Setting a festive table

By Maddie Ballard

October 30, 2022

Planning a midwinter gathering? Here’s how to glam up your home for less.

Winter is a season for staying in and keeping cosy – but that doesn’t mean you have to stop entertaining. Here are our top tips for making your home extra-inviting for winter festivities and laying a beautiful table without breaking the bank.

Dim the lights

Remember, whenever you’re entertaining, you want to welcome your guests in with soft, inviting lighting. The number one key is not to have the overhead lights on really bright – use your dimmer switch, if you have one, or better yet, turn off the overheads and use lamps, so the light source is less harsh and easily controllable when you’re all sitting down.


Candles are a godsend in winter, adding a cosy touch of hygge to any interior and providing light without intensity. Tea lights are pretty, and you can pick up a multi-pack somewhere like Kmart or The Warehouse for a song.

It’s also fun to play with different ‘levels’ of light – for example, grouping candles of differing heights together – to add visual interest and soft, warming gradations of shadow to a room.

Build a playlist

We all know music can really set the mood, so use that to your advantage! Create a couple of Spotify playlists before your event that capture a couple of moods you want to evoke during the evening, whether that’s ‘soft and soothing’ or ‘upbeat and retro’. It’s great to have a couple on hand so you can change the mood of the room if you feel like a switch-up come 8pm.

The key is to have your playlists pre-planned, so you don’t have to keep getting up to fiddle with them – and make sure you have music playing as your guests arrive, for the ultimate welcome.

Candles are a godsend in winter, adding a cosy touch of hygge to any interior and providing light without intensity

Flower power

Flowers are a gorgeous addition to any festive table, but they don’t need to be fancy blooms from a florist. In fact, just as art is anything you choose to frame, a bouquet can be anything you choose to pop in a vase. Get creative and hunt down pretty weeds, fragrant herbs, foraged wildflowers, foliage or wintery bare branches – anything goes! Get out into your garden or a local park and you’ll find yourself faced with a vast array of options.

Similarly, your vases can be whatever you like: shapely wine bottles, mason jars, ewers, water glasses. Let your character come through, and remember that it doesn’t all have to match – embrace the rustic charm!

Plates and cutlery

We’ve all dreamt of having a cupboard full of matching, pristine crockery – but contrary to popular belief, you don’t need perfect china to have people round to dinner. In fact, your plates, glasses and cutlery don’t even have to match.

As long as you keep a general theme, it can all look like it belongs together. Try choosing a basic colour theme, e.g., pink, grey and white, and buying crockery gradually from opshops, always sticking to those colours. Or you could buy a basic set cheaply from somewhere like Kmart, and just embellish with a few special plates you’ve thrifted.

Whenever you’re buying tableware, it pays to choose a classic style that won’t go out of fashion – think brass, bone or silver cutlery rather than chi-chi rose gold – so you’ll always be able to pair it with something, and replace it.

Think about texture

Everything in your room is a potential source of texture: plates, cutlery, glassware, linens, woods, flowers… An interesting room plays with different textures, while keeping roughly within a theme.

To add texture to your room, choose a loose theme – maybe ‘soft naturals’ (e.g., linen, neutral colours, buffed wood) or ‘deep and dark’ (e.g., dark leather, burnished metal, velvet) – and stick loosely to it so the space looks cohesive while also interesting the eye. Start with the things you have and build up a collection of texture-adding items slowly over time, so you can play with the aesthetic/mood of a space as needed.


Everything in your room is a potential source of texture: plates, cutlery, glassware, linens, woods, flowers… An interesting room plays with different textures, while keeping roughly within a theme.

Serve up your best

The point of having people over is to share food and laughter – so make sure you have enough space to do both. When you’re sitting down to dinner, make sure you clear any tall flowers or other centrepieces off the table, both so there’s room to serve people and people can see each other across the table. Alternatively, you could serve dishes from a side table, buffet-style: whatever you choose, just make sure it’s not too cramped.

You also want enough space while you’re enjoying drinks on the couch or sitting around with coffee. Make sure there are plenty of places for people to pop their drink down and to perch – nothing’s worse than being the only person left without a seat – and walkways are easy to access.

Keep it cosy

Finally, it’s the middle of winter, so you want your house to be a warm, welcoming oasis from the bluster outside. Make sure your space is pleasantly cosy without being stifling with the help of heaters or a fireplace – and make sure you’ve turned on the heating before people arrive. It’s also a good idea to have a few cosy blankets and throws around, or pop a rug on any uncarpeted floors in the living area.

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