The nights are stretching out before us as the days grow shorter and winter takes a hold. Preparations for Christmas start to loom out of the shadows as we dust off our recipe books and prepare Christmas puddings, mulled wine spices and ham recipes in readiness for the break.
Soon the house will need to be dressed in preparation for the parties and visits from friends and family in what was presumably a last chance to reconnect before winter locked us into hibernation for a few months and who knew when we would meet again?
So what to do? How to create that truly festive atmosphere without going too far and turning the house into a Santa’s Grotto? Or taking the understated Norwegian look to the point of drabness? What works and what doesn’t? Well, there is not a simple answer to that as it all depends on the style and décor of your house. However, there are a few things that always work regardless of your style and a few things to look out for when choosing your decorations.
Firstly, candles always, always, always work at Christmas time. There is nothing more welcoming and heart-warming than a friendly candle flickering away in a living room or on a dining room table. Hurricane lamps are a great way of ensuring the dog’s tail doesn’t catch the flame and cause the house to burn down plus they offer the rather neat opportunity to create some amazing Christmassy perfumes without spending a fortune on scented candles. We often add cloves and dried fruit to the inside of the hurricane lamp so not only the candle stays in position but as it heats up they release the most gorgeous smell of Christmas to greet everyone who enters that space.
For a dining table, you might like something a little more elaborate and add pine, yew, cedar foliage and more dried fruit gathered into little clusters to create a really beautiful Christmas centre piece. Bear in mind the foliage will probably dry out after a week so plan your timing so you either change it weekly or prepare it a few days before Christmas so it will be fresh and fragrant all during the celebrations. However, if you own a garden the chances are you can cut foliage straight from there.
Photography by Chris Taylor
Photography by Chris Taylor
A wreath for the door is a must in my world. I love to walk down the streets of London in the run up to Christmas comparing the wreaths on all the doors and revelling in the overall welcome they create. For my door I usually buy a plain pine wreath and go for a walk along the river front and pick cotoneaster berries in red, orange and yellow from the bushes by the side of the path – I don’t live in the country by the way, I live in Fulham! But there is so much nature available to us Londoners and, if we respect our environment and don’t massacre the local natural spaces there is no reason why we shouldn’t also enjoy the fruits of Nature as our country cousins might…
Finished with a red satin ribbon or sometimes just left totally natural and wild, my wreath is always a joy, especially as I have a dark red front door. For those with a more Scandinavian bent, there are some beautiful frosted glass hurricane lamps around, the tree lights should always be cool white rather than warm white, fake snow drizzled over pine garlands and pine cones that drape the stairs give a sense of the frostiness of winter but also of the wonder of it. And if the stairs finish near the front door a garland is a great way to make an immediate impact on guests arriving whilst creating a sense of luxury and abundance. And, again, the smell of pine will pervade the entire house!
And then of course there is the tree. I personally dislike the large gaps between the branches on some of the bigger trees, so a rich material draped through the centre of it sets the stage for the decorations to follow and pretty much guarantees a beautiful Christmas statement. For the Nordic households, white organza will create an initial snow drift for the rest of the decorations to ski down….
So whether you prefer a rich and opulent décor or a pared down modern statement, there are so many resources right beneath our noses to create a festive atmosphere and set the scene for a Christmas to remember. So enjoy the preparations, be mindful of the time taken to decorate your personal space, I try to pour myself a glass of something festive as I work so I can relax and take in the moment, which is as much part of the joy of Christmas as the actual parties later on.
Credits: Written and displays created by a floral designer Elizabeth Marsh. Photo credit: cover by Josh Pulman