Dine in festive style

A trio of candles from Sainsbury's

A trio of candles from Sainsbury's

Trimming the table can be a problem but there are plenty of solutions. Sharon Dale reports.

The Christmas dinner table is one of the greatest challenges of the festive season and it’s not just the cooking. Making it look the part while cramming on everything from the turkey and cranberry sauce to the stuffing and sprouts is always a problem.

A trolley could be the answer to your Christmas table problems. The items on this one are all from House of Fraser

A trolley could be the answer to your Christmas table problems. The items on this one are all from House of Fraser

Creating more space is essential. If you can’t extend your table, consider investing in a tea trolley or, if the budget will run to it, a hostess trolley. While this sounds very 1970s it works a treat. You can find vintage trolleys on eBay or Argos has a white wooden one for £16.99. Trim it up with a bit of tinsel and some baubles for added kitsch appeal and use it to hold the veg. or the drinks. You could use a small table for the same effect. This leaves the dining table free for the crockery, glasses, crackers and the all-important decorations.

Start the table trimming with a runner, which always looks good on top of a simple white cloth. If you haven’t got the finest linen or you don’t want to spoil it, then you can improvise with a white sheet. Cover it with table scatter/confetti and no-one will notice. Talking tables, www.talkingtables.co.uk has a good selection.

After choosing a colour scheme, decide on the centrepiece. The best advice here is to keep it simple and make sure that it doesn’t block the view or make conversation and cracker pulling difficult. I love the wooden tree, pictured, £14 from Ikea’s Vinter range as it adds height but its minimalist design allows a view through the branches. A clear glass cake stand with a pile of oranges spiked with cloves and sprigs of holly is a classic. Candelabras with a small base work well as they don’t take up too much space. A trio of church candles on a plater of festive greenery is also effective. If you are worried about fire risk use battery operated candles.

Crockery is best kept simple. Food always looks best in white plates, though you could add some festive touches with side plates and bowls. My favourite design this year is by Sophie Allport. Her Starry Night range includes everything from mugs and dishes to tea towels and place mats. Prices start from £7, www.sophieallport.com.

Vinter tree, �14, from Ikea

Vinter tree, �14, from Ikea

Cutlery has come over all bling this year and the smartest tables will be wearing gold. Zara Home has a gorgeous selection.

If you to avoid an argument or long discussions about who sits where, then use place names. You can write them out on small cards or gift tags and attach to the napkin with florist wire, ivy and a tree chocolate. Or simply stick a name card to a cracker. Don’t forget that you can also trim up the chairs. Ribbons with a large bauble or tiny wreath are a simple option.

* Don’t forget to add in some fun. Crackers are a must and buy enough for two crackers per person. One to be pulled before the meal starts and one between starter and the turkey. While resting before pud try the “Who am I?” game, which is good for all ages. Hum and Strum, which comes with tiny guitars and plectrums, looks fun and costs £8 from www.talkingtables.co.uk. Or just hum the first few notes of a festive tune and get everyone to name that tune.

Starrry Night bowl, �9, from Sophieallport.com

Starrry Night bowl, �9, from Sophieallport.com

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