Five-star festivities: how to give your home the luxury Christmas look
Take your cue from some of Ireland’s leading hotels, which go all out for the festive season
Five-star Christmas: how the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin will be dressing some of its tables this year
Contemporary city chic: the Dylan
This year, the theme at the Dylan, in Dublin 4, is Seasoned Greetings, “so we will be incorporating the five spices of Christmas into our tree decorations as well as across all our food and drinks menus”, says the hotel’s managing director, Grainne Ross. Sourcing decorations is a year-round project, with elements picked up from the local garden centre in Sandymount, while bespoke Dylan baubles are made by Irish potter Jayne Redmond, who has her own Christmas shop in Harrods.
Bronagh Harte from Ginkgo, the Dylan’s year-round florist, based on Baggot Street, Dublin 2, creates stunning flower arrangements for the restaurant and private dining rooms. Fishbowl vases are filled with seasonal blooms such as hydrangeas, thistles, orchids, red roses and sprigs of winter berries.
Ross’s advice when creating a decor scheme is, “pick two colours that highlight tones within your interior scheme and stick to them across garlands, the tree, and centrepieces”.
“For the table, keep it classic and clean, with crisp white linens, sparkling glassware and plenty of space for the rolling feast to come. And don’t forget to scent your house too – we change our hotel lobby’s scent to a custom-designed festive spice for the month of December.”
For a festive tipple with a twist, the bar team has created, ‘The Festive Pudding’ cocktail, incorporating a Guinness syrup made from a Guinness reduction fused with spices of clove, star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg, 50ml of Irish whiskey, a squeeze of fresh lime and orange juice. Serve chilled in a coupe glass with a dried orange-wheel garnish. dylan.ie
Country house cosiness: Sheen Falls Lodge
Luckily for the Christmas crew at Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, Co Kerry, they’ve a 300-acre estate to forage much of their decorations from. “Our grounds are a rich and bountiful hunting ground for foliage such as noble spruce, eucalyptus, ivy, holly and red berries as well as bits of tree trunk and bark, that we clean down and then spray gold or silver and arrange all over the hotel – across fireplaces, weaved through the balustrades, in windowsills and on all the tables,” says manager Seamus Crotty.
The hotel tends to stick to a traditional Christmas palette of reds, golds and green but updates the decorations every year, editing in new finds and phasing outdated elements, which keeps the decor relevant.
“We always add in a sprinkling of new pieces from places such as the White Room in Kenmare, which has a stunning selection of decorations as well as everything you need for a table, from Irish linen to church candles – it’s is our go-to for elegant and luxurious individual pieces. We also love the Yes flower shop in Galway for inspiration and usually visit a few international Christmas markets during the year too to pick up bits for the trees and tables. Each December, we pick one of the public areas and, working with our in-house florist, try and create something new and innovative.”
Such as the garlands running up the main staircase, or an abstract reindeer scene in the lobby.
Crotty and his team have to dress up to 10 Christmas trees each year, so they have it down to a fine art.
“Firstly, weave your lights in and out of the branches as you go around the tree to give the tree more depth and not just wrap around the edge. Be sure to lay out all the tree decorations first to see what you have so they can be placed evenly around the tree. Start hanging the larger ornaments first and leave the smallest till last. If you are using an artificial tree, take an extra bit of time to fluff out all the branches before you start, to give the tree a fuller look. Christmas is the one time of year when more is more, so don’t be afraid of going overboard.” sheenfallslodge.ie
Capital showstopper: the Shelbourne
Most Dubliners can attest the festive spirit is almost ingrained within the walls of the Shelbourne, but creating that atmosphere is the cumulation of months of preparation that typically begins the previous February. Mary O’Reilly, the hotel’s head florist, is central to the pulling all of the extravagant decorations and themes together. “We love texture, and arrange dramatic runs of greenery down along surfaces – be they mantelpieces, windowsills, reception desks, and then we sit ornaments and candles throughout them. Don’t be afraid to spray all of the foliage or ornaments to suit your colour schemes – we spray almost everything in gold, to add our floral arrangements,” says O’Reilly.
When it comes to flowers for the dinner table, O’Reilly either goes one of two ways: if there are lots of tables in the room, subtle arrangements, such as small fishbowl vases with a few red blooms and spray-painted pine cones work best, while sprigs of holly or garden foliage on napkins add a quiet, finishing touch. However, if decorating just one main dining table, rows of tall clear vases, bursting with green foliage and a few red seasonal flowers are used to dramatic effect.
“Just make sure the flowers are above the eye line of where guests will be when seated. There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone across the table through a big bunch of blooms,” says O’Reilly.
The tress throughout the Shelbourne are fake but are of the highest quality, sourced from trade shows across Europe, and are decorated with a classic mix of red and gold ornaments, gold organza ribbon and spray-painted foliage. Gary Cahill, director of food and beverage, says the Christmas tree-lighting event is without a doubt the most magical start to the festive season. “Everyone gathers around to drink mulled wine, hot chocolate and nibble on mince pies and then we count down to turning on all of the lights. It’s what Christmas dreams are made of.” marriot.com