This year, make Christmas extra special and simple for you and the ones you love by adding a special touch to your decorations.
We’ve spoken to some of Australia’s favourite stylists, florists and chefs to find out how they celebrate Christmas, and the valuable top tips, ideas and easy entertaining tricks they swear by.
1. Step outside tradition
Ditch stuffy, formal dining and embrace hassle-free entertaining, with a casual, shared grazing table for a relaxed, holiday setting.
“Australian Christmases should include occasional dips in the pool (if one’s available) and lying in the sun between a nibble on some ham, and a few prawns here and there,” says Nigel Ward, head chef at Sydney’s Uccello.
“A buffet-style setting helps avoid long waits between courses and takes the pressure off the chef.”
2. Layer up
Setting the table for your guests can be like staring at a blank canvas – it’s hard to know quite where to start.
“Have an idea of your themes and colour beforehand and then try layering the table in stages,” says stylist and founder of The Lifestyle Edit, Heidi Albertiri.
“Firstly, I pull out everything that I’m going to use and start matching everything up. I start with the tablecloth and then build it up from there, so followed with plates, glasses and vases and then a floral centrepiece. It’s a work in progress while I’m waiting for things in the kitchen, rather than a last-minute thing.”
“Pick a floral palette that best complements your decor, such as elegant whites and greens to keep it neutral. Pare the palette back with deep dark jewelled tones.”
~ Christelle Scifo, Florist and Founder of Fleurette.
3. Set the mood
Whether you’re a traditionalist set on a Bing Crosby or prefer a morning spent poolside with a Bublé backing track, creating an ambience for the day is key.
“Decor and themes are personal, so working with elements and pieces that are special to you will all aid as a starting point,” says Christelle Scifo, florist and founder of Fleurette.
“Set the ambience with candlelight and seasonal florals, and incorporate music with a personalised playlist to complement the tone.”
4. Less is more
Wowing your guests is all part of the Christmas fun, but if guests can’t see over the thick foliage of your table centrepiece, conversation can be a little tricky.
“Work in odd numbers for symmetry and balance and try not to overcrowd the table,” Christelle says. “Allow space for the dishes and factor in height and undulation.”
5. Create a kitchen game plan
Miracles aside, Christmas Day disasters can happen: your trifle hasn’t set, the seafood needs to keep cold in a hot kitchen and the ham you ordered last week still hasn’t arrived. Ensure your day runs smoothly by working smarter, not harder.
“Have everything ready to go,” says Nigel. “Make your pavlova the day before, have your pork rolled, scored and salted and in its roasting tray. Any mayonnaise or sauces for the seafood should be made a day in advance. Pre-order your seafood for pickup on Christmas Eve and purchase your pork five days in advance before the shops get too busy.”
“Add a personalised handwritten note on each place setting for a thoughtful touch.” ~ Heidi Albertiri, Stylist and Founder of the Lifestyle Edit.
6. Share the load
Many hands may make super light work, but as for the number of people at ground zero on the big day, less is often more.
“I prefer fewer hands in the kitchen on Christmas Day,” Nigel says. “Instead, I ask one person to bring a salad, one person to buy bread on the way in, and another some cheese. That way I’ve just got to plate up the seafood and keep an eye on the pork. Although, when it comes to washing up it should be all hands on deck!”
7. Convert your unused spaces
While your Christmas feast might look and taste like it’s of restaurant standard, you probably don’t have the size and luxury of a commercial chef’s kitchen.
Recruit the areas of your home that you aren’t using on the day, and give yourself room to breathe.
“Most people don’t have enough space for everything to be stacked up in the kitchen ready for the next dishwasher load,” Nicki says. “If you have a separate laundry room, turn it into a prep-space, so you’re able to clean and remove the excess mess.”
8. Get crafty
Pop your DIY hat on in order to create sweet handmade table decorations that will really impress your guests.
“I hate the waste and ordinary contents that comes from supermarket bonbons, so wrapping up a jar of something homemade is much more sustainable, cost-effective and thoughtful,” says photographer, foodie and stylist Nicki Dobrzynski, founder of Cottonwood & Co.
“Simply wrap up a cylindrical jar filled with lollies or homemade jam, then wrap it up with a cloth napkin and tie each end with ribbon.” Or create wooden place settings like the beautiful display below.
“Use a room spray in the same scent as your candles to create instant fragrance on arrival. I love to use a pine scent at Christmas time.” ~ Elle Lovelock, Home Beautiful Editor-in-chief
9. Embrace hidden treasures
It’s possible to turn second-hand decorations into stunning festive ornaments.
“Christmas is already expensive enough and we can often reuse things we already have by just giving them a new lease on life,” Nicki says. “I dye old linen napkins from a light oatmeal to a dusty pink using avocado seeds, or a saffron yellow using onion skins and turmeric.”
10. Add finishing touches
Small details can have a huge impact and really leave a lasting impression on your guests. Inject personalised gifts and decorations for the ultimate crowd favourite.
“I love having an individual present on a plate for everyone, with a beautiful leaf or a bit of gum to top it off – it’s a really nice way to extend the Christmas excitement,” says The Lifestyle Edit’s Heidi.
11. Dial down the tinsel
It’s easy to get swept up in the Christmas chaos, and before you know it your home is awash with kitschy festive finds.
“I like to reflect my style through festive elements,” says stylist and editor of Collective Gen, Geneva Vanderzeil. “Incorporating dried floral natives and warm tones keeps my aesthetic cohesive and my home feeling festive, yet comfortable.”
“One of the easiest ways to keep your carbon footprint low this Christmas is to shop closer to home, buy local and source produce from local artisans and farmers.”
~ Lottie Dalziel, Founder of Sustainability Hub Banish.
12. Don’t get a bad wrap
It can be so exciting admiring an assortment of beautifully wrapped presents waiting patiently under the tree, but using the latest Christmas gift wrap isn’t always the most sustainable choice.
“I draw things on butcher’s paper or make a collage of photos and then wrap the presents in that for a more personal approach,” says The Lifestyle Edit’s Heidi. “Tea towels are also great because they double as gifts,” she adds.
“I often use an old collection of wallpapers or newspapers. For example, my husband’s Greek, so I wrap his presents in Greek newspapers.”
13. Seasonal delight
Turn down the heat and take a seasonal approach to Christmas Day cooking.
“For a less traditional approach, start with shellfish to begin and then try roast porchetta on the barbecue with lots of salads in place of roast veg,” Uccello’s Nigel says.
“For dessert, an iconic pavlova is a must, and for an underrated seasonal dish, try prawn cocktail and punch.”
14. Make your tree child-proof
A tree abundant with sparkling crystal ornaments and sentimental heirlooms is truly magical, but if your household contains small children and pets, it might not be the most practical option.
Cottonwood & Co’s Nicki says she likes using just ribbons and fairy lights to decorate the tree.
“It’s particularly practical if you have little ones who are prone to destroying fragile ornaments,” says Nicki.
“Get creative with leftovers. Try leftover smoked salmon with eggs benedict for Boxing Day brekkie and roast pork sandwiches for lunch.” ~ Nigel Ward, Head Chef of Uccello
15. Be our guest
When you have family travelling from afar, little touches go a long way and make your guests feel comfortable and extra special.
“When hosting overnight guests, it’s the little details that make all the difference,” says Home Beautiful’s Elle. “A jar of biscotti on their bedside, a fresh pair of hotel-style slippers they can take home with them and a spare phone charger to borrow are all thoughtful touches.”
“Break tradition and inject pops of colour into your decoration with bright florals. Try hydrangea, Christmas lilies, garden roses and natives in an old vase or tie them into your napkin for a sweet touch.” ~ Anneliese Gomez, Florist, Hacienda Flowers & Furnishings