For me, Christmas is about the magic of bringing everyone you love together in one space. Rather than worrying about achieving perfection, I try to embrace the chaos and be present in the moment. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep preparations super simple, share the load, make things myself where I can and reuse as much as possible. Below, I have shared some of my own festive traditions, tips and tricks for creating a magical, cosy and fuss-free Christmas. However you celebrate the season, I hope you find something here to inspire.
On Christmas Day, I’m a firm believer in enlisting everyone to do their bit. Don’t be shy about asking people to contribute something to the meal – side dishes, sauces, smoked salmon, ham, cheese, pudding, crackers – it gives everyone their moment to shine and adds to the fun. It also takes the pressure off the hosts. Whether it’s making canapes, mixing cocktails or chopping vegetables, everyone should have a part to play. For instance, my husband Andy is a fantastic cook and he loves making Christmas dinner with his brother. Meanwhile, I build canapes, pour drinks, and send the children out into the garden with a pair of scissors to gather foliage for the table.
The More the Merrier
This is the time of year when you really need to make the most of every last inch of space. Dining tables with a D-end, like our Tuck In Oval, allow you to comfortably add in a few extra chairs while our Tuck In Rectangular table has the advantage of allowing you to add an extra table onto the end of it. The Front Row upholstered bench is ideal for those tricky, tight spots where you need to squeeze in as much bottom space as possible. Generous loose seat cushion and upholstered back and arms provide plenty of comfort while its narrow proportions allow it to be pushed up against a wall next to the dining table in place of a built-in banquette.
When it comes to decorating, I steer clear of anything plastic or throw-away. Instead, I prefer to invest in pieces that I will use again and again or simply gather foliage that can be thrown into the compost in January. We trawl the garden and country lanes for our favourite old man’s beard – a type of clematis that romps through the hedgerows and forms beautiful white wispy seed heads that give it its name. We drape it around the house and place it in vases with sprigs of holly and ivy.
Make a tablecloth or runner out of a long length of fabric that isn’t necessarily Christmas-themed. Buying fabric by the metre is an easy way to cover any size of table – our Checkmate check or Slow Lane stripe fabrics in the Berry colourway work particularly well as does the Regatta stripe in Flame. You don’t even need to hem it, so it’s super quick and easy. You can cut squares of the same or a contrasting fabric to use as napkins.
I like to use lots of dinner candles - tonal shades work wonderfully well together like warm reds, pinks and oranges or cool blues and greens. Add a mishmash of jam jars or bud vases full of evergreen foliage from the garden.
Don’t worry too much about festive colour schemes. The secret to creating a warm festive space is in the layering. For instance, if you have a blue tablecloth, add pink candles and sprigs of holly or some napkins made from our Ticking Cotton in berry, which is a lovely subtle pink colour that can be used all year round.
The idea of homemade decorations might sound labour intensive but it doesn’t have to be. I love to make paper chains with the kids. These can be made from old wrapping paper or even newspaper. If looked after, paper decorations will last for years – I have some well-loved white bunting that I bring out each year. A quick press with an iron has it looking as good as new, and being white, it works with all colour schemes. We use it for Christmas, New Year and even birthdays. It’s really very versatile.
For a super simple advent calendar, I take 25 candy-striped sweet bags, fill each one with a treat and string them up across a window with red ribbon and numbered clothes pegs.
Most wrapping paper is not recycled (and much of it can't be), so I always wrap presents in newspaper and tie with a beautiful satin ribbon. I then save any ribbons that are left over from Christmas day in a drawer and gradually use them throughout the year on other presents.
Make it Personal
I love decorations that evoke a sense of nostalgia or that remind me of a certain person or a time in our lives. Our tree is adorned with strings of white lights, some slightly wonky angels that the children have made over the years and decorations that friends have given us – it tells a beautiful story of Christmases gone by. I’ve got some lovely oversized stockings from my dear friend Rosi de Ruig from years ago, who now makes lampshades. I love that they remind me of her. Use our Checkmate Cotton fabric in Berry to create your own version to gift to friends and use year after year.
Gifts that Last
I do try and buy gifts ahead of time throughout the year but inevitably, I still end up shopping in December. I love Colombia Road Christmas market and always find great gifts there. My favourite presents to give are books because they never go to waste. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s easy to pass a book on. I go to Queens Park Books near our studio, Chipping Norton Bookshop at home and Heywood Hill Bookshop in Mayfair. One of the best gifts I’ve ever given someone was a book subscription from Heywood Hill. The staff personally call the recipient to discuss what their interests are and then send them a carefully chosen title each month.
When it comes to creating a cosy home, it’s all about carefully considered lighting. If you can, turn off the main overhead light and instead rely on lamps of varying sizes and heights. This will create a much more atmospheric, magical feeling in the home. The Ditsy lamp is so easy to tuck into a corner while the Focus reading light looks elegant on a side table. Add extra cushions to a sofa or guest bed to make a space feel more inviting for visitors, or add them to an armchair to create a cosy reading nook by a window or fire.
Create Quiet Spaces
Once everyone’s stuffed themselves full of turkey and pudding, they may want to retreat to a quiet spot for a moment of calm. We always set up some additional seating areas, so guests can find a cosy corner without being on top of each other. If you’re short on chairs, bring in some garden furniture, add cushions and mix and match. A cinema space for the kids with a projector and popcorn always comes in handy too.
If you have guests staying overnight, set up a tea tray with a kettle, cups and a selection of tea bags in their room. Throw in some biscuits and a decanter of sloe gin for extra brownie points. Not only does this free up your kitchen space but it gives your guests a little autonomy during their stay. Likewise, in the morning, a breakfast buffet allows guests to serve themselves in their own time and takes the pressure off you.
Engage the Senses
Scent is an incredibly powerful trigger for memory recall, and for me, a Christmas-scented candle conjures magical memories of listening to Christmas carols by candlelight. Some of my favourites include Diptyque’s Feu De Bois (Wood Fire), which reminds me of a winter hearth with dense, smoky notes while Pomander has a deliciously spicy and fruity fragrance that evokes oranges pierced with fragrant cloves.
With special thanks to David Mellor Design. Denim Blue Soendergaard Dinner Plates and Side Plates pictured above.