How designers do Christmas
Heirlooms and oranges, an all-white tree and introducing blue : designers and curators reveal the looks they like at home
Pile the table high: inspiration from Article, Dublin.
Decorating insiration from Designers Guild.
Baubles all the way from Dust.
A winter arrangement from Makers & Brothers.
John Adams, Article
John Adams, whose Powerscourt store, Article, is mecca for lifestyle magpies, says Christmas in his Victorian Drumcondra home, is “just the right side of kitsch”. Each year Adams and his partner Joseph pick a theme or a colour and run with it throughout the house. This year it’s oranges. “We’ve garlands of greens along the mantelpieces, threaded with fresh oranges and small cinnamon sticks. The oranges dry out by themselves and look almost prettier shriveled up, and the Christmassy scent from the cinnamon hits you the minute you walk in the door. For the tree, I thread little ribbons with card discs on the bottom through the base of the oranges, and hang them alongside gold baubles – the combination of the two looks fabulous. Our Christmas table is a bohemian but decadent affair: we bring out all the family heirlooms, from my granny’s trifle bowl to Joseph’s grandparent’s serving platters and a china dinner set we picked up in the south of France. Irish linen runners and napkins in wheat tones provide a neutral backdrop for bushels of fir branches and mini berries, of which we add sprigs to the backs of each chair too. When we’re done, we sit back and enjoy our efforts with a gin cocktail or a glass of prosecco, both topped off with red berries for a final nod to Christmas stylising,”says Adams.
Edel Woods, Brown Thomas
As a homeware buyer at Brown Thomas, Woods starts sourcing decorations months before the rest of us, and by the time December 1st arrives, she’s itching to get started on her own home. “We have two trees in our house. A beautiful big tree in our living room and then a small colourful one in the girls’ playroom which they can decorate however they wish. My top tip is to always dress your tree from the top down using a diamond formation, and you can never have enough lights, so just keep adding more. I also thinking mixing up the textures of decorations enhances the overall effect, for example, I’m using opulent velvet baubles, delicate glitter glass beads and embellished pearl and glitter decorations in a variety of shapes and sizes. And don’t forget a Christmas tree skirt to cover the base of the tree. For the table decor, garlands, wreaths, and centerpieces, I’ll be using green foliage with a palette of metallic whites, soft greens and dusty pink faux flowers for a modern take on the traditional colour schemes. After the Christmas tree has gone up and the house is all decorated, my husband and I sit down with our girls to write their letters to Santa. We then place them in the chimney and all cosy up with hot chocolate. A lot of time and effort goes into Christmas, but I love having the house festive-ready for when friends and family come over to visit.
Jonathon Legge, Makers & Brothers
Given that Legge and his brother Mark’s interiors venture is founded on their love for the handmade, it’s inevitable that Christmas is a very crafty affair in the Legge household. “My wife, Ciara and I, start the season off by setting aside an afternoon to clove oranges. When we lived in London as students, it was the only decor we could afford so we’ve kept up the tradition. We line them up on windowsills, on top of book shelves, in bowls in the hall – they’re the best scent diffuser ever. We also make dozens of little paper angels, exactly like the ones you use to see on Blue Peter. We use them mostly for the tree, which we also decorate with real candles. I sourced these small brass counter balances that you can hang on branches, and they balance a small pencil candle perfectly. Obviously, we only light them when we are in the room and blow them out every time we leave, which is a lot of effort, but there’s no better feeling in the world than having a long breakfast on Christmas morning by a candlelit tree. We set up an abstract nativity set up on the mantelpiece, with blocks of coloured wood bricks that represent Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and all the characters and instead of stuffed reindeer and snowmen by the fireside we’ve lots of Swiss wooden doll statues which give a folksy vibe to the set-up. When friends pop in we make French 75s – a cocktail of gin, champagne, and a fresh orange – and I prepare a huge bowl of candied ginger, almonds, and nuts which everyone get stuck into while I try in vain the explain the premise of nativity set,” says Legge.
Tricia Guild, Designers Guild
The OBE-awarded winning interiors icon approaches Christmas styling by turning a traditional scheme on its head and using unseasonal and unexpected colours to brilliant effect. Her most recent slant on festive tables starts with a table cloth in plain indigo or dusty fuchsia. “I then layered the tables up with more variants of my colour theme using charger plates, table mats and napkins in turquoise blues and emerald green or dusty pinks and cherry tones. I temper the strong colours with simple white crockery and plain ceramics and add in lots of complementary coloured candles in various heights,” says Guild. She also puts the many scraps of fabric from her studio to use by cutting them up and making them into streamers, using them as bows or instead of wrapping paper for gifts. For a whimsical centrepiece, she ties up traditional Christmas baubles onto a few bare tree branches with fabric streamers too. In theory, these acid shades shouldn’t work in a festive setting, but the finished effect is fresh and magical. “I think Christmas is a time when you can joyfully mix everything up, and no one will even notice if the turkey is overcooked if the table looks fabulous, ” says Guild.
Sarah Drum, Dust Design
Sarah Drum, one-half of the dynamic Dust Design team, is celebrating Christmas with her fiancé Ray O’Hara in her Portobello apartment this year. “I don’t have the space for big festive statements, so I’m opting for small stylistic touches and lots of texture. A real tree is a must, but I choose a small one that I plant up in a big brass pot. The brass theme extends to the dining table with brass napkin rings and lots of tall and short brass candles holders to add height and drama. I finish it off by draping white sheepskin throws over the backs of all the chairs for that hygge feeling. My mum, my sister and I have been collecting unusual tree decorations since we were kids and every year we gift each other a statement piece, so I’ve quite the collection from drummer boys to rainbows, ice skates to peacocks. Whenever I’m in London, I nip into Liberty and buy a few more as they do the most eccentric ones. Flowers and foliage are essential to creating a Christmas atmosphere, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to create drama. I fill up lots of different size jam jars with red berries and water, and then offset them with tall black vases with longer sprigs of berries and sit both on crisp beds of eucalyptus. My guilty Christmas pleasure is making cards. I bought a festive stamp set in Liberty London years ago, and I use it on plain cards from Daintree. It sounds juvenile, but everyone comments on how nice they are to receive,” says Drumm.
Charlotte Temple, Magee 1886
The great-granddaughter of the firm’s founder, Charlotte Temple, is both the face and the marketing brains behind the Magee 1886 tweed brand. Not surprisingly, her Fermanagh farmhouse is full of subtle nods to the brand’s heritage. “Our drawing room is grey with contemporary Magee tweed charcoal and cream check curtains, so I work with a pallet of red, antique gold and silver decorations to complement it and I’ve red candles lit on every surface available. I remember as a young girl the family would all go out into the woods and cut down the biggest tree there, so I still insist on a giant tree and decorate it with a mix of red glass and antique finished silver decorations. However, I do find I’m adding more Santas, reindeer, and planes every year for my small boys. Like most, I love the smell of real pine at Christmas, so I’ve big bowls of holly and pine cones in the hall and kitchen to keep the scent wafting throughout the house. I also raid the factory for spare cut-offs and scraps of tweed and put them to use as table runners, to jazz up sideboards, to tie around crackers or even use as gift wrap. The entire effect is pretty tweedtastic, but it’s such a tactile, wintery fabric, which comes into its own at Christmas,” says Temple.