Serve up in style this fes­tive sea­son. Anna Bar­nett, food writer and all-round style guru, tells GABRIELLE FAGAN her go-to tips and tricks

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Property & Living -

Fes­tively fab­u­lous ta­ble set­tings that are easy to con­jure up this Christ­mas

If con­jur­ing a beau­ti­ful ta­ble set­ting is usu­ally one fi­nal fraz­zled fes­tive step too far – take heart!

Stylish food writer Anna Bar­nett, who’s worked in TV and magazines and knows a thing or two about glam­orous ef­fects and glit­ter­ing oc­ca­sions, has come to the res­cue, shar­ing some of her in­sider tips and tricks.

She’s turned the ta­bles on tra­di­tional ta­ble set­tings and given her own cre­ative spin to three fes­tively fab­u­lous looks. Best of all, she prom­ises they’re all easy-peasy to do!

“I love do­ing a Christ­mas ta­ble set­ting as it’s a chance to be su­per­cre­ative and let your per­son­al­ity shine through,” says Anna, whose sec­ond book, How To Be Gluten Free And Keep Your Friends (Quadrille, £12.99), is pub­lished in Jan­uary.

“It hon­estly doesn’t need many in­gre­di­ents to give a set­ting the ‘wow’ fac­tor. Just be in­spired by your bauble col­lec­tion and add a few more de­tails, like fo­liage,” adds the au­thor and blog­ger, whose en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious.

“Make it eye-catch­ing and en­gag­ing – and a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent – and peo­ple will en­joy your feast even more.

“Then sit back and wait for the com­pli­ments – guar­an­teed to give you a sea­sonal glow!”

Sim­ply choose your look, and fol­low Anna’s two-step guide to styling each one...

1 Serve na­ture with an Aussie flavour

“This is my favourite. It’s a re­fresh­ing, Aus­tralian-in­spired scheme us­ing eu­ca­lyp­tus stems,” says Anna.

“Their sub­tle, muted colour is so in tune with the fash­ion­able coun­try look. Fruits and metallics give it vis­ual punch but this is still a lovely easy-on-the eye, tran­quil ef­fect.”

■ Step 1 – A hang­ing dis­play: Use a small bunch of wil­low branches at­tached to two leather straps or rib­bon. Hang from a ceil­ing cen­trally above the ta­ble or kitchen counter, or al­ter­na­tively on a wall or from a pen­dant light or chan­de­lier.

Hang a se­lec­tion of light­weight baubles at dif­fer­ent heights onto branches us­ing in­vis­i­ble thread (fish­ing line works well).

Se­lect a palette of two to three colours – gold and orange are a clas­sic com­bi­na­tion, Anna points out.

“I’ve in­cluded minia­ture Christ­in­gles (or­anges spiked with cloves).”

■ Step 2 – The cen­tre­piece: “Lay a line of eu­ca­lyp­tus stems the length of the ta­ble and in­ter­sperse with gold, cop­per or bronze baubles, which will re­flect can­dle­light.

“These shades look in­cred­i­ble to­gether and eu­ca­lyp­tus has a re­lax­ing aroma,” says Anna.

“Bring the ef­fect to life with pomegranates, ar­ti­chokes, or­anges and wal­nuts – I’ve spray-painted some of them gold too.

“A se­lec­tion of can­dle­sticks (mar­ble or metal­lic) of dif­fer­ent heights cre­ates at­mo­spheric light­ing.”

En­hance with in­ter­est­ing tex­ture, she sug­gests, such as a linen table­cloth and nap­kins, and creamy white hand-thrown pot­tery con­trast­ing with sleek china din­ner­ware.

2 Dec­o­rate on the dark side

“Black isn’t nor­mally a colour that peo­ple think to dec­o­rate with at Christ­mas, but this is a really dif­fer­ent dra­matic scheme, with a cool, con­tem­po­rary vibe,” says Anna.

“This really suits pared-back Scandi-style decor, which is so on-trend, and I love the idea of dress­ing the ta­ble to match the room’s decor. Ramp up the drama and go really moody with all-black din­ner­ware, or keep that lovely sharp con­trast of mono­chrome.

“For me, this is a win­ning com­bi­na­tion of play­ful and quirky.”

■ Step 1 – The cen­tre piece: “Black’s a great base to ac­cen­tu­ate colour and tex­ture, and I’ve lay­ered gold and pine on the top,” she ex­plains. “Layer fir tree branches down the mid­dle of the ta­ble, which will fill the room with a pine scent, and en­twine with bat­tery-op­er­ated fairy lights.

“Pine fronds and pom-poms give warmth to this look, and stop it be­ing too stark,” Anna adds. ■ Step 2 – Be­spoke a place set­ting:

Baubles and gift tags, with every guest’s name writ­ten on each, con­jure really per­sonal place set­tings and make a lovely gift and sou­venir of the meal for each per­son to take away.

3 Cre­ate a fi­esta feast

“If you love colour, this one’s for you,” says Anna. “I’ve used a tra­di­tion­ally sea­sonal palette of red and gold as a base but then thrown in a ‘fi­esta’ vibe with over-the-top pat­terned baubles, se­quins and glit­ter. Lots of glit­ter!” ■ Step 1 – The cen­tre­piece: “Any fo­liage will work – maybe a mix of eu­ca­lyp­tus stems and dark green ivy – with lots of fairy twin­kling lights,” says Anna. “For added zing, weave in strands of red and gold rib­bon or glit­ter string.

“Plun­der your bauble col­lec­tion

and maybe add some new ones to the mix. And feel free to go OTT!” she urges. “The big­ger the dis­play, the more im­pres­sive it’ll be.

“If you’re wor­ried about over­whelm­ing a ta­ble and not leav­ing enough space for plat­ters and plates, ar­range the ef­fects in clus­ters spaced at in­ter­vals.”

■ Step 2 – Place set­ting: “At­tach gift tags to small cock­tail crack­ers for each set­ting. I’ve used wool tas­sel tree dec­o­ra­tions (Habi­tat) here as a cut­lery tie, or you could use them as a nap­kin ring. These are nice take­away favours for guests,” Anna notes.

“If you want to ‘cool’ down the look, sub­sti­tute white or even sil­ver china for the red plates,” she sug­gests. “It’ll give the same vibe but not quite as bold.”

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