Set your table with these brilliant Christmas centrepiece ideas

·8-min read
Photo credit: Stars for Europe/Bjarni B. Jacobsen Fotografi
Photo credit: Stars for Europe/Bjarni B. Jacobsen Fotografi

Apart from the turkey, of course, a stunning Christmas centrepiece should be the focus of your festive table on Christmas Day – and at all other celebrations throughout the season. Here's how to choose the perfect one for every occasion.

• How to decide your centrepiece

It’s fun to come up with bespoke Christmas centrepiece ideas; a family Christmas Day lunch requires a different approach to a romantic New Year's Eve dinner a deux. So first of all, consider the event, time of day (or night), available lighting, number of guests, food being served and size of the table.

If all this throws you into a panic, opt for simplicity, says Angela Slater, expert advisor at Hayes Garden World. 'A contemporary design just using three different sized lanterns, church candles and some fresh greenery is quick and easy and impossible to get wrong.'

• Choose a centrepiece to fit your home

Christmas doesn't mean your centrepiece has to be all red, green and gold, or even winter wonderland-esque, says Connor Priestwood, interior designer at home décor brand Dowsing & Reynolds. 'If you're drawn more to neutrals, why not go for muted paper elements matched with earthy textures, such as grasses and branches, bringing in natural textures such as terracotta pots, natural wooden decorations, pinecones and acorn garlands.'

Or if you love vintage style, indulge your passion with decadent etched glass, extravagant blooms such as white poinsettias and scented candles. However, an elegant Scandi-influenced look – white and grey with hints of silver – should work happily with any interior.

Photo credit: Talking Tables
Photo credit: Talking Tables

• Perfect harmony – tying in with tablescaping

We love the tablescaping trend, but when the table is laden with festive fare, serving dishes, plates, glasses and cutlery and there's a centrepiece to think about too, it can all end up rather cluttered.

'To keep your festive table from looking too chaotic, style with a staggered variation of pieces in different heights and proportions, from cake stands and vases, and single candle holders to candelabras. This will help the look to feel layered and easy on the eye,' says Nadia McCowan Hill, Wayfair's resident style advisor.

A good tip is to use a toning or contrasting table runner or circular table mat as a foundation to 'anchor' the centrepiece within the tablescape.

Photo credit: Wayfair/ADAM CARTER
Photo credit: Wayfair/ADAM CARTER

• Using foraged and found items

Foraging in your garden or on country walks for holly, mistletoe, leaves, cones and berries is simple and costs nothing, but take care to not pick anything which might be poisonous.

Also, think of a suitably rustic focal point. This could be a chunky candle in a natural tone such as taupe, an ironwork candelabra or artisan bowl. Remember you will need height to make an impact; consider embellishing an on-trend hoop, such as this (decorated) hoop from Etsy.

Photo credit: Etsy
Photo credit: Etsy

'I start with a beautiful twig and gild the edges – or all over for more drama – using my Gilding Waxes,' says colour and paint expert Annie Sloan. 'Combine with some ivy or glossy holly, adding a touch of paint to the leaves if so desired. Essentially free, wholesome and perfectly tailored to your space.'

• Quick and easy centrepieces in a hurry

If guests announce they're on their way, you can make a stunning centrepiece in minutes, says Angela: 'Depending on the shape of your table, choose a plate or an oblong dish, arrange three chunky candles of differing heights and then cover the plate in fresh greenery foraged from the garden or pile on baubles in differing sizes. If you have a set of battery-operated micro lights, wind these through the vegetation or the baubles.'

Another good quick-fix is to 'borrow' a small wreath – ideally pre-decorated or pre-lit – from elsewhere in the house, even the front door! Place it in the centre of the table, add a small flame-proof plate and either one large chunky candle or an arrangement. 'If you don't have any candles just pile baubles in the centre or add a bowl of festive fruits and nuts,' Angela adds.

Photo credit: Homebase
Photo credit: Homebase

Florist Judith Blacklock also has some stylish ideas for quick centrepieces. Here's our favourite: 'Take double-sided tape around a chunky white candle and press on cinnamon sticks. You can give extra security with a wrap of raffia. Place in a low bowl, surround with kumquats and fill the gap between the kumquats and the edge with fir cones.'

• Ideas to entertain and enthral under-10s

Connor loves the idea of keeping children occupied at the table with 'a whimsical element, such as a battery-powered train running in on a circular track. Pair this with one or two other things, such as placemats that double as colouring books, or party hats they can colour in, and you'll have the kids entertained for hours.'

Photo credit: Stars for Europe
Photo credit: Stars for Europe

If that sounds slightly ambitious, make your centrepiece child-friendly by basing the design on glass jars filled with sweet treats, even small toys or wrapped 'lucky dip' presents, says Claire Wilks, senior buyer at Garden Trading.

• Remembering loved ones

Your Christmas centrepiece can be a thoughtful way to remember a loved one. You could have their name engraved on a meaningful vase, and use their favourite colours for decoration. Or choose a memento as the base of the centrepiece. 'Use one item to kick-start an idea, whether that's an old candlestick, some bright wine glasses, or even a vintage gravy boat,' says interior designer and influencer, Louise Roe, who's working on Christmas decoration ideas for eBay.

• Using flowers and foliage

Flowers are often forgotten at Christmas. 'But a bouquet of wildflowers in a dynamic vase will set off any dining table, adding life and nature to the space,' says Jon. He also likes fresh ivy draped around large pillar candles, with each candle placed inside a large hurricane lantern: 'Simple, but effective, it adds height, texture and grandeur to the table.'

Small arrangements of flowers for less formal events such as family lunches are a favourite of design expert and homeware retailer Birdie Fortescue: 'Create a quirky look using bud vases of different heights and tones filled with minimal stems, with perhaps a larger central looser arrangement linking with the smaller vases.'

Photo credit: Birdie Fortescue
Photo credit: Birdie Fortescue

For more elaborate occasions interior designer Sara Cosgrove minimises the flowers and adds an array of glass candlesticks in tonal colours, creating a foliage base: 'Many Christmas tree sellers are happy to give you the cuttings from trees, so be sure to take advantage of this and pair fresh foliage with elements such as cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices and pink peppercorns.'

Photo credit: Sara Cosgrove
Photo credit: Sara Cosgrove

Add in herbs, too. Alison Howell, design and development manager at Burleigh pottery likes to 'weave in sprigs of herbs so the table smells amazing even before the food is bought out'.

Also, look to sculptural garden plants such as hydrangea, teasel or sea holly for inspiration. Heads can be dried easily by picking, tying into bunches and left to hang in a warm place for a week or so. 'For a simple, cost-effective centrepiece, spray these in a Christmas colour, copper, bronze, antique gold or frost,' says Angela. 'Place the heads along the dinner table or in a lantern and wind in battery-operated micro-lights.'

• Living plants

Thriving plants make exciting Christmas centrepieces, says Angela: 'Garden centres have bowls of spring flowering bulbs running up to Christmas and these can easily be incorporated into fresh greenery laid along the table.'

You can also incorporate your houseplants; a funky minimalist centrepiece could be created with a stunning cactus as the focal point.

• Care with candles

Candlelight can be a Christmas centrepiece in itself, especially if you select candle holders of different heights or opt for a lantern. 'We like to intertwine elegantly woven, layered foliage with candles,' says Jon Sharpe, chief creative officer at home accessories retailer LuxDeco. 'We prefer using pine, fir and eucalyptus for the shapes and scent.'

Photo credit: LuxDeco/Nick Hamilton
Photo credit: LuxDeco/Nick Hamilton

Battery-operated candles or micro-lights – try weaving strings into transparent glass baubles in a glass vase – are a sensible alternative, especially if you have children at the table. 'However, if you love authentic candles, place them inside a lantern with either glass or filigree sides that cannot be accessed by little fingers,' says Angela. 'On no account place lit candles anywhere near the curtains or on a surface which isn't heat resistant.'

If you have a small table

When table space is limited, scale your centrepiece accordingly. 'You can always just stick to sprinkles or pinecones sprayed in a Christmas colour such as copper, antique gold or frost or small baubles scattered around the table,' says Angela.

Or create a statement by using the space above the table to create this year's major Christmas trend, a hanging centrepiece. 'Suspend a spray-painted branch above your table using a simple table clamp,' says Nadia. 'You can then go wild with dangling festive décor, baubles, battery-powered fairy lights and more. A hanging centrepiece allows space on the table itself, meaning more room for mince pies and fizz.'

Photo credit: Birdie Fortescue
Photo credit: Birdie Fortescue

And remember…

Keep size in mind. Huge over-elaborate centrepieces are a nuisance, says interior designer Benji Lewis; 'After all, you need easily to be able to see and enjoy one another’s company.'

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