Christmas-up your home with a little help from design experts

‘A wreath on the front door looks and feels wonderfully welcoming’

Are you feeling the pressure to deck the halls, mantles and to put the best version of your Christmas self forward?

The advent of social media has turned decorating into a competitive sport with homesteads outdoing each other to show bigger and bolder set-ups from lighting schemes that might take down the national grid to hyper-intense colour schemes to garner attention on Instagram. But help is at hand, even if you’re not going full, over-the-top Home Alone, here are some tips from the experts.

A wreath on the front door looks and feels wonderfully welcoming, says Claire Ryan of floristry The Crate, who is an advocate of an all-natural look and uses foliage from Co Kerry-based Irish Green Guys in her evergreen displays. Outside her own home she makes use of the existing Virginia creeper to create a backdrop. She also attaches greenery at gutter level using cable ties to affix the lengths in place. This is a job you should not take on without someone else with you to hold the ladder steady. Ryan already has festoon lighting in situ all year round, so all her place really needs is a wreath to look full-blown festive, she says.

Ryan and her business partner Steph Hutch like to weave a sense of craft into their designs and host workshops in their Rathfarnham, Dublin, premises where you can learn from them. These cost €80 while an online DIY tutorial costs €76 and is inclusive of your materials delivered nationwide.


Creating an atmosphere Fragrance is a really good place to start to convey a sense of the festive season indoors, says Helen James whose Considered range is sold in Dunnes Stores. “Lighting a fragranced candle is about creating an atmosphere. The evenings are dark so make the most of it by layering the room with the scent of cinnamon, or pine,” she says, suggesting her spiced quince candle (€10) that has hints of the former, or her wild winter forest that riffs on the latter. The White Company’s winter candle is another option that captures the essence of the season.

Elsewhere she is a fan of tall taper candles, especially on a hall console table or in a living room, set up to look almost like an altar of light.

“There’s a soft glow to candlelight, it’s warm, much more diffuse and super flattering,” she says. Her own range features natural waxes which give a longer burn time and those with beeswax tend to burn a little brighter.

You can also use LED candles. Events organiser Tara Fay is a big fan of these and you can stack them all the way up the stairs, as seen here using a range of pillar styles from Harvey Norman, to create an alluring, and also safe, ascent to bed.

Christmas decorating takes a lot of time to do well. There are lots of professionals offering a full service to come decorate your home for a fee but those contacted seemed to be too busy to take on more clients this year and very reluctant to discuss rates. If you’re too busy to do your own then talk to your local florist and order in some garlands, replete with naturally fragrant greens. You can put one on the mantle and use another for the table for Christmas day or weave it into the bannisters to bring a festive spirit to the hall.

Gifted at the RDS, from December 1st-5th, is another great place to pick up ready-made decorations from dried spice and fruit garlands to luxurious wreaths.

Hanging the Christmas tree can be a gorgeous way to bring the family or loved ones together but you do need to factor in several hours to unwind all lights and unwrap and position the baubles. Hang all lights first. If you need new ones these berry shapes cost €36 from Article Dublin.

The trick is not to do too much in one evening. You can revisit the following night if you offer bribes to family – hot chocolate and a tin of sweets might be enough to get them all back to help out. Then fill in any gaps in the arms or foliage with suitably-sized baubles.

UK chain The Range, which has branches in Liffey Valley, Northside Shopping Centre and in Maynooth, has a smorgasbord of on-trend and affordable options. Marks & Spencer has some fun motifs too but for craft, texture and homegrown cool The Irish Design shop’s crocheted Christmas puddings and trees should be top of your to-buy list.

The Christmas tree motif is one that can be used really creatively throughout the home, from a baby-size live fir in a bedroom or at the end of the sofa in a small sitting room, to a twig in a vase that you can either spray paint or leave au natural save for a few select baubles.

Mantelscaping is major

Think creatively. You can also use decorations to create a tree outline made of honeycomb balls, as this Homesense festive setting shows. These have been opened half-way and affixed to a wall using Bluetac. Woodies Party Zone sells a range of gorgeous colours, €3.79 each for 20cm diameter balls.

You can use LED neon tubes to great effect too as this Sofaology set-up demonstrates. Inreda Design Shop sells 150cm long neon tubes by Hay, €65, each or you could commission a piece by Dublin-based BL Neon Signs, the people behind Panti Bar’s and Balfe’s at the Westbury signage. Something similar to that pictured will cost from about €600, excluding VAT.

By using presentation boxes for your gifts you can generate plenty of interest at the base of the tree. Sostrene Grene and Paperchase at Arnotts sell some of the best.

For stylish stockings head to M&S for an alphabet in red velvet, €17.99 each, Sostrene Grene has a range of bainin-look, faux fur styles, about €10 each or channel your inner maximalist with sheepskins ones from UK-based Baa Stool, about €85 each.

Mantelscaping is major, says Abi Wilson, celebrations buying manager at Habitat.

“It’s a great excuse to get experimental with decorating. Fasten evergreen foliage to the mantel and hang decorations and baubles at staggered heights. Mix matte and shiny finishes to craft a considered yet eclectic festive look. Scarlet and gold designs will complement the greenery to give it a Christmas in the countryside feel, or go full-blown glamour with jewel shades of emerald, indigo and fuchsia.”

Decorations have become supersized for maximum effect. This big bird, €53, is a robin on steroids from The Blue Door. Made of felt it will look the business on a bedside table, hall table or mantle.

If you want to make sure you get some Christmas kisses then invest in a mistletoe motif duvet set from Next, which ranges in price from €72 for a single to €112 for a super-king. Littlewoods Ireland has a more subtle snowflake jacquard motif set on a soft warm grey background that costs €62 for a double.

Those of you with children that will be writing letters to Santa should try this gorgeous yet colourful mural chalked out onto blackboard paint, designed by the team at Annie Sloan. Allot some space for each child to write a letter direct to the man in red.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;