Picture this: you’re gathered with family and friends, the sun is shining, the drinks are flowing, the banter is top tier and the carols are gently playing in the background. You’re smiling, stoked to be together in person with your loved ones once more; eating, drinking, laughing. Your plate is full.
Now more than ever, we can value these simple joys of being able to gather again to break bread and create happy memories. It’s what the festive season is all about, and no matter where the alert levels take us (and how big or intimate these gatherings may be), making sure to mark the occasion is essential.
Look around, and what’s the vibe like? Are you bright and bold, or vintage-inspired? A minimalist or slightly quirky? Just like what you choose to serve to your guests, or the music you play, your table can help set the tone. But these creative ideas are far from formal. Instead, they’re reflective of most New Zealanders’ preferred mode of celebrating: low-key, personable, fun. It’s about embracing imperfection and letting your personality shine through the styling of your set up.
Like a wild English garden, leave guests enchanted by a quaint nature-inspired spread – just like an outdoor picnic in the haven of your home. We’ve seen how fashion has embraced the nostalgic micro-trend of “cottagecore” this past year, and the concept works just as well on the dining table as it does in our wardrobes. There’s a multitude of sweet gingham prints to be inspired by as a base for your table setting, and from there, the whimsy continues with vintage crockery featuring floral or fruit motifs, and handmade Christmas crackers wrapped in brown paper, tied with vintage ribbons and something useful inside (they may not have the “pop” of the traditional cracker, but homemade reduces the plastic and waste). Make green your base for this decorative affair, and match your glassware to your crockery.
An idyllic setting requires an even more impressive menu: we suggest you consider a main event of a classic Pav or an equally impressive Victoria sponge cake with lashings of strawberries and cream.
Flowers from Kensal florist. Linen gingham tablecloth, $34 p/m, from The Fabric Store. Twist candle, from $10, from Floral Centric. Astier de Villatte candlesticks, $210 each, from Tessuti. Astier de Villatte flower saucer, $139, from Tessuti. Florentine leaf hand-painted plates, $30 each, from Leopold Hall. Bordallo Pinheiro strawberry fruit plate, $55, from Father Rabbit. Vintage cutlery, stylist’s own. Wine glasses, $19 each, from Father Rabbit. Petley Kauri salad servers, $220. Astier de Villatte platter, $439, from Tessuti (just seen, underneath crackers). DIY homemade Christmas crackers, free.
What’s not to love about the eternal elegance that mother nature continues to inspire? For those with minimalist leanings and perhaps a more rustic menu, keep it simple with neutral tones, wooden textures and hand-made decorations. Subtle festive details – like a wooden candle holder or paper origami stars – offer a long-lasting and reusable alternative to the disposable traditional festive decorations of the past. Classic stick candles instantly bring a sense of occasion to a table. Dried flowers also create plenty of texture on the table – this is a spread that requires little fuss, giving your food more time to stand out and be shared. Local artisanal makers offering special custom pieces, like a handcrafted candle or an impressive salad bowl and servers, are the type of thoughtful supporting acts a meal made with love deserves. And because this is all about simple pleasures, don’t forget to make the most of what you already have at home.
Wundaire Ceramics bowls, $67 each, from Tessuti. Salad bowl by Hayley Bridgford, POA. Broste Champagne glasses, $35 each, from A&C Homestore. Petley Kauri salad servers, $220. Unknown Ceramics checkered dish, $40, from A&C Homestore. Petley small wooden spoon, $70. Linen tablecloth, $200, and napkins, $10 each, all from Tony Sly. Handmade star string lights, $74, from Leopold Hall. Broste oak salt and pepper grinder, $110-130, from A&C Homestore. Hand-dipped mugs, $35 each, from Brood FermWares. Walk in the Park wooden beehive candlesticks, $120-$140 each, from Tessuti. Beeswax candles, $2 each, from Tony Sly. Nutcracker, $31, from Tony Sly. Petley cylindrical wooden vase, $140. Silver spoon, $33, from Citta. Placemats, thrifted.
There’s a reason why bright, saturated blocks of colour made an impact in fashion this year, from this year’s Pantone hue of illuminating yellow to the verdant jolts of green that remind us of the great outdoors. Translating this to a festive spread requires plenty of skill, so stick to three or four similar shades against a crisp backdrop of fresh linen in a neutral space – all the better to give your colourful table accoutrements plenty of showtime. Reusable napkins, hand-me-downs and second-hand gems are the perfect place to start. Primary colours set the tone for a joyful experience – try an assortment of candles in poppy shades and a rainbow effect of coloured glass, especially great if your dining space has plenty of natural light. Flowers, of course, are a great mood enhancer, and this is an opportunity to not be too “tasteful” when it comes to arrangements. Random flowers in bright colours from your local dairy should do the trick, especially great in varying lengths – here we have sunny poppies to brighten the occasion.
Tablecloth, gifted from nana. Blue vase and candleholders, stylist’s own. Kate Mitchell Confetti tumbler, $55. Packaging-free natural wine, $25-$40, from Everyday Wine. Monmouth Glass Studio green and orange tumblers, from $55. Crockery, from $45 each, from Tony Sly. Linen napkins, $10 each, from Tony Sly. Laguiole multicoloured forks, $101 for set of six, from Leopold Hall. Candles, from Kensal. Petley salad servers, $220. MENU salt and pepper grinders, $140, from A&C Homestore. Poppies from the local dairy.
LET’S GO RETRO
We’ve all had plenty of time recently to sit around and think about the “good old days”. Nostalgic references have infiltrated the cultural zeitgeist and here, quite literally, onto our tables. The rich, golden hues and textures of the 60s and 70s will never go out of style, so consider a throwback setting that will give a cosy vibe to your festive soiree. This is another example of reusing and celebrating those vintage finds we have lovingly collected over the years. For local ceramicist Rachel Carley, the retro vibe extends to her collection of sunray plates and petal dishes – timeless, charming and the perfect conversation starters. Patterns can sometimes be a daunting detail when it comes to homewares and interiors, but the key to making them feel effortless (rather than shouty) is to bring together similar tones and details, like these groovy floral-motif tablecloth and napkins.
Monmouth Glass Studio jug, $250. Citta round cork placemats, $40 set of four. R+D.Lab red wine glasses, $275 set of two, from Tessuti. Monmouth tall red tumblers, $65. Monmouth short yellow tumblers, $55. L&M Home tablecloth, $199, from Father Rabbit. Tony Sly dinner plates, $45. Rachel Carley Design sunray plates, $58 each, from Tessuti. Marimekko serviettes, $12, from Bolt of Cloth. Rachel Carley Design petal dish, $43, from Tessuti. Blue vases, $58-$68, from Floral Centric. Gerberas from the local dairy.