Article by Barbara Chandler
The decs are up in the towns and villages, there’s a festive pile-up of overscaled street lights and huge trees in foyers and courtyards, but back home the challenge is to create seasonal style in a smaller space. No worries – it’s easily sorted.
Have a single theme running throughout your home, and don’t deviate. Woodland is always big at Christmas – and it’s cheap! Forage responsibly in local parks and woods for fir cones, ivy strands, small twigs, sprigs and acorns. Invest in woven baskets and a willow “skirt” for the tree. As for colour, a traditional red and green scheme, with bow ribbons and matt, shiny and glitter baubles, lends itself to a tartan twist – perhaps by adding a cosy throw and cushions.
Reflected in mirrors, silver and white shimmers seductively through small spaces, but needs a particularly strict edit. Ethereal blue and silver baubles bring a sense of oceans, skies and a beautiful planet (Graham & Green).
Then there’s crazy counterculture kitsch, a panache of pink, lime and turquoise. Pile baubles in these zingy shades in glass vases and bowls.
THIS TASK DESERVES PROPER PREP
Before you start to spruce up your space, get to grips with the basics. Are there small pieces of furniture you could tuck away to make room for your tree? Could you clear a shelf space for a festive garland, vase or bough? Or substitute a wreath for a picture on that gallery wall? Measure up, take note of where your power points are and have a sturdy set of steps ready, for a safe way to access heights.
Pop fir cones on a radiator to “open up”. Assemble your hooks, remember that chicken wire can be a base for wreaths and garlands, with florists wire as a binder – and get a cheap pair of tin snips. You might bless some protective gloves.
BUILD ON THE THEME
Pile up boxes wrapped in plain tissue and contrasting pattern, adding ribbon and huge bows. Try Simply Ribbons for festive favourites. For this year’s top trend, add plumes of graceful pampas grass to a cluster of empty bottles – find pampas at Not On The High Street. Bake orange slices at a very low heat for about three hours and heap them in a basket with cinnamon sticks, walnuts and fir cones.
TACKLE THE TREE
A tree, of course, is a Christmas staple – look for “pencil” shapes. Outrageously fake can be fab but do fan out and fine-tune every twig. Put lights on first, from the bottom up. Or buy a pre-lit tree. Hang baubles in clusters of three, with the largest at the centre.
Failing a tree, poinsettias may be ubiquitous to the point of cliché, but if they’re perfect they look gorgeous in groups of different sizes. In Mexico, their country of origin, they are Flowers of the Holy Night. Find them at Waitrose, from £4.50 to £20. Poinsettias hate draughts, so don’t buy from stocks that are displayed near doors, and keep away from open windows at home. Avoid standing them in water but don’t let them dry out – if your plant feels light, give it a tumbler of water then check drainage holes are clear. If you are short of time, check out the Christmas bouquets at Serenata Flowers
GET YOUR GLOW ON, INDOORS AND OUTSIDE
You probably have a good view from your lovely Weston Homes balcony or terrace, so why not choose trees and lights designed to go outside? Find inspiration at Lights4Fun. Inside, you may not have a banister or fireplace, but you can generously festoon the top of a door, extending at least halfway down the frame on either side, with a gentle loop at the top.
Make the most of all flat surfaces. Curtain lights – just fix at the top – add magic to any wall, from simple strings to snowflakes and stars. These days, stencilled window snowflakes are easy to remove when Christmas is over, using soap and warm water or a little window-cleaning spray.
Don’t mark your woodwork with your front door wreath. Command hooks and strips (with 3m “stretch release technology”) will come off without a mark. Or use a pretty garland hook.
Supermarket decs are stylish this year, with easy access and low cost – Sainsbury’s stocks Habitat, for example. On the High Street, Flying Tiger does seasonal chic at great prices, including ribbons, flocked boxes and neat little fabric bags. “Eco” items are marked with a mini globe – and their glass baubles are a steal at just £2. Or go upmarket at Cox & Cox, Graham & Green, Amara or The White Company
SET THE MOOD WITH SCENTS AND SOUNDS
Some mood boosters take up no space at all, such as a seasonal fragrance from a cinnamon or fig-scented candle or oil burner. Sort out a Christmas playlist now, and use YouTube for a flickering fire background picture on your TV.
Finally, be safety aware. Keep candle flames away from decorations and discarded wrapping paper, and NEVER leave a candle burning unattended. Turn off your Christmas tree lights before going out. Beware of overloading power sockets, and watch out for “trip-traps”, including trailing flexes.
Now, have yourself a merry little Christmas.