Go green, go lush
Greenery is a wonderful way to add to your Christmas decorations. The tradition of decorating with foliage is intended to ward off evil spirits, so deck your halls, mantelpieces and staircases or place greenery above tapestries and paintings. Use branches of varied conifers, holly and long strands of ivy to create a wonderfully festive environment, and add fern leaves and dead tree branches to create a realistic woodland still life. They are sustainable, and you can either add them to your compost heap or burn them in the fires after using them, which releases a beautiful scent.
If you live in the country greenery is easily accessible and free. And if you live in town you have the perfect excuse for a day out for the entire family, putting on your wellies and collecting branches. Combine it with a visit to a nearby country house and a delicious pub lunch on your way back home with the car full of greenery, and you’ve got the perfect Christmas outing!
Natura morta (still life)
Lemons, clementines and pomegranates add a wonderful splash of colour. Place them on a mantelpiece amongst foliage, make them into a table arrangement or scatter some on the furniture around the room. I always arrange an assortment of nuts on the Christmas table. They are highly decorative and can be eaten with your cheese course. And don’t forget the carrots for the reindeer!
Get your paperwhites in time
I love the Victorian tradition of forcing bulbs and so I always have paperwhites for Christmas. They symbolise prosperity for the future, are beautiful and have a delicious scent. I plant them in large antique china bowls, intersected with small twigs that they can hold onto as they grow, and I place them on side tables and consoles. Make sure your paperwhite bulbs are in by October so they are ready in time for Christmas!
Concentrate on the main rooms
Decorating a full house for Christmas is not for the faint-hearted! Concentrate on the main rooms and leave some respite in bedrooms where the Christmas madness can be escaped! I always focus on the entrance hall, dining and drawing room. And don’t forget a natural wreath on your front door, it’ll welcome your guests and awake the Christmas spirit in them instantly.
Christmas tree: It’s all about proportions
I simply cannot conceive of Christmas without a tree. I always source our Christmas tree from a sustainable farm nearby and despite the mess (or perhaps because of it–it is part of the fun after all), we always go for a Nordmann fir. The smell in the room screams Christmas.
Balenciaga said “fashion is all about proportions”. So is interior design! Make sure the tree is in proportion with the size of the room and that it feels part of it, not an incongruous add-on that's difficult to navigate around.
Adorning the Christmas tree: a carefully planned operation
This surely is one of the best moments of Christmas! Contrary to popular habit, I always place the star at the top first and build down, placing smaller decoration items on the upper branches and gradually increasing the size of the decorations on my way down, this gives the tree structure. All of this should be aided by copious amounts of warm mince pies and a glass (or two) of mulled wine, of course!
Invest on Christmas tree decorations: build a small collection
Christmas tree decorations can be expensive. Every year I buy a couple of good quality decorations to add to the tree, gradually building a small collection. Fortnum and Mason is my destination of choice, if you are in London. I avoid the crowds by visiting their arcade at Somerset House and have a skate to transform it into a proper Christmas treat!
If in doubt stick to gold and red
Although Christmas is that time of the year where abundance is not only suitable but encouraged, I tend to favour a traditional and restrained colour palette, and I avoid trends. Just as my interiors in general need to feel settled, Christmas needs to feel rooted. Red and gold does this for me and so I always use it as a colour scheme for my decorations.
Christmas and candles are a perfect marriage
If there is a time of the year when a profusion of candles is justified, it is Christmas. I place real candles on the Christmas tree. And amongst the mantelpiece foliage. And on the Christmas table... Besides, we all look so much better by candlelight!