Deck the halls: ‘We go for the more is more approach to Christmas decorating’

Ready for Christmas: Aoife Mullane preps her Co Wicklow home. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
WILL IT BE WHITE LIGHTS OR COLOUREDS, TINSEL OR HOLLY? EVERY HOUSEHOLD HAS ITS OWN TRADITIONS WHEN DECORATING FOR CHRISTMAS

It’s that time of year again; the mince pies are out, the shops are bustling, and the children’s lists to Santa Claus are getting longer by the day. Traditions are all part of what makes Christmas special and getting our homes ready for the festive season is often the most exciting part.

Mother-of-three and bridal hair stylist, Aisling Hamill, is preparing not only for the birth of her fourth child this Christmas but also for her family’s first Christmas in their new home in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Having only received the keys in September, the move follows a stressful journey for her and her husband, David, which saw them between homes for a period last year, after the sale of another house they were pursuing fell through.

Hamill has spent the past few months busily working on the interiors, choosing everything from carpets to cushions, and Christmas planning began in November.

We go and pick our tree together. Then the decorations go up that night, with everyone in their Christmas jammies, and this is followed by a festive movie

“Overall, I have really enjoyed the move. There have been sleepless nights, which sounds a bit extreme, but I really wanted to get the interiors right first time,” she says. “Christmas is definitely a really big thing in our house; we love the music, the decorations, and the cosy nights on the couch counting down the days until Santa arrives. This year, I knew I was going to have to be a lot more organised, as I will be in that newborn bubble in the run up to Christmas, so we decided to get everything ready in November, which is not typical for us.”

As the house is a new build, Hamill enjoyed making the most of the “blank slate” and took the opportunity to change up her usual festive decor. “I was definitely a bit more selective this year and tried to have less of the tack. However, with kids it is impossible to forgo it completely. I love sparkly white lights, festive flowers, candy canes, and last year, we made our own wreaths, which was lovely.”

Aisling Hamill: ‘Christmas is a really big thing in our house.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Aisling Hamill: ‘Christmas is a really big thing in our house.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

While the decorations might be slightly different, the family’s tradition of putting them up always remains the same. “Generally, we go and pick our tree together. In recent years, we have gone to a tree farm in Wicklow and made a big deal of it. Then the decorations go up that night, with everyone in their Christmas jammies, and this is followed by a festive movie. We all love it,” she says.

When it comes to festive trends, the emphasis this year is on environmentally-friendly decor. “There is definitely a trend towards ethically-made products, so that means big changes from recent years, says interior designer Eily Roe. “Top of the list to go are Christmas crackers and all the little plastic toys within them.”

The move towards a greener Christmas is not only beneficial for the planet, it is also a great excuse to get creative and have some fun as a family. Roe recommends making your own decorations and getting outdoors to source materials.

Bring colour and texture to the table and the tree with some Scandinavian Christmas stars, made from recycled paper

“The ultimate in ethical decorating is to go out into nature to add a new lease of life to existing decorations,” she says. “Take a walk with the family to find ivy or holly; they can be intertwined through the balustrade of a staircase or laid out down the centre of the table as a runner, with soy tealights in small jam jars interspersed throughout. Bring colour and texture to the table and the tree with some Scandinavian Christmas stars, made from recycled paper.”

When decorating the tree, there are some tricks that can be applied to help it look its best. “Always start with the lights; winding them around the tree in a spiral from the base up to the top. You can stick to lights only and cover every inch of the tree or, alternatively, use lights and one type of decoration or bauble only, being careful with colour palettes, or just keep everything very stylised and go with an all-white look,” says Roe.

Interior designer Eily Roe recommends making your own decorations and getting outdoors to source materials. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Interior designer Eily Roe recommends making your own decorations. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“If you have scoured the shops for the perfectly formed tree, only to get it home and find that there is a big gap on one side, one way to bulk it up is to make “presents” using some empty boxes covered in old wrapping paper, and judiciously placing three or more into the tree, as required. Using an odd number of decorations is visually best.”

Textile designer, Aoife Mullane, is a fan of mixing the old with the new when it comes to festive decorations. “I love to add in new ideas each year, Pinterest is great for gaining inspiration,” she says. “However, I think there is something really special about tradition at Christmas, so it is important to keep decorations from years gone by, as they can tell a story.”

I like to add plenty of natural materials, such as pine cones, berries, feathers, and more rustic elements

For her take on Christmas, Mullane likes to combine the sparkle of the season with elements of nature. “The fabrics that I design use a lot of light-reflecting metallics such as copper, aluminium, and brass. When it comes to decorating my house for Christmas, these metallics definitely influence my choices,” she says. “I also like to incorporate a lot of twinkling fairy lights to create even more lustre and sparkle. In contrast to these gleaming metallics, I like to add plenty of natural materials, such as pine cones, berries, feathers, and more rustic elements.”

December is a very busy time for Mullane, whose luxury interiors range includes cushions and lampshades, so prioritising some time to get her own home ready for Christmas is a must.

“People like to invest in their homes at Christmas and have them looking their very best in anticipation of hosting parties and having visitors, so it’s a busy time for me. However, I am usually quite good with my time management and will always ensure I set aside some time to put up my decorations.

Aoife Mullane: ‘I like to incorporate a lot of twinkling fairy lights to create even more lustre and sparkle.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Aoife Mullane: ‘I like to incorporate a lot of twinkling fairy lights to create even more lustre and sparkle.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“Myself, my sister, and my dad usually choose the tree, then we spend the afternoon listening to Christmas music and decorating it and the surrounding rooms. We always get a real tree as I think nothing beats the natural smell of pine. I have a thing about beautiful wreaths and we always get an amazing one with a large velvet bow from our local florist.”

When decorating for Christmas, there is no right or wrong, indeed, it is a great time to let your own personal style shine through; whether that’s going all out for a tinsel and glitz affair or opting for a muted minimalist look.

“In my own home, we go for the ‘more is more’ approach to decorating,” says Roe. “We include lots of colour, and use baubles and ornaments that we have collected throughout the years; Mickey Mouse ears from a memorable trip to Disneyland when our children were small, a paper star made by one of our first foster children and, preciously, a handmade angel crafted by a dear family member no longer with us. Some would call our decorating style over the top or even tacky, but it’s Christmas decorating the way we love it.”