3 Tips for Setting a Festive Table

At Christmas lunch, food and presentation go hand in hand. A lacklustre meal but beautiful table, or a beautiful table but lacklustre meal, simply won’t do.

But this doesn’t need to be cause for stress. Quite the opposite, according to Armelle Ferrieux, the CEO of Jars Ceramistes – the French heritage brand whose ceramics have been a BK team favourite for over a decade. ‘Give overly formal tables the boot,’ says Armelle. ‘Above all, your Christmas table should look welcoming.’

Armelle has worked with restaurants and hotels around the world on how to use Jars ceramics to set the right tone and atmosphere on their tables. Here are her best tips for creating a casually elegant Christmas tablescape at home.

Tip 1: Mix and Match

‘We like to design tables that tell a story and set the scene,’ says Armelle. ‘Nothing too perfect nor too symmetrical. Shake up your materials and play on contrasts. If you’re feeling bold, use a patterned tablecloth.’

You don’t need to be too elaborate: Rely on pieces you use everyday, whether they are wooden carving boards, stainless steel cutlery, or ceramic tableware. That’s the key reason we love Jars ceramics: their plates, bowls and serving pieces have a handmade quality, but are durable enough for daily dishwasher and microwave use. (Michelin-starred restaurants love using Jars ceramics because they can withstand the stress of professional dishwashers.) Because these ceramics will always look pristine, they are just as suitable for daily use as they are for more formal occasions like Christmas.

The Jars Maguelone range is especially great because these pieces – which have organic, uneven edges – can be easily dressed up for entertaining by mixing and matching colours.
Pictured: Table setting featuring Jars Maguelone plates and bowls.Pictured: Table setting featuring Jars Maguelone plates and bowls.

Take our table setting above as an example. We used the festive green-and-white colour scheme to determine what Jars Maguelone colours we wanted for the table: dark green Orage and white Quartz. We also opted for a bold, block-printed linen tablecloth that matched these colours.

Armelle is particularly fond of the Quartz colour, as it most clearly shows Jars’ signature crackled glaze. As white is the most traditional colour for tableware, using only Quartz plates, bowls and serving pieces for a party conveys a classic look with very subtle details that make the overall display interesting.

Tip 2: Go for the Familiar – With a Few Surprises

Another way to create a warm, joyful atmosphere is to prepare dishes familiar to you (in addition to your turkey, ham, or vegetarian centrepiece, if you’re going for a traditional Christmas meal). Now is the perfect time for old family recipes. For example, Armelle likes to serve her grandmother’s gâteau aux noix de Grenoble (walnut cake) for pudding or gratin Dauphinois as a side. These storied dishes feel comfortable for family and make friends feel more welcome.
Pictured: The Jars Maguelone Pitcher in Quartz – look close to see the signature crackled glaze, and how it contrasts with the matt finish.

If you want to create an element of surprise, says Armelle, use your table setting to do so by using a dish for something other than its stated purpose. For example, you could use a Jars Maguelone Pitcher as a gravy boat or Jars Espresso Cups as pinch bowls for flaky sea salt.

Tip 3: Incorporate Natural Elements

Jars uses the natural landscapes around their headquarters in Drôme, in the south of France, as inspiration for their colours and shapes. This respect for nature is why they abide by environmentally friendly principles like firing just once at a high temperature (as opposed to multiple times), as well as recycling their water and china clay mixes to ensure no pollutants extend to the factory’s surrounding areas. In a similar vein, Armelle suggests incorporating natural elements into a Christmas table setting.

‘Make a date with nature,’ says Armelle. ‘Take a walk to gather plants that will enhance your decor. Add fir branches, winter berries and dried flowers to form your centrepiece, punctuated with small decorative items or candles for a touch of sparkle and personality.’
Left: Table setting with cranberry-rosemary garnish in water glass and pine centrepiece. Right: Jars Wabi Fruit Cup.

Adding leaves, herbs, or even wintry fruits like citrus or persimmon to your table setting is a simple, sophisticated way to make your table feel more welcoming. The Jars Wabi range – new to Borough Kitchen – embodies this natural ethos as well. These pieces, inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, have the kind of rough, textured exteriors and asymmetrical shapes you’ll find in nature.

The Only Rule

Have fun! The reason Jars Ceramistes have so many different shapes, textures and glazes to play with is because they believe setting a table should feel like a creative outlet. ‘We don’t want to be boring,’ says Armelle, ‘and that’s the same spirit I have when I set a table.’