Are you ‘going early’ this year, are undecided or maybe waiting until the winter solstice to ‘deck the halls’? A neighbour put their front door wreath up on 16 November, which under normal circumstances might seem a little premature but then everything is different this year. In a bid for some much-needed festive cheer it seems our neighbour is not alone. Even though this Christmas is going to be tough for so many, people all over the UK are decorating earlier than usual. So when I got a commission to do the same, I didn’t hesitate.
I was asked by Saga magazine to style a Christmas decorating feature at our house for the December 2020 issue. For many years, I have collected, been given or made decorations for our tree. Quirky and varied they may be but they all tell a story holding some treasured memories for me.
Topsy turvy Christmas
Back in September, our neighbours were well and truly foxed as our front door heaved with a Christmas wreath in the form of a styled bunch of foraged foliage from the garden. And perplexed further as a rather glorious 7-foot Nordman Fir was delivered by Dobbies Garden Centre.
Christmas front door
A bunch is easy to make. Just gather together foliage (I lop a few branches from the back of the Christmas tree as a base), with fircones and decorations tied with ribbons for a bit of front door cheer.
Photographer Catherine Gratwicke is someone I have had the pleasure of working with many times before. We have been lucky enough to do shoots for Marie Claire, Homes & Antiques magazines, The Express and M&S. This has taken us to locations as varied as theatre dressing rooms to the Royal Ballet school main ballet studio at White Lodge, Richmond Park.
I am a great believer in the positive power of creativity and of a bit of colour and light at Christmas. Although we weren’t staging Strictly at Elstree, it felt even more important this year to create a little uplifting inspiration for readers.
Socially distanced with windows open, we set about the task of producing a ‘Homemade Christmas’:
Faux real in the hall
Faux Christmas wreaths and garlands are an easy and cost-effective way of decorating. I like to add fresh foliage such as eucalyptus and rosemary for scent, threading through pussywillow twigs and wiring on extra large fir cones.
Christmas tablescape with homemade crackers
Homemade crackers made from loo roll inners might bring a smile to the dinner table this year, as let’s face it, they have been a feature of 2020! Decorate with whatever paper and ribbons you can lay your hands on – newspaper works a treat. Pop in a joke, homemade paper hat and present. Doggies will appreciate the lack of a cracker!
Christmas drinks table styling
The drinks table is decorated with a glass cake stand full of fresh orange pomanders (studded with cloves), lemons and limes. The papier mache Christmas pud is a treasured item which my son and I made together when he was little. It tends to be the vessel for the ritual of playing the ‘name game’ at Christmas.
In addition to the hardwood we get from a nearby Berkshire estate, I have recently been trialling Coffee Logs. These are densely packed logs made from coffee waste. They burn well (20% hotter and for 20% longer than kiln dried wood) and help to avoid the methane gas associated with coffee grounds that go into landfill. They are available in bags of 16 for £8.99 from various retailers including Waitrose. They work well but won’t be giving up wood entirely as I love the smell of it!
Handmade Christmas stocking
Homemade gifts are just the best and this stocking was lovingly made by a friend several years ago.
Christmas wrapping ideas
Ends of wallpaper rolls, newspapers, comics, packing paper and fabric all make fun and sustainable wrappings. With fabric, you can just knot it and add, like I did here, a vintage brooch as a finishing touch which also gives an extra present. I save and re-use ribbons and trimmings but would recommend John Lewis, Hobbycraft and Ebay for the giant ric rac.
Christmas tree 2020
The style ethos is a ‘more is more’ approach with an ecclectic selection of decorations from Christmas past. Some are made from cardboard cereal packets by our son (when he was a wee man) and others given by friends or made for photographic shoots. The linking river that runs through the tree this year is a garland of cheerful yellow jumbo ric rac.
Giant Christmas bauble
In the 17th Century these giant glass baubles were called ‘witches balls’ in England and were hung to deter evil spirits and to protect a home from illness. This one hangs all year round in a darkish corner next to a gallery wall in our sitting room, I love how it reflects light and twinkles. At Christmas I add a swishy satin bow and a sprig of fresh holly. Similar reproductions like this are available from The Corner Shop, Woolhampton, Berkshire.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope this has inspired you a little.
P.s. You can rest assured that the decorations came down after the shoot but will be fully and joyfully reinstated soon. Ding dong.
With best wishes,