5 Christmas Place Setting Ideas That Will Make Your Festive Table Feel Expensive and Elevated

Beautiful decorative ideas to turn your dining room into a festive winter wonderland this Christmas

A Christmas place setting
(Image credit: Lisa Corti)

A key part of the celebrations on Christmas day is always about sitting down with friends and family at the dinner table, so the way you set the space deserves a bit of focus. Aside from the table centerpiece, creating individual place settings can make your guests feel welcomed to your home, showing that little bit of extra attention to detail that goes such a long way.

Thinking of your theme beforehand allows the creativity to brew for the best and most memorable place settings for your guests. 'Inspiration for the theme or tone can come from your surroundings, the weather where you live, or the chosen atmosphere that you want to create,' says stylist, Liz Barbatelli. 'Perhaps a snowy, twinkling winter scene with white, blue, and metallic accents, a traditional Christmas fir green and crimson berry setting, or a tropical palm frond green and hibiscus red color palette is the heart’s desired expression.' From handwritten place names to artfully folded napkins, here are some simple tricks the designers love to elevate dining room table decor.

1. Consider how you lay your cutlery

A Christmas table with laid out cutlery

(Image credit: Lisa Corti)

Decide what level of formality you're going for for your dinner party. Is this going to be a more formal, sophisticated affair with various carefully considered courses? Or are you looking for something a bit more casual with good friends? Whatever you decide, layer the cutlery accordingly. Think about what you'll be serving and pick the cutlery most appropriate. Cutlery is (believe it or not), an art form, and getting the elements right can transform your dinner party into something that feels a little more elegant.

'When laying cutlery, always start with the outside and work your way in,' says Lindsey Smalley of Santa Rosa-based boutique tablescape company, 30A Tablescape Co. 'If salad is your first course, the salad fork should be on the outside. For dessert, the utensils (dessert fork, dessert spoon, or both) should be placed above the plate.' Forks should always be on the left of the plate and knives to the right with the blade facing inwards.  The best dinnerware sets will come complete with every type of utensil you might need.

Don't forget glasses. They should be placed on the upper right with water glasses on the inside. You can bring as many or as few utensils and glasses into the equation as you like, but getting the basic rules right is a simple way to elevate the place setting.

2. Add place names for a personal touch

A Christmas tablescape with handwritten place names

(Image credit: west elm)

I'm a big fan of place names at any dinner table, no matter how formal or casual the event. Not only does it mean guests don't have to worry about where they're sitting (or next to who), but it reduces the decisions your guests have to make, meaning an easy and relaxed atmosphere.

You can get placenames made and commissioned, or get creative and try your hand at calligraphy. Hand-drawn place names and invites are a dining table trend at the moment, and there is something unpretentious and personal in something that has been handmade - the perfect balance of casual and comfortable.

A homemade menu is also a nice touch - freshly written out in your own handwriting on a piece of elegant card is a personal touch that goes a long way. Give your place name a festive twist by presenting it with a gifted ornament for your guest, or slot the place name card onto a pine cone.

3. Bring a focus to the place setting with layered texture and color

A Christmas table with layered texture and color

(Image credit: Lisa Corti)

I love the layered look when it comes to place settings. Think of the material you like and what works with what. For example, linen is a beautiful tablecloth material and looks great when layered with additional linen table runners or placemats. It also works with natural materials like wicker which could be used for a more chunky placemat. Linen does have quite summery connotations, however, so go for a dark sumptuous color to really drive the theme, or pick a material like velvet which has a festive quality and can look luxe and Christmassy when layered.

'The magic of setting a welcoming and elegant table to share with loved ones is in the layering of colors, shapes, tones, and textures,' says Kate Marker of interior design studio, Kate Marker Home. 'Woven placemats are a perfect starting point, not just now but in any season, and rustic dinnerware that has a handcrafted look lends substance.'

Just be careful not to go too full on with the layered textures if you have a small dining room and table, this can only make the space feel all the more cramped. For smaller dining table set-ups, a simple tablecloth and perhaps a very thin placemat will do.

4. Bring decor to place names

A Christmas table with napkin decor

(Image credit: Matti Gresham. Design: Urbanology Designs)

A little dining table decor goes a long way and shouldn't just be reserved for the centerpiece or runner decoration. 'During holiday celebrations, the inclusion of leaves, fruits, florals, and candles in a tablescape becomes crucial,' says Lauren Lerner, CEO and founder of Living with Lolo. 'These elements not only enhance the ambiance but also transform an ordinary dinner party into a truly special occasion.'

Small touches like a sprig of holly, red berry stems, a slither of dried orange, or even pine cones laid on each plate are a simple and tasteful addition to your festive table. 'I enjoy adding seasonal fruits such as pomegranates, pears, and cranberries to my tablescapes instead of relying solely on florals,' says Lauren. 'This unique and unexpected touch garners compliments from everyone.'

‘Christmas calls for toast-worthy table settings that captivate with a synergy of colors, textures, personal heirlooms, gathered items and materials that celebrate the season while elevating the dining experience,’ says designer and luxury linens stylist, Liz Barbatelli.

5. Top it off with a napkin

A Christmas tablescape with candles and table napkins

(Image credit: SFERRA )

Finally, there are so many fun ways to style your Christmas napkin that don't merely involve folding it in half. 'A fabric or paper napkin is the perfect finishing touch to your festive table,' say Atelier Saucier founders, Nikki Reed and Staci Inspektor. 'Get creative and fold your napkin. The perfect holiday accessory for any tablescape!'

From napkin roses to this recent viral sensation that teaches you how to fold a Christmas tree into a napkin, there are lots of fun twists on how to finish your place setting. I'm also partial to a simple napkin ring which can bring some festive glam to the tablescape with a glint of metallic or color, pairing with the color of your napkin, of course. If you don't want to buy a ring, a velvet bow also does the trick.

3 Buys to Elevate Your Christmas Place Settings

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.