a guide to winter entertaining: styling a simple festive table

Today we have a gorgeous guest post for you from writer and stylist Hannah Bullivant (of Seeds and Stitches)  who is sharing with us a guide to winter entertaining and her secrets for styling a simple festive table. Over to you, Hannah...

Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

December, month of mist, magic and merriment is here and with it come some of the year’s finest celebrations: the official start of winter, the solstice, and of course all the Christmas and New Year celebrations too. Gathering with people you love at any time of year is balm for the soul, but it feels especially necessary in winter, when the darkness hugs tightly and sometimes menacingly, and our desire to hibernate is strongest. 

Take the stress out of inviting loved ones over by cooking something hearty (a favourite stew with slabs of bread and butter), or host something simple like a Christmas brunch or buffet, instead of a full on roast. Alternatively, ask visitors to bring a dish, or even better, cook it together. Accept help to clear up afterwards (no really, do!) and decorate simply with lots of candlelight. All of this ensures you have time to truly relax and enjoy the warmth of people you love in your home whether that's an extra two or twenty.

Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

Here you can see a simple festive table that I laid in honour of the winter season which would be perfect for hosting a Christmas breakfast (my personal favourite!), a bring-a-dish meal or a full on Christmas roast with all the trimmings. 

Here are my sources, and some  tips to help you to create your own beautiful winter table.

Think texture, height, life and light...

Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

  • Linens always add a feeling of luxury to a table. If you haven't any to hand then borrow, trawl the charity shops, or think outside the box. Could you use a piece of fabric, or thin blanket for a table cloth instead? You can buy some amazing paper napkins. Play with how you lay the napkin on each plate. A simple rectangle under cutlery is timeless, but a scroll tied with string is lovely too. Here I folded my napkins into squares and used string to tie one corner together in a sort of diamond shape, then inserted a simple sprig of thyme under the string. 
  • Taking the extra step of creating name tags and menus elevates any dinner party, and makes guests feel especially welcome too. I only ever do this for really special occasions, and I can’t think of a more special occasion than the Winter Solstice or Christmas Day. Emilie Maguin did these name tags and can do a custom order if your handwriting, like mine, isn't up to scratch!
Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

  • I am a sucker for a handmade ceramic, and the texture of these Dassie Artisan plates is delightful and works wonderfully against the linen. Borrow nice plates from friends if you don't have them, or just use what you have!
  • I chose to adorn my table with extra long candles from The Candlestick Selection - I love their dramatic height. I also love beeswax candles for their fragrance, but any candles will do and you simply cannot have too many. Put them on the table and around the edges of the room. The simple White enamel candle holders pictured are from Fine Nordic
  • Evergreen branches in mini stoneware vases add life to the table in place of flowers and are so very simple to put together. No floral skills needed! Use small jars or glass bottles if you don't have small vases. Use whatever is growing abundantly near you. Failing that, dried flowers and branches are perfect in winter too. 
Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

  • Elegant glassware reflects the candlelight, and these glasses (an eBay bargain!) are perfect for sipping some ever-so-slightly warmed red wine. 
  • A simple handmade wreath creates a focal point on the wall and feels so intrinsically festive at this time of year too. This is a very simple wreath made under the tutelage of florist Erin Allison Claire at Sisterhood Camp and it is so beautifully simple. It consists of a willow base with dried grape vine and dried thyme woven around on the top and loosely secured with floral wire. A bunch of eucalyptus tied simply with ribbon and hanging on the wall would add the same effect if you don't have time to make a wreath.
Image by Hannah Bullivant

Image by Hannah Bullivant

Winter is a time when gathering together is essential for our wellbeing and I hope that I’ve been able to help you feel both confident and inspired to host something festive over the coming weeks and months. I can guarantee that, as long as you don't stress yourself out trying to be the perfect host, you will feel rejuvenated by time with people you love. So, happy wintering and gathering to you and yours. 

Hannah x

{You can find Hannah on Instagram as @hanbullivant or on her blog, Seeds & Stitches. }