive.

Con­trast is a strong prin­ci­ple in de­sign; it pro­vides in­ter­est and lifts the en­ergy within a space. A worn out­door ta­ble set­ting doesn’t have to be hid­den – in­stead, use a run­ner of fresh new fab­ric down the cen­tre to con­trast against the grey­ing tim­ber top. Rather than buy new plates, use the ones you have or col­lect in­ter­est­ing old plates that don’t match from the op shop, and let each one tell a story.

Group­ings of items can make a great style state­ment. Get out all the old fam­ily sil­ver and mix and match the pieces to­gether, let­ting each dif­fer­ent shape and size make the space feel in­ter­est­ing and unique.

Look around you for nat­u­ral

el­e­ments and found ob­jects, which can cre­ate a won­der­fully rus­tic ta­ble on a bud­get. Pine cones are stan­dard at Christ­mas, but piled down the mid­dle of the ta­ble with can­dles of dif­fer­ent heights they look stun­ning – and all of a sud­den you’ve cre­ated some­thing spe­cial. Try do­ing sim­i­lar us­ing seed­pods, nuts, fruit and even old boxes or con­tain­ers, as the dif­fer­ent heights and lay­ers can make a bor­ing old ta­ble look quirky and hip.

Have a great Christ­mas!

Set the scene

A va­ri­ety of small ves­sels and flow­ers looks stun­ning.

Sit­ting pretty Add a touch of glam­our to ba­sic chairs with bows or slip cov­ers. FES­TIVE GLOW Festoon 10m LED light kit, $99.95, from Bea­con Light­ing.

PRETTY PIECE Ella ce­ramic hur­ri­cane, $19.95, from Em­po­rium.


Pot of Cop­per hur­ri­cane, $19.95, from Amalfi. RETRO PICK Ever­ing­ham and Wat­son hur­ri­cane lantern, $69, from Coun­try Cul­ture.

Twin­kle twin­kle Hang­ing above or on the ta­ble, can­dles cre­ate in­stant am­bi­ence.

Na­ture’s bounty Cut branches with blooms make a sweetly sim­ple dis­play.

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