I’m planning a Christmas party for friends and neighbours. Do you have any festive decorating tips?
More or less my favourite hobby involves arranging and rearranging my objects at home. Case in point: only a few Saturdays ago Duncan and I woke up in the country and decided to switch around our living room and dining room. This involved moving every single piece of furniture along with every knick-knack on our ground floor.
Some people run marathons. I’m sure I get just as much exhilaration from rearranging my beloved bits and bobs.
Christmas, therefore, with the various opportunities it provides to create beautiful new moments, to embellish and to spruce up, is a time of joy. I’m quite sure that I look forward to decking the halls from the moment I get back from my summer holiday.
We start with the tree, of course, and garlands. I like a garland made from fir or pine, and into this I’ll weave holly and ivy, maybe some eucalyptus. We make these for our two fireplaces and our staircase, but it’s good to remember that garlands can be draped across furniture with abandon: think cabinets, console tables, even wardrobes.
Now, focusing on foliage at Christmas always feels honest and rustic and lovely. But I have to say I enjoy the mix: earthy, fresh foliage paired with an abundance of kitsch decorations. I want elegance, of course, but I need a fair amount of garishness, too. I like to hang baubles in my garlands, which end up looking like jewels half-hidden by dark green leaves.
I don’t really buy new baubles — instead I scour eBay for sets of vintage ones in gaudy colours. You might not be surprised to hear that I’m definitely a more-is-more kind of Christmas decorator . . . Austere arrangements might have a certain kind of beauty about them, but Christmas to me is all about abundance.
We’ll bring more foliage into the house and use it in other ways: we arrange branches of shining red berries in vases, while a few old cast-iron urns get stuffed with much larger branches of holly. Fresh fruits are always welcome, too. Place them among foliage or pile them high in beautiful bowls — pomegranates, for example, couldn’t be more festive if they tried.
If you would like to invest in some decorative accessories, I suggest buying old things (I love Victorian witch balls — which are usually made with mercury glass — in particular) or turning to independent makers. Jess Wheeler is a designer and artist based between north Wales and London who makes pieces that recall the beauty and fragility of the natural world.
Wheeler’s brass and freshwater pearl mistletoe decoration, handmade in her studio and completely unique, is a thing of extraordinary beauty. An investment, absolutely, but I could also imagine passing this down as an heirloom. Wheeler’s oak leaf candle sconces, on the other hand, would add festive magic to any interior, yet they’re not explicitly Christmassy and could be left up year-round.
Stow-on-the-Wold’s Cutter Brooks always stocks a unique range for Christmas and this year is no different: I love its stockings made in collaboration with Michaela Buerger in particular. Buerger grew up in the Austrian countryside wearing traditional regional clothing called Tracht. She learnt to knit from her mother as a child, and knits the first piece in every new style in her collection herself.
I turn to The Conran Shop for well-priced, brightly coloured paper decorations. Its range of ruffled balls and paper garlands would look brilliant hanging from a ceiling. Selfridges has a wonderful selection of paper decorations available, too. I didn’t know that I needed a three-dimensional paper carrot ornament but, as it turns out, I very much do.
Or have a go yourself. Look to Cambridge Imprint: an independent papermaking business. The company designs and prints its own patterned paper and is known for its beautiful colours and lively, hand-drawn aesthetic. As well as crackers and cards, Imprint sells a kit that contains everything you need to make 36 double-sided, five-pointed origami stars.
Alternatively, buy sheets of patterned paper and make paper chains. These are the easiest decorations to have a bash at and kids, if you have any around, will enjoy making them with you. Pour yourself something festive, whack a carol on and let the creative juices flow.