Swish yuletide table settings don't have to be posh or pricey. Don't buckle under peer pressure to panic-buy the White Company's entire window display on your credit card. Instead, press the consumerist pause button and think creatively...
Make your mark
For frill-free place settings, Jane Toft, editor of cool craft magazine Mollie Makes, suggests a brown-paper tablecloth (WH Smith sells rolls; you may need to tape strips together on the underside). With a black marker, draw outlines of cutlery and plates for each guest (a cardboard template for your fork might help). Illuminate with tealights in mismatched glasses. Très utility chic.
Raise your glass
Toft's centrepiece tip is simple, too: fill glass vases or cloches with same-coloured decorations. They shouldn't shape match: mix round, squiggly, odd, chic, giant and mini. Line jars in a row (different shades in each) for maximum impact.
Take a bow
Striking, but stupidly simple: buy a big reel of broad, black ribbon and tie a bow around plate, napkin and cutlery for each place setting. (Not great with red – be bold with less-clichéd monochrome; it'd work equally well with random vintage crockery, as black is a great anchor.)
"Scrabble tiles spelling out place names are fun," continues Toft, "especially if you can ferret out enough tile holders for each guest."
Matchboxes covered in nice paper and filled with little treats or after-dinner mints make a thoughtful touch on plates. At drawpilgrim.com you can, for a few quid, download and print some old-style illustrative covers. Intended as a quirky Advent calendar, you can even upcycle them next year.
Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at yourhomeislovely.com