Christmas table decorating tips from Sophie Conran
The renowned interior designer shares her expert advice on creating the perfect setting for the festive feast
The single most important thing to consider when decorating the table for Christmas is the people.
How they're going to move about and how they're going to all fit around the table. Think about how you will be eating and drinking, whether you're having a buffet or sit-down meal. This will influence everything else, such as how you lay the table with the cutlery, plates and napkins etc to where you want to put your decorations. Will you place lovely big platters on the table to share or plate it all up in the kitchen? Once you have the logistics worked out then you can get creative with all your gorgeous decorations and make sure that the scene is set for maximum fun and feasting. And don't forget to cram in as many candles as you can!
I like to have a seating plan and coming up with place cards is a great way to get children involved in the decorating.
It's nice to get the children to hand draw and decorate everyone's names on little pieces of card – it's a fun little job to keep them entertained and they always have such imaginative ideas. Another way to get children involved is to get a little tree just for kids and make sure they've got decorations that are unbreakable so they can get carried away without breaking your precious baubles. Activities like sticking together paper chains and cutting out snowflakes are always adorable, making sure the little ones always feel part of the festivities.
It's a good idea to stick to a particular colour or theme that ties in with the rest of your decor.
I love to put together storyboards with colours and things that work well together, it's part of my job, it helps to crystallise my ideas and gives me a great starting point. It's also a great tool to use when planning a table scape or decorating theme – you can take inspiration from magazines, Pinterest or Instagram. Some tried-and-tested themes that always work for Christmas are traditional red and white with accents of green. Adding details like embroidered napkins and special table linen always brings an extra element. We have a new range at the shop called Lingonberry, which is quite subtle and although perfect for Christmas, can be used all year round. I love the trend for mixed metallics such as gold, silver and rose gold, which look very sparkly and reflective, both work with any interior style. But if you love colour and doing your own thing, try your own colour mix. I have a lot of oranges and reds at home so I am going to be getting carried away using them as my main theme adding the greens of pine to ground the colours and adding plenty of gold, to bring that festive sparkle.
Instagram can be very inspirational.
It's useful to have a folder of saved images that you can add to. I look for colour combinations, table scapes, interior styling and garden ideas. I follow some amazing people from artists and photographers to interiors, food, magazines, stylists, florists and gardening accounts. Some of my favourites are:
To make the table look really special I like using lots of candles, glassware and accessories that are reflective, so it all sparkles.
Glass candlesticks in different sizes look gorgeous, mix with masses of tea lights, which are lovely dropped inside crystal or coloured glasses, this gives you different levels of twinkling light. Layer your plates too and if you're setting quite a formal table then charger plates add extra glamour, combine with masses of flowers and foliage and for a final flourish arrange fruit or cakes and sweets in abundant piles on stands and cake plates.
One of our family Christmas traditions is something called a chocolate bomb, which is sold at the Conran shop.
It's made of chocolate and is about 20cm tall. At the end of the meal, we light the fuse and it explodes, scattering sweets and gifts. But be warned, it's called a bomb for a reason!
I've got cardboard boxes of decorations that I use every year.
I collect things like pine cones that have been frosted with a bit of white spray paint, bunches of cinnamon tied with ribbon, slices of dried orange, mini fake apples in bunches. I have tied them all with florist's wire so I can attach them into garlands and wreaths. I also have flowers with clips and plastic candy canes. You can find all sorts of berries and lovely things that can be reused year after year.
I love using natural decorations too. You can either buy them at your local florist or forage from the garden or while out on a wild walk.
Choose Norway spruce and eucalyptus, they work brilliantly because they're kind of frosty colours. Holly and ivy with their dark and shiny leaves also work fantastically and make a great base for whatever theme you choose. I like to visit Covent Garden flower market, they have masses of Christmas flowers and foliage, plus amazing amounts of decorations and accessories. It's a great adventure early in the morning and very reasonably priced – be prepared to buy in bulk though. However, you don't need to go to a shop or market, you could simply go for a ramble and gather things. The other day we picked up bundles of old man's beard (Clematis vitalba) it's easy to spot and climbing wild all over hedgerows at the moment. If you collect them now and spray it with hairspray it stops all the seeds falling off and you get these lovely little magical clusters.