Tablescaping for the Holiday Season with Helen McKenzie
Date Posted:5 December 2023
For the Holiday Season our resident writer Tina Gomes Brand approached three creative business women to see how they were thinking of approaching the holidays and entertaining.
The large and airy Bondi apartment that Helen McKenzie lives in, is a quintessential Sydney space with golden rays streaming through louvres, that iconic beach curving in the distance, and warm white walls filled with indigenous and contemporary art. Helen is in town briefly before the weekend. The travel and arts writer and art consultant now splits her time between Sydney and her South Coast home where she loves taking her pup Honey on long beach walks and overseeing a brand-new project at Culburra Beach: a thoughtfully curated store of old treasures, gifts and homewares, Oyster Curated is open on the weekends for browsing and shopping at leisure. Helen and her husband are parents to four adult children who drop in for weekend visits, gathering with friends to enjoy a break from work.
With a far reach of friends and family, the dining table is often host to large gatherings. The couple are warm and fun hosts, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial.
When we approached Helen to take part in our tablescaping series, she graciously obliged, choosing the Nautilus Fabric in Forest from No Chintz to set off her vintage table setting. For pops of colour, Helen used a mix of plains and prints from the No Chintz store, culminating in a pretty festive table.
Tina: Hello Helen! What are your top tips for setting a festive table?
Helen: Firstly, bring out your beautiful! If you have lovely items in the cupboard, this is the moment to dust them off, Christmas is the time for OTT action!
Secondly, colour! Green and red and pink are so pretty together. Cherries and berries are musts for the table.
Last of all, I love cloth napery. Christmas is not a time for the everyday. Paper napkins have their place, but Christmas calls for cloth!
Tina: Any ice breaking tips?
Helen: Christmas is chaotic. No matter how much prep you have completed before the guests arrive, there is always something left to do. Give your guests a job; ask them to pour a drink for everyone, pluck some parsley, pass around some starters. Most people like to feel useful, and they certainly feel like family when asked to help!
Tina: What can you do ahead of time when entertaining?
Helen: As much as possible! Prawns peeled, ham glazed, veggies and turkey in the oven, pavlova ready, cream whipped, and berries washed. I love to relax when friends and family are around. I would not embark on preparing anything more than throwing together a salad and serving up when guests are in the house.
Tina: How do you set a mood or a theme for a table?
Helen: The look might seem formal with antique crockery, silver, crystal, linen and flowers but the food is not fancy and the hosts are genuinely happy to see everyone at the table. A silly welcoming toast is always great to get the show on the road. Cheers to the reindeers.
Helen was chatting with Tina Gomes Brand
Tina Gomes Brand is a freelance writer who searches out all things creative from food and architecture to travel, fashion and interiors. Brand writes from a broad experience of interacting with various cultures and collaborating with creative people everywhere.