Finishing touches from around St Albans to add to your Christmas decor
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Is the tree alone not cutting it? Decorative tips to flesh out the rest of your home, for a tastefully plush Christmas...
St Albans is one of those places that lends itself so well to the Christmas season. With its tolling bells, historic architecture and cosy low-lit taverns, its a pleasure to be here - and indeed, to live here - at this time of year.
Driving into the city centre, and around the neighbouring streets, takes you past people’s homes festooned with twinkling lights and natural wreaths (and the occasional front garden monstrosity that went out of style in the 90s and probably originated from America).
Gone are the days of yore when families wouldn’t decorate their homes until Christmas Eve. The process of slowly incorporating Christmas into your habitat most probably starts sometime in November when someone in the household arrives home with a Poinsettia; or when that first ridiculously organised friend’s Christmas card lands with a jangling thud on your doormat.
Eventually you’ll be stringing up the several other cards that have been trickling through the letter box; then the tree will go up; this will potentially then alter over the course of December when you really start getting in the mood and find yourself impulse-buying new ornaments from garden centres (even though you only wanted to go there to get the car washed); the neighbours will have tried to outdo everyone else on the street by assembling a brightly-lit electronic herd of reindeer in the driveway, forcing you to at least throw some multicoloured LEDs over the front bush; you’ll watch programmes like Alex Polizzi’s Christmas Fix and decide that you simply must have that centrepiece in the middle of your coffee table, featuring a tree branch spray-painted silver and weighed down in a glass bowl filled with white moss, baubles and glitter. So before you know it, you’re living in a page from the December issue of Good Housekeeping.
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If you haven’t quite got to that stage, but now feel you’d actually quite like to inject a few last-minute touches to your home without going overboard, here are some bits and bobs you can pick up around St Albans for that extra festive flourish...
These inexpensive accents can be found in the specific shops mentioned but also in homeware stores such as Next, M&S, T K Maxx, Waitrose and Home Sense. Just picking up a few added knickknacks for around the home will provide that extra burst of seasonal colour and pageantry.
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- A hallway is often long and coridoor-like. It’s also the first thing a guest is likely to see when they arrive at your home. Unless you live in Downton Abbey and have a massive entrance hall with high ceilings fit for an 8ft Douglas fir, it’s likely that space is a bit limited in this part of the house. The solution is simple: fairy lights. Buy yourself a new set (you can get around 100 from Wilko for about £7 or slightly further reaching ones from Clas Ohlson for just over £10) and run them along the length of the hallway. If you have pictures on the walls, drape them along these, or twirl them around the balustrade or banister up the stairs. Because the lights will stretch the length of the space, you’ll suddenly transform the whole room with an all-over burst of Christmas spirit.
- Seasonal flowers are striking at Christmas. Those in stock at Flower Box, on High Street, for example - Ilex berries and Amaryllis - are particularly festive. These are naturally long stemmed - pop them into a tall glass vase and place them on a table in a corner of the living room or dining room to create another focal point other than your Christmas tree. Lilies and Roses work just as nicely if you select them in greens, reds and whites. For a less imposing feature, shorter vases with cut down bouquets create compact flower arrangements - Flower Box are also selling bespoke centrepieces in square glass vases for this purpose. Miniature winter flowers are very in style this year too - line three or four baby Poinsettias or berry-filled Pin Cushion Plants in a row to create a design accent on your coffee or dining table.
- Does your creative flair stretch as far as assembling a Christmas tree, twisting lights around it, dotting some strategically placed baubles here and there and...that’s it? Look around your living room. Are there any surfaces that are looking particularly bare and un-Christmassy? The solution is easy. Extend the tree-theme with some fresh greenery, available at garden centres and florists. The evergreen and fir tree branches available at this time of year are ideal for this type of decorating as they are hardy and will last for a while without needing to be stored in water. Alternatively, faux garlands are available, but you sacrifice the scent of winter that comes with a real bough of greenery. Originally a pre-Christian tradition, greenery was brought into the home at the end of the year to help celebrate the Winter Solstice Festival, to ward off evil spirits and to celebrate new growth. Christian influence incorporated holly and laurel sprigs - symbolising the crown of thorns and triumph over the Devil respectfully. If plain greenery doesn’t fulfil your decorative needs, run lights through them or add pine cones, berries or bits of twine.
- Do you bother decorating your kitchen? Many don’t. But really, the kitchen is the hub of the festivities, given that this is where time is spent poring over recipe books, stuffing turkeys and baking cookies. The lovely thing about a Christmastime kitchen are the scents you can create. Stock up on oranges and candied walnuts and cloves and use these as decor, as well as ingredients. Rather than squirrelling them away in the cupboards and fridge, put them on display! Fill bowls with these items and dot them around the countertops or in the middle of the kitchen island. If you’re planning to use herbs in your Christmas cooking, buy some fresh pots from the supermarket and line them along the breakfast bar for decor, aroma and freshly-picked nourishment. And if you really want a Nigella-style kitchen, throw some fairy lights around this room too, or place a fresh wreath on the windowsill (the flower stalls on market day in St Albans have some lovely ones for just £6).
- Finally - candles! They’re simple and very symbolic during the holiday period. Of course candles are used all year, but there’s something incredibly cosy about only lighting your home on a winter’s evening with the lights of your Christmas tree and some festive candles. Similarly to flowers, select festive colours here and favour long dining-style candles for that Dickensian Christmas effect. Tiger sell a wide range of colours and tall candles can be bought 3 for £1, and Clas Ohlson offer simple, stylish copper-coloured or slate grey holders. Stand these around your living room and settle down with some mulled cider and a Christmas movie.