5 easy steps to create the perfect holiday table, according to Paula Sutton of Hill House Vintage

H&G spoke with Paula Sutton, the stylist, author and creator behind Hill House Vintage to get all her tips on hosting for the holidays

A table laid for Christmas with candles and a Christmas tree.
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to decorating for Christmas in a way that feels both stylish and characterful, no one does it quite like Paula Sutton. Her Instagram account Hill House Vintage is a treasure trove of inspiration at this time of year, filled with beautiful ideas for hosting and decorating for the holidays. And what's so lovely about her home at Christmas is it still very much reflects her own personal style, it's not trend-led or forced, but rather sits perfectly with the room's decor. 

A highlight of Paula's holiday decor is her Christmas table - always beautiful and always so rich with color and personality. So in order to not only take inspiration from the lovely images that fill Hill House Vintage, but also get advice from the source, H&G sat down with Paula to get her best (and super simple) tips on creating the perfect festive table.

1. Pick your theme

'My first piece of advice is to settle on a theme that’s best at drawing attention to existing features, style or period of your home. No matter if you live in a Victorian house, cottage, Georgian, and so on, if you love your home for what it is, enhance the existing joy you’ve created with your interiors by keeping a theme for festive harmony.' 

'If you love lush color, then introduce rich jeweled tones of deep rubies and emeralds to everything. Hints of bold hues should go from ornaments on the tree and wrapping underneath it, to candles on the Christmas table. It continues to celebrate the harmony of colors and textures you’ve brought to your home.'

'If your interior style is Scandi-inspired or modern rustic, then keep to the theme by staying pared back for your Christmas table. Organic elements like branches and pine cones matched with silver and white decorations are a popular choice.'

'Personally, I always love to introduce organic elements from my garden – ivy, pine cones and holly from the tree. I like to imagine that I am using the same things that my predecessors may have picked from the garden over the past 200 years!'

2. Start with a simple backdrop

'For ease, always have a white linen tablecloth as the perfect backdrop. From there, you can adapt every year with various accessories. Decide on a theme of two to three colors for your accessories. You can tie this in by using placements, ribbon to tie bows around your napkins in place of rings, and candles in the same color.'

3. Include plenty of candles and decorative pieces

'Speaking of candles, they are the easiest way to elevate a Christmas table. Candles in beautiful vintage brass candlesticks make any table setting seem grand and exciting.'

'If you have space, don’t be afraid to add decorative pieces that serve no practical use but are there to look beautiful. For example, something as simple as a statement vase and seasonal flowers although make sure that it’s low enough to not obstruct conversations with your guests.'

'Adorn the table with some tea lights or Christmas foliage from your own garden, pine cones are the big little feature this time of the year of course. And handwritten place cards are an elegant, personal touch. Suddenly you have a beautiful table.'

4. Don't save anything 'for best'

'Always make sure you have heavy white linen tablecloths around the home. And keep a set of white napkins too. I like mine to be antique French linen with monograms, but they can be anything from modern to vintage. It means that you can go overboard with Christmas accessories or keep it simple and chic without having to spend money or take up too much storage space. Plus, you can use it throughout the year.'

'Don’t live life as though you are in a museum. I don’t save anything for the best. I use my best vintage crockery for every occasion. I am a maximalist – things are there to be used and loved in abundance and with joy!'

5. Use scarves over paper for your table gifts

'For meaningful (and sustainable) table gifts, it's all about the packaging. Wrap any table gift in fabric or scarves rather than paper. These can be reused year after year, or can be repurposed as head scarves and neckerchiefs. The best gifts have several lives!'

We will be keeping a close eye to see what Paula does for her Christmas table this year, but her approach really does sound very simple to replicate. Be inspired by the rest of your home and its style and don't be overly precious about keeping pieces 'for best' - Christmas is the time to get everything out and on display. 

Having a simple base to build on is definitely something we would suggest too, you can bring in more pattern and color with the decor and accessories but a white (or at least solid colored) is the best starting point. And we love Paula's advice for table gifts - go for something personal to your guests and wrap it in a scarf or fabric they will love and reuse. 

Hebe Hatton
Head of Inteiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learnt I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.