Kate Gibbs’ guide to Christmas decorating and cooking

Embrace a minimalist aesthetic this Christmas with stylist Kate Gibbs’ tips for decorating and hosting during the festive season.

Stylist, cookbook author, journalist and the granddaughter of Australian icon Margaret Fulton, Kate Gibbs is no stranger to spinning many plates at once. It’s why she’s perfected the art of minimalist table styling and is unruffled by the idea of hosting a Christmas gathering.

This year, Kate is focusing on a minimal waste approach to Christmas decorating – no single-use plastic welcome. “I think we need to be more responsible and more caring to the earth, to our own health, and teach children that waste is no longer acceptable; that we care about their futures,” says Kate.

Pre-event preparation is Kate’s standout tip for hosting during the festive season. Delegate tasks within your family, look around at the natural styling elements you have at hand and don’t forget to chill the bubbly!

“I get the glasses ready, so when people arrive the Champagne is ready to go, and put the crockery, linen and a water jug filled with mint or lime slices on the table, so the scene is set,” says Kate. “The trick is having as little as possible to do once people arrive, so the host can relax and join in.”

Glasses with champagne or white sparkling wine.
Glasses with champagne or white sparkling wine.
Kate’s DIY Christmas decorating ideas

“I am going for a natural look this year – whatever it takes not to fill the house with plastics and landfill that we don’t want to see in the house for another year,” says Kate. “Greenery always makes the table look bright, so I love picking a branch or two from the garden (Monstera Deliciosa looks great in a big vase). I’ll pick gardenias or hydrangeas too, if they’re around.”

Kate suggests ditching the single-use serviettes for linen – growing flax seeds to make linen uses much less water than cotton. Washable table styling elements will make your Christmas far more affordable and better for the environment – especially if you’re hosting multiple soirees.

Nailing the festive colour palette

Instead of the typical red, white and green festive colour palette, Kate suggests embracing a more natural look for your table styling. “Green and anything else you have that works in nature – white plates, natural linen, a little wood here or there,” she says. Small vases filled with green leaves and white plates paired with a pale grey tablecloth will make the colours of your food stand out.

“Think about textures as well as colours and let the food be the pattern. I love using hand-me-down crockery because it means something to me, and there’s nothing wrong with some intricate patterned plates that a great aunt left you to brighten up the table if you love them.”

Table setting and decoration for a ceremony or celebration.
Vintage crockery and tea towels
Vintage crockery and tea towels
Deceptively simple dishes

To avoid the mad shopping and cooking rush, Kate likes to plan out her cooking well in advance of Christmas Day. She tends to stick to tradition, “a glazed Australian ham using my grandmother Margaret Fulton’s recipe, a salmon gravlax that has been cured two days in advance using some Four Pillars gin and pink peppercorns – or the traditional dill and vodka”.

This year Kate’s making brioche buns for lobster rolls – with a homemade mayonnaise and watercress. “We will have loads of salads and vegetables too – we always do peas braised in chicken stock with lettuce, or petit pois a la Francaise. We’ll have creamed spinach and excellent roast potatoes, plus a few leafy green crisp salads”.

Roasted baby potatoes with mustard and rosemary.
Roasted baby potatoes with mustard and rosemary.
Cured salmon gravlax on a crusty bread.
Cured salmon gravlax on a crusty bread.
Enjoy the spirit of the season 

“I’m looking forward to a long day with the entire clan together. Running around on the lawn, kids under the sprinkler, a walk along Sydney harbour foreshore, and a most excellent feast. We deserve a decent Christmas season after the year we’ve all had,” says Kate.

5 tips for festive entertaining
  1. Avoid tacky, plastic decorations in favour of reusable and environmentally friendly materials. It’s a great way to teach kids and less environmentally conscious family members that waste is no longer acceptable – especially during the festive season!
  2. Prep as much of the food and drinks as possible before your guests start arriving. You deserve to enjoy the occasion as much as everyone else.
  3. Draw your colour palette inspiration from nature. Find flowers and leaves to clip in your backyard or around your neighbourhood – don’t annoy the neighbours, though.
  4. Let the food be the pattern. Use your thoughtfully prepared dishes as both nourishment and table decoration.
  5. If in doubt, think ‘what would Margaret Fulton do?’. Respect your ingredients, compliment the cook, always have Champagne on hand and enjoy the experience.

You’ll find more of Kate’s work on her Instagram @kategibbs and website kategibbs.com