Come in from the cold

This image: Sainsbury’s Midnight Christmas range of accessories, from £1.50, adds a touch of glamour 

Decorating your house for the festive period is one of the joys of winter. Angelina Villa-Clarke considers your options

Deck the halls 

The Christmas tree is, of course, the focal point of the season’s festive decorating with many of us having our own family customs and rituals surrounding adorning the spruce. While you can’t beat a real tree for authenticity (and that wonderful Christmassy pine scent), it’s worth noting that artificial trees have come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years and are often the most practical choice.

If you are considering faking it, then look to Christmas Tree World, which stocks a range of innovative trees that really do look and feel real. For a traditional scheme, the Mountain Pine Tree is perfect with its abundance of rich, green foliage, while the pretty Snow-White Fir Tree is ideal for a charming ‘winter wonderland’ arrangement.

This image: Contemporary tree, from £260, by Habitree

For something totally different – and thoroughly modern – Habitree offers a stylish alternative to the usual festive fir. The minimalist trees are made from Kebony wood and give an aesthetically clean finish with a sculptural appearance.

When it comes to decorating the tree, there is a myriad of styles to choose from with trends coming and going each year. The tradition of decorating a tree is centuries old, originating in Germany and adopted by us around 170 years ago, and it is central to our Christmas festivities.

For 2016, vintage kitsch is back – think bright, witty decorations in hues of purple, pink and blue. An ‘opulent luxe’ look is also bang on-trend, with metallics, heavy embellishment, crystal and regal colours giving a maximalist feel. 

For a wide choice of unique decorations and baubles, check out local retailers, such as Catesby’s and The Secret Garden Christmas Shop at Burwash Manor. Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s Christmas Cottage and Winter Cottage designs draw inspiration from villages and hamlets across the country, where log fires blaze and families start to gather for that special day. An idyllic scene that, no doubt, would be appealing to most.


This image: Sainsbury’s Christmas Cottage range, from £1.50, is a great source of charming decorations  

The Christmas table

It goes without saying that the highlight of the festivities is Christmas dinner, with many of us pulling out all the stops when it comes to styling our tables.

This year, black and gold are key colours. Harness a palatial style by layering your settings with mismatched crockery, glasses of different heights and candles for maximum impact. Stylish additions to home entertaining are the black and brass hammered trays from India May Home. For an opulent feel, jewel colours also work well. Match the faded gem-coloured goblets and drinking glasses from the Raj Tent Club with crisp, white crockery for total impact. To make your turkey more of a focal point, purchase the Vera Wang for Wedgwood Swirl Collection of gold-edged plates.

Karen Birchenough of India May Home comments: “My table is influenced by nature and simplicity. A pared-back look can create a luxurious impact with a combination of the right colours and textures. Stick to no more than three colours within a tone and always include one metallic. Muted greys and monochrome work so well with silver. Bring the outside in, use pine cones, natural foliage and eucalyptus for its beautiful scent. Add sheepskin hides to the back of the chairs for a cosy chalet feel and always light an abundance of tea lights.”

This image: goblets, £40 for four, from Raj Tent Club 

Setting the tone perfectly – and the ideal piece of furniture to fit in all the extended family – is Furniture Village’s chic St Moritz dining table. Load it with crystal glasses, fine china and beautiful linens sourced from Cambridge-based Susie Watson Designs.

Elma Malik, dining and cabinets buyer, at Furniture Village, comments: “When dressing your table, opt for understated elegance and use touches of forest greens and muted golds to complement classic white tableware. To give your table a palatial feel, evoke a subtle grandeur using well-placed mirrors and metallics. Candlelight will add seasonal ambience so make a strong centrepiece out of contemporary candlestick holders or a singular candelabra. To finish, delicately place pine cones and berries along the runner of a long table, or around the centrepiece of a round table.”

When it comes to full-scale parties, consider the latest luxury paper plates, napkins and disposable cutlery from Talking Tables. “Break free from the usual Christmas colours,” says Clare Harris, managing director. “A dark grey or black tablecloth creates a dramatic, glamorous backdrop and shows off your table decorations. Texture and tonal variation is key to creating an interesting table.”

This image: unusual glassware and china from Susie Watson Designs

This image: Ted Baker rug, prices vary, for Brink and Campman at John Lewis

Winter glamour

From catwalk to home, velvet is big news this season. Give a nod to the trend with velvet cushions in popping colours or invest in a glamorous statement chair, like those available at Jonathan Adler and Sofas & Stuff (where you can buy the Abbotsbury Sofa, from £1589, right). If a cosy, luxe look is what you are after then add in faux-fur throws, like those found at Shimu, and soft rugs underfoot as well as twinkling chandeliers.

“Chandeliers are perfect if you are looking to make a statement with lighting,” confirms Simon Wallis-Smith, director of Fritz Fryer. “Hang one over a dining table so that the bottom is around 70cm away from the table. This looks stunning and also means you can get away with a larger fitting than normal as you don’t need to walk underneath.”

For rugs, check out the gorgeous new Ted Baker range for Brink and Campman. Full of rich hues in contemporary designs, and made with pure wool, the statement pieces are custom-made to order. Designs – such as ombré and paisley – are inspired by the designer’s AW16 collections.

Interior designer Joanna Wood has a range of ornaments and home accessories on offer, ideal for prettying up your home, and gives her tips on creating the ultimate welcome for Christmas: “There is nothing I love more than a faux-fur throw over a sofa to make a room cosy and welcoming at Christmas. You can never go far wrong with scented candles to create that magical Christmas atmosphere. If you place festive tea light holders around the room in addition to scented candles, the tone you create is immediately a festive one. For table decorations, mantelpieces or small pieces of furniture, I love to add branches or small faux trees decorated with non-breakable decorations like feather birds which not only look delicately stunning, but will last for the whole Christmas period.” 

Queen of Christmas

Designer Gisela Graham, renowned for her Christmas decorations, reveals what’s on-trend in 2016

“Christmas is, by definition, a traditional festival, so the customary colours and themes are going to predominate in 2016, as ever. While red, green and gold will once again be the popular colours for tree baubles, gold is changing. People are looking for lighter champagne golds and rose golds. Another strong trend this year is the peacock theme. People are using peacock feathers on Christmas trees, with toning blues, greens and purples. I put these together with gold to create a glamorous Gatsby-esque, rather than exotic, look. By way of contrast, the graphic, simple Scandinavian look is also a very popular one with simple reds, whites
and natural woods.” 

Top tips: trees

Angela Reed is a noted home store based in Saffron Walden. Owner David Reed gives his top three tree tips 

HAPPY & RELAXED The most important objective of a Christmas tree should be to make one feel happy and relaxed, so don’t lose sight of that! 

TWO COLOURS  If you want a more formal look, stick to two or three colours that complement each other, such as white and silver, or black and purple.

NATURAL WORLD Referencing the natural world is always a winner. Berries, cones and fir are timeless and call to mind a Norwegian style. Add in a craft sensibility with a modern felt wreath or handmade garland. Simple yet effective. 

This image: beautiful festive decorations available at Angela Reed in Saffron Walden  

Table talk

Richard Eaton, Denby Pottery’s head of design, advises on setting your table

NO RULES Have fun and play with different settings to ensure your personality shines through.

BE ECLECTIC Not every product has to match, why not add in patterned accent plates or a statement bowl?

ENHANCE THE SENSES Use herbs or evergreens to introduce a natural, festive feel to the table and add plenty of candles for atmospheric lighting.