Deck the halls: What’s hot and what’s not on the Christmas decorations front
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From statement card displays to tinsel tutorials, here’s how you hit the decs in style this Christmas.
Like weddings and coronations, blinging up for Christmas is something we do rather well in this country. And the past fortnight has shown the first signs of that, particularly in the early evenings before curtains are drawn.
You only have to keep your eyes open as you stroll home from the station to realise we really are, to coin a phrase, decking the halls.
From glowing reindeers to whole-house lighting effects and some seriously good custom wreathes - like the one I saw in Marshalswick on Sunday - you do get the impression there are a few of us out there really going for it.
I’m no expert, but have been intrigued by the lengths we go to since my days on the Daily Telegraph when we sponsored the Christmas Fair at Olympia with House & Garden magazine.
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These days, I tend to follow the lead of pals on those interiors titles who never fail to amaze with their tales of the lengths we’ll go to create the perfect Christmas look. Here’s a snapshot of what they’re saying:
Firstly, why stick to one wreath when two will do better? Try placing one above the other on a plain painted door and see the dramatic effect. Or, as someone recommended to me last week, “go supersized”, especially if you’ve a plain white backdrop, such as a living room wall. It’s a seriously good way to show off the foliage.
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It was a neighbour, rather than an expert, that impressed me last year by creating a table centrepiece comprising fake fruit dusted with glitter to add an effective wintry glaze. I’ve since read that one part silver, two parts white works best.
And don’t just line your cards up on the mantelpiece or string them from the ceiling; try clearing the kitchen noticeboard and displaying them in a big statement way.
To get that festive aroma, you don’t have to rely on candles to add scent. Cinnamon sticks in a magnolia garland will do just as well.
Talking of candles, just make sure they’re not the normal white ones. Think reds and greens this month.
And why not raid the tool shed, the one whose doors you weren’t going to open until spring, and get out the watering can, particularly if it’s a copper one, and use it as a planter.
All very modern, you might think. But don’t get too carried away. John Lewis are reporting a surge in sales for all things ’70s at the moment. It’s something that has never really gone away since I wrote at length about that here a few months ago.
So don’t be surprised to find yourself round at the neighbours’ being offered something from the fondue followed by a slice of Black Forest Gateau.
Which of course means the return of – inevitably - tinsel, sales of which are up 90 per cent so far this year, a trend which has even seen them introduce tinsel-tutorials in some branches to, presumably, show us how to use it like our parents did.
Dan Cooper, John Lewis’s Head of Christmas buying, isn’t surprised, insisting to use his words, you get “a lot of bang for your buck” with what was only a short time ago, considered, let’s face it, cheap, tat.
“People have really embraced the decorative again,” he said. “We were in a real Scandi place three or four years ago, but plainess is no longer a big thing.”
Talking of retro, the hostess trolley is making a comeback. Don’t be surprised to see the punch rolling in on one. I saw a smart gold one with a mottled marble tray recently. And yes, it did make me think of Abigail’s Party.
And those metallics we highlighted here recently? While they’re always a good Christmas staple, the recent trends of copper, bronze and rose gold means they’re likely to be more in evidence than ever, from what we cook with to what we eat off, all adding to enrich that feeling of decadence.
Both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have upped the stakes, the former with a range they describe as indulgent, aided by tones of gold that are “dipped, brushed, pearlised and foiled” and the latter with a boutique range that “echoes the roaring ’20s”.
Lights are selling in abundance right now. And not just for the tree or windows. They’re finding their way into all sorts of spaces, competing with tinsel and garlands. One of the best I’ve seen so far was on Townsend Road in Harpenden, wrapped up and around a wisteria as it winds its way across the front of the house.
But it’s the inventive budget ideas that impressed most; such as trawling charity shops for red and white woolly jumpers and using them to make cushions or Christmas stockings. Or stripping down and polishing up tin cans to turn into twinkling lanterns.
And why not buy a tree that’s slightly too big; the sort you have to trim a little to get into the space you want – and use those trimmings as the basis for a mantelpiece punctuated with all those baubles that’d normally be hidden at the back of the tree.
Of course, none of this has to involve a tree. One of the most festive scenes I was greeted with last year was behind the doors of a new-build in Borehamwood belonging to a secular Anglo-Israeli couple who loved the occasion, if not the significance of it.
Unadorned greenery, red ribbon and candles on or around walls and flat surfaces gave a sort of celebratory feel without overstating the significance.
Personally, I don’t mind what we do as long as it involves lining up alongside all the 4x4s at Littlefield Farm in Kinsbourne Green to choose a tree over a cup of hot apple punch while the local scouts carry it to the car.
After I’ve strapped, unstrapped and wrestled in all seven feet of Norway’s finest Picea Abies and pulled nine (I kid you not) boxes of bling from under the eaves, I tend to make my excuses - and leave the rest to my in-house expert.