Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces, her successful party supplies company, 29 years ago after finding it difficult to source fun, simple party products for her children’s parties. Now, the online company is going from strength to strength with a vast number of best-selling party ranges. Here, Carole talks about how to pull together a stunning table for a festive celebration.
Many people have no idea where to start with designing their table… where do you think it should all begin?
Firstly, think about the shape and scale of your table and the number of guests you expect to seat. If you’re tight on space, don’t overfill your table, but use the space above to hang decorations – this can create a real wow when guests enter the room. Choosing colours and a theme is the next step – go for light, shimmery colours in a smaller space; rich, opulent shades work well in a larger room. You’ve most likely already decorated your home for the season – use this as a reference to help create a table setting that complements your overall look.
What are the main trends for tableware and decorations this year?
Geometric and simplified shapes are very much in fashion, with traditional winter icons being given a modern makeover. Foils have been given a holographic update to create dramatic decorations for ultimate impact. There’ll always be a place at the table for the more traditional decorations like tapered candles and sprayed seasonal foliage, but having a few on-trend pieces is key for refreshing your look year on year.
What are the most important features of a great table arrangement?
I love the idea of using natural, seasonal materials to create something focal without being too distracting. Guests always appreciate fresh, seasonal flowers and these work well as a main centrepiece or dotted around in small vases. A few small, glowing candles help create a warm atmosphere. I think it’s important to keep everything on the table at a lower height: you don’t want your guests peering over the top of a huge centrepiece to attempt a conversation!
A centrepiece obviously adds wow factor – do you have any inspiring ideas that you’ve seen or created yourself?
Pinterest is an amazing source for party inspiration, I’ve seen so many unique and creative ideas. Edible centrepieces are a fun idea, such as a traditional gingerbread house or pull-apart bread flavoured with cranberries and orange peel. Create a very simple, vintage-look centrepiece by popping some tea light candles into a group of jam jars. Finish by tying some ribbons around the rims.
Many of us aren’t natural flower arrangers; have you got any tips for easy, effective displays?
For festive floral displays, choosing a mix of seasonal flowers and foliage is essential; hellebores are a classic Christmas flower that look lovely alongside sprigs of fir or rosemary. Don’t feel they have to be arranged in one large display – pop a few sprigs into mini milk bottles and dot these around the table – it’s just as effective. Create a traditional addition by making pomanders with citrus fruits like oranges pierced with cloves.
What details make a big difference?
It’s always the small touches that guests remember for years to come. How about popping a Polaroid camera on the table and then place a photo prop on each of your guest’s table settings. Throughout the party they can capture festive moments which they can take home with them! Add a few personal touches as well – why not tie your cutlery together with ribbon and baubles or cinnamon sticks? Create some placeholders from pine cones, and paint the tips to coordinate with your colour scheme.
Have you any ideas for fun favours that are easy to do and a bit quirky?
Homemade favours always go down well. Little jars of chutney are easy to put together, as well as mini Kilner bottles of infused alcohol like cranberry vodka or sloe gin – just attach a name tag with rustic twine and add your own festive message for a personal touch! Check out some recipes here.
Laying a buffet or party table is obviously a little different – tell us some of your tricks for making a more casual table look exciting?
Paper decorations are a saviour when it comes to sprucing up a casual party or buffet table. Directly above the table, hang together a collection of foiled honeycombs, metallic fans and paper lanterns to create a show-stopping installation! Pre-wrap your cutlery in colour-coordinated napkins and stack them up proud in large jars. I also find LED candles are good to dot around a buffet table – there’s no chance of anyone catching the flame as they lean over to serve their food!
You must be so busy pre-Christmas – do you have time to fit in your own do at Party Pieces? Do you decorate the venue or let others take over?
As a party company, it’s a must that we have our own Christmas party! Last year the theme was Winter Wonderland and we decorated with seasonal floral arrangements and twinkly fairy lights to complement the venue’s beautiful Christmas tree.