Creating beautiful Christmas tables

Last updated 11:40 21/12/2012
Christmas table
HANNAH MEPPEM
TIME WELL SPENT: Christmas tables form a centre piece for the big day.

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What makes a perfect Christmas? Everyone has their traditions and rituals, particularly when it comes to food and drink.

For some, the most important thing is setting the table beautifully. For others, it's the cocktails and wines you serve. Perhaps it's the presence of a big bird in the centre of the festive spread, or a dessert that provides a summery twist on the classic. We asked stylist Megan Morton for her Christmas tips.

Megan Morton has as many strings to her bow as a chamber orchestra. When she's not styling for publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue Living or Inside Out, she's writing gorgeous books - her latest being Things I Love (Lantern) - or running styling workshops for Sydneysiders at her Rosebery studio (theschool.com.au), such as this weekend's ''A Festive Table''.

Her work involves pulling together and styling numerous Christmas spreads to be photographed before the big day. So by the time Christmas comes, she might be forgiven for feeling a bit ''over it''.

''I can't cook, and I often get a caterer to do the food. I like to take it easy in that department, but I do like to play with the table.''

Morton doesn't normally do flowers on her Christmas table, opting for a big bowl of cherries instead.

She likes to create a buffet spread separately to avoid crowding the actual table.

''It can end up looking a bit too Caravaggio,'' she says.

''Even when I lived in a tiny flat, I'd do that, putting all the food on a little console table with a big bird in the middle.''

This year she's thinking of making a watermelon vodka ''keg'' (these are easy to make, she says, just ''Google it, you will be well impressed and have one at your table!'') and serving sorbet in pretty, feminine teacups.

''I love the idea of making the smaller details -like sprigs of herbs - the heroes,'' she says.

''This year feels like a nice year of restraint - smaller, deliberate little intentions.''

From baubles to cocktails - Megan's top tips

■ Make the drinks bright and beautiful and take your colour cues for the table from these - for example, watermelon or peach-based cocktails. Welcome drinks can set the tone for the table at large.

■ I like smaller plates, as seconds (and thirds) are usually standard practice. Larger plates to me look corporate, so I tend to go for a smaller diameter.

■ I feel flowers aren't needed. Christmas already looks and smells so good.

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■ Put a side console to use so it's not all jam- packed on the table. We eat with our eyes, and there is nothing nicer than your eyes spotting a side console against a nice wall groaning with delicious food.

■ Before stressing over your colours or your bauble styling, pick your Christmas Day playlist. This is the best mood-maker around. People and music with a smattering of nice styling is the ideal mix.

■ I pull all my tabletop action out the night before to check breakages, any missing in action etc.

■ Consider bench seating over bad plastic chairs for extra guests.

■ Buy yourself a vintage champagne chiller or a new large one - they make for a great dramatic ''ta-da'' moment on the table.

■ If you're going to step up anything, step up in the glass department. Nothing is nicer than cheers-ing with divine glasses filled with froth.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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