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The perfect setting

From chic decorations to budget buys, there are many way to make your table look festive this Christmas

by Gabrielle Fagan

There aren't many who'd disagree; the festive feast is the highlight of Christmas Day. But whether you're going for turkey, goose, nut-roast or something even more exotic as the focus of your meal, it's the trimmings that really make it - and I'm not just talking roasties and honey-glazed parsnips.

The setting is almost as - or just as, some would say - important as the food being served. Festive fun or Yueltide chic; it's entirely up to you what mood you go for - and it doesn't have to break the bank, or require a degree in interior design, to pull off.

Of course, you can invest in some wintry wonderland tableware if you want to; candelabras and some carefully-chosen tealight holders and gilded glassware certainly suit the occasion and are an easy way to make a setting special. There are also lots of budget-friendly buys; supermarkets, as well as shops like Wilko and even Poundland are great places to pick up festive table top decorations and charger plates and platters, as well as napkins and table runners.

Get creative and don't limit your imagination to the tabletop - how about hanging decorations above it, or arranging some Christmassy lighting on a mantelpiece for added ambience?

A glass bowl, filled with colourful baubles or pine cones and deep, red berries or springs of holly makes a striking centrepiece, and carefully-draped fairy lights can also be very effective. But whatever you do - don't forget the crackers.

Here are four popular Christmas Day dining deco themes to help you serve up some style ...

Go for gold

It may sometimes have a reputation for being a little ostentatious, but if there's one day of the year when being flash and over-the-top is perfectly allowed - it's Christmas.

More importantly, gold doesn't have to be pompous; in fact it can be extremely subtle and sophisticated, especially if used in a softly-lit, romantic setting.

"After years in the design wilderness, gold is back with a vengeance. If you're not keen on investing in gold cutlery or glassware, paper tableware is an easy way to dip into the look," says Clare Harris, managing director at Talking Tables.

"Once you've decided on your scheme, extend it beyond the table - hang garlands over the fireplace and tie baubles to chair backs for added flair."

Table top tip

Think scale when creating a dramatic table setting, suggests Harris. "You don't want to block guests' views with huge candelabra or floral arrangements, but neither do you want the table to look too minimal. Baubles, battery-operated fairy lights and table scatter create an atmospheric glow, while decorative canape picks add interest."

Get the look

You can dig up plenty of gold on the high street which, thankfully, doesn't include price tags like those of the real thing. Gold And Black Dinner Party Crackers, £7 for pack of six; Gold Charger Plate, £2, Tesco.

Talking Tables is a fantastic one-stop-shop for all your table-setting-heart could possibly desire. Party Porcelain Gold Table Top Tree Decoration, £11; Party Porcelain Gold Individual Cracker, £20 for pack of 20, Talking Tables.

Another top dining deco destination is Wilko, where you can really go to town with a theme. Their Let's Celebrate range features an endless array of gold items: Plates, from £3; Star Dish, from £3; Champagne Flute, £15 for pack of four; Table runner, £7; Teapot, £8; 2 Tier Cake Stand, £10.

Christmas is certainly a time to pull out those fancy accessories; OKA has a beautiful selection, including these Skeleton Leaf Coasters, £76 for set of four.

Nothing says 'special occasion' like eating by candlelight, but make sure your candles are housed stylishly. Sitting Stag Tealights Holder, £79 (below left); Woodland Scene Cut-Out Tealight Holder, £7.50, Marks & Spencer.

Seeing red

It's bold, it's bright, and it's 'the' colour of Christmas. For fans of a traditional setting, red is the go-to festive shade. The good news is that shops are always bursting at the seams with red decorations, which makes it ideal for those on a tight budget, as you can easily stock up on a red paper tablecloth and napkins, while some strategically placed baubles and tinsel can be all you need to create a striking scene. "A casual approach to decorating is more than acceptable at Christmas," says Harris. "Save your china and linen for New Year and take the family-friendly approach with paper tablecloths, napkins and decorations."

Table top tip

You don't have to buy everything new; chances are there are things in your home you can spruce up and put to use. "If you don't have a tablecloth that's big enough, use a single bed sheet to hang or drape over your table. They must be starched and pressed for a professional finish - and your guests will never know," suggests Stuart McGinley, Villeroy & Boch's lead stylist. A Pashmina scarf can also double up as a table runner and add texture to the scene.

Get the look

If you prefer Christmas in subtle doses, just adding accents of red to your table will inject some festive spirit and colour. A candelabra or trio of tall candle sticks are easy ways to make an impact. Antique Cut Glass Candelabra, £45; Snowflake Christmas Table Runner, £15, M&S. Match your glassware with the theme; Villeroy & Boch have a wide choice, and their Boston Coloured Red Wine Goblet (left), from £11.48, Amazon, would add a touch of drama. Or try 12 Red Heart Crackers, £12, Next.

Wilko comes up trumps again in the red lane: Foil Tree Decoration Spotty, £1.25; Poppy Fields Bowls and Plates, from £1.50 each; Red Blush Glasses, from £1 each; Paper Snowflake Decoration, from £1; Honeycomb Ball Decoration, from £1; Table Runner Red, £4.

A hint of silver

If there isn't enough sparkle on that tree, make the dining table dazzle with a silvery theme. This is a shade that can instantly evoke a party feel, but can equally look subtle and charming, particularly if combined with crisp, cool white.

"For the ultimate white and silver-themed table, start with classic white stoneware, simple white linen napkins and art-deco mirror chargers and coasters," suggests Chrissie Rucker, founder of The White Company. "Once you have that base, you can add as much, or as little, sparkle as you like."

Table top tip

Non toxic indoor fireworks and ice fountains create a magical display during a meal, suggests Rucker. Display in an ice bucket or pop a couple of sparklers on top of the Christmas pudding. A sparkler beside every place setting will allow guests to join in the fun. Talking Tables has Table Sparklers, from £2.50 a box.

Get the look

Give your setting a subtle, silver edge with some gleaming bargain buys, like Poundland's Silver Charger Plate (below), £1.

House of Fraser's Linea range is a good port of call for silver-fishers: Silver Goblet Tealight Holder, £9.50-£10.50; Luxury Crystal Palace Ice Prism Crackers, currently £21 for set of six (reduced from £30).

For a chic approach, Next's silver accessories are ideal: Sequin Runner, £20; 12 Piece Metropolitan Stripe Dinner Set, £50; Set Of 4 Sequin Napkins, £8; Set Of 4 Metropolitan Wine Glasses, £26; Set Of 4 Silver Scratch Coasters, £8.

Make it all (silver and) white on the night, with a little help from The White Company. Their collection includes: Silver Concertina Balls, £15 for set of three; Snowflake Paper Decorations, £12 for set of three; Large Pillar Candle Holder, £45; Mini Star Etched Hurricane, £10; Pinecone Tealight Holder, £6.

Rustic charm

Who hasn't gazed longingly at those gorgeous, country cottage Christmas card images, wishing you could step right into that cosy scene and snuggle up by that roaring log fire, as a perfectly-decorated tree twinkles in the corner? Thankfully, a village postcode and exposed wooden beams aren't compulsory for creating a rustic, country-inspired look, and this certainly applies to dining tables.

"I like to keep things simple; if you have a lovely wooden table then you're half way there," says print-maker and designer Cherith Harrison. "If not, don't fret! Wrapping a piece of bright red gingham ribbon around a chunky candle is effective and it won't cost the earth."

Table top tip

"Make a statement with a bold, quirky centre piece," suggests Harrison. "eBay have a great range of bird cages at affordable prices. One of these filled with bright red and green apples will get people talking."

Get the look

Get outdoors to source twigs, pine cones and holly; all vital rustic ingredients. Plenty of wholesome and pretty country fare can be found at Cherith Harrison, where wildlife takes centre stage: Festive Drinks Mats, £7.45 for pack of 10; Festive Paper Napkins, £3.25 for pack of 20.

If you can't find the real thing, Sainsbury's offerings look just as good: Pinecone & Red Berry Tree (left), £8; Large Pine Cone Candle, £15.

The 'Winter Woodland' collection at Sophie Allport really hits the mark: Table Runner, £18; Napkins, £12 for set of four; Cushion, £25; Mugs, from £9.50 each.

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