It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

When decorating your house and table, give it the wow factor with some tips from the experts

Front door fashions

The Christmas ambiance is so much more than fairy lights and tinsel. "It starts with the kerb appeal of your home – outdoor lighting and a big, au-naturel wreath," says Ruth Monahan of Appassionata Flowers, who says a lot of her clients like their wreath to tell their house décor story.

She suggests foraging for holly and other greens, cutting some pine branches off the bottom of the Christmas tree and buying other foliage from florists to create the green base. She then adds dried lavender sprigs, dried fruits, ribbons she keeps from gifts received, and sprays some twigs. Rose gold is on her shopping list this year. Then she gets the kids involved, spreading a newspaper on the kitchen table to keep the mess contained.

At the other end of the spectrum is Aretha Pom-Poms, a small Irish designer that has gone for a far more haute fashion look, channelling Pier Paolo Piccioli, creative director for Valentino's autumn-winter collection, which featured head dresses comprising thousands of curiously spun yarns, bedecked with pom-poms and tassels. Run by Tracey Foran, aka traceylacey, it is just one of 28 Irish designers at Makers Market, at Om Diva, Drury Street, Dublin 2, which runs until December 31st. Wreaths start from €35.;

Naked branches

Tree trends have come full circle and are being left in a semi-naked state of undress, says horticulturist Bronagh Harte of Gingko Florists. “Nude arrangements are a big hit on our Instagram feed, with some of the most popular posts being of designs suspended from the roof.”


It may be the general tend towards Scandi design, but she also credits the eco-movement gaining traction as a reason for this bare, naked branch look. “Customers want their wreaths and trees to look wild and very scantily dressed. It’s a less-is-more approach,” she explains.

The flames of a real fire can now be housed behind the glass front of a multi-fuel-burning stove like the smart Arada design. The fact that its flue is concealed and it sits flush with the wall gives you a large canvas on which to hang wreaths and other décor. Gingko’s wreaths range from €60 to about €200.

“There is a move towards real product and the idea of the living Christmas tree is a growing trend,” says Christy Kavanagh of Kavanagh Christmas Trees, who will be trading at Leopardstown Racecourse in south Dublin from December 1st. He started selling small potted trees about four years ago and will be selling 30-inch versions from about €20.

These are grown in a nursery, repotted twice and are sold in a black plastic pot with holes for water. You can buy a red outer plastic pot to give it festive feel. Kavanagh would prefer not to use plastic but unsuccessfully tried fashionable terracotta pots. “People complained about them cracking outdoors.” Wicker baskets can be used as a tree skirt and look lovely and natural with the bare branches.

What do you do with the tree afterwards? Keep it watered while in your home and then gradually reintroduce it to the outdoors, Kavanagh advises. He suggests letting it toughen up in the garage, if you have one. You can then plant it out in the garden or repot and keep it for next year.;;

The new fireside rules

Visual merchandiser Jane Gilloway has just been putting the finishing touches to Christmasland at The Outdoor Scene, Goatstown, Dublin. Atop the Georgian mantle in her hall, she layers eucalyptus, heather, freshly foraged branches, with some pine branches cleaved from the back of the real tree onto an artificial base to make it look more luxurious, and drapes it in a big red ribbon and bow.

This is the time of year when you should light a real fire – if you still have an open fireplace. You can burn pinecones in it to enhance the experience but make sure to put a guard on the fire lest any sparks escape.

On its mantel, position a mistletoe tree, a gorgeous way to create a discreet kissing corner. Meadows & Byrne has a faux one that comes in a jute bag.

Christmas stockings are a crucial part of the scene-setting and are no longer for kids, says textile artist Jan Constantine. Her rock 'n' roll designs feature sequined Rebel Rebel or sequin and velvet Ziggy stockings, €82 each at Amara, and will help get grown-ups re-engage with the magic of Christmas Eve.;;;

Collectible or kitsch?

The Christmas tree usually has pride of place in the living room. Collectibles is a decoration concept that Helen Coughlan, buyer at Meadows & Byrne, loves. “For families, it’s all about the purchase of a particular decoration each year, that ultimately builds up into a full collection, mapping the family’s Christmas journey over the years and preserving the memory attached to each individual tree trim. Christmas shoppers love a little bit of retro-nostalgia.”

Oxendales’ disco decorations fit this kitschmas bill and its iridescent baubles will look the business long after the festive season is over, says Patricia Halligan, finance and marketing manager at Oxendales Ireland. “A lot of our younger buyers don’t want a classic-looking Christmas tree. They want something that will wow on social media and in real life when they have their friends round for prinks [pre-drinks].”

Or you can branch out from the traditional and invest in some entomology, a trend at Anthropologie. You’ll want to put its bejewelled bees and beetles, €20, under a microscope. It is also selling a lovely glass range of marine life, with the Friends-inspired lobster, and an octopus, €18 each.

For those who don’t want to put a star in pole position, there is another option. Oxendales’ tree toppers include a rose gold crown, the kind that will work beautifully with the fashion for molten-coloured pink metals.


Tabletops go over-the-top

"While physical decorations for the home may be pared back this Yuletide, the Christmas Day dinner table setting should be completely over-the-top," says events planner Tara Fay of Xena Productions, who is in big demand, and already booked out for festive parties for clients in the run-up to December 25th.

Start with a punchy base, she says. Summerill & Bishop’s gorgeous range of tablecloths includes Les Palmiers, which comes in festive red or on-trend green – available in three sizes, it will set the mood in one easy flourish.

“Bring in texture with different heights of stemware, flowers and candles. Oversize stemware is one way to go. Gin balloons, like Waterford Crystal’s new collection, €150 per pair, can do double duty as hock or red wine glasses and I often bring in more colour with water glasses in a jewel hue – it could be a Friends-inspired blue, for example,” says Fay.

Bring out the family silver by setting the table using canteens of cutlery and add nice tapered dinner candles. Ester and Erik candles burns really well and they come in great colours.

People forget that you have to leave room on the table for the food, Fay says. “Plan ahead about what you’re serving and plan the table dressing around it. What’s the point in getting a beautiful arrangement that has to be taken off the table to accommodate the turkey, ham and all the trimmings?”;

A most fragrant time of the year

Christmas is very much an olfactory experience, as much as it is a visual feast for the eyes, says Mark Grehan of The Garden. If burning scented candles his own preferred is also Astier de Villatte, €65, Rue Saint Honore, which smells of delicate green notes and jasmine and stocked in the shop.

But there is a myriad of Irish-made options starting with Rathbornes 1488 Cedar Clove & Ambergris multi-wick candle, €35.95 at Arnotts, which burns beautifully and works really well as a hostess gift to receive, Cloon Keen's Noble Fir, €40, is a gorgeous self gift, while fragrance house Max Benjamin's new stocking fillers are really clever – they do double duty as decorations that also emit a super seasonal fragrance and only cost €12 for a pack of four. These are ideal Kriskindle gifts.;;;;

Embrace nature

The weather at Christmas is usually pretty mild so factor an outside space into your festivities, where guests can congregate if you host a drinks party or as an ambient place for smokers to retire to, Jane Gilloway says. Her Embrace Nature theme is just one of several she's installed at Christmasland at The Outdoor Scene, Goatstown. It includes damp-proofing sheepskins, a blazing brazier for warmth and an outdoor tree, with battery-operated lighting, to add a festive touch.

Paws for thought

Pet gifting is a relatively new area says designer Carolyn Donnelly that she "is going big on" for her Eclectic range for Dunnes Stores. She's designed a special canine Christmas coat, cat and dog beds, bows and bandanas as well as festive dog leads, hooks and poop bags.