HomeHome & GardenA guide to refreshingly refined Christmas decorating

A guide to refreshingly refined Christmas decorating

The festive season is swiftly approaching. The aroma of orange peel, spicy clove, and balsam fir creates a merry atmosphere with a single sniff. Soon, soft mittens will embrace cold fingers and the shimmering star lights above London’s Oxford Street will glow. Cue Michael Buble’s Christmas album and pour yourself a frothy mug of hot chocolate because it’s time to think about decking the halls.

Perhaps this conjures up visions of metallic tinsel, kitsch baubles, and all-things red and green. But Christmas decor doesn’t have to be brash. If you’re partial to elegant, pared-back interiors – look no further. This week, I spoke to four design experts about how to achieve a refreshingly refined Christmas decor scheme.

“Start by focusing on using foliage, dried fruits, and berries to bring spaces alive,” says Camilla Clarke, creative director of London-based residential interior design studio, Albion Nord. “Fresh holly and spruce look lovely tucked behind artwork and in garlands draped on bannisters, sideboards, and fireplace surrounds.”

The expanding Albion Nord portfolio is defined by an appreciation of natural materials – from honed marbles with their uniquely textured surfaces to timbers that speak through their inimitable grains. Clarke’s Christmas decorating philosophy echoes this. She recommends drying cut oranges and apples and threading them onto wire or string to create an organic garland which looks particularly pretty when sunlight shines through the slices.

When setting your dinner table, channel the snow that settles gently on rooftops like powdered sugar by coating the surface with an understated medley of whites and creams. Clarke advises, “simple, white or off-white linens contrasted with a festive bouquet, white candlesticks, and brass or silver cutlery is all you need” to create a visual feast.

Merry and bright occasions are synonymous with the clinking of glasses. For a touch of refined shimmer on your festive tabletop, consider LSA’s mouth-blown Pearl champagne flutes, saucers, and wine glasses. Hand painted with iridescent rosy lustre and shaped with a subtly-fluted texture which fades towards the rim, I can’t help but imagine them glistening prettily atop a brass bar cart that’s outfitted with a swagged garland of greenery. The Pearl collection ranges from stemmed goblets to a cake stand and dome, tea light holders, and vases, allowing you to establish a cohesive yuletide glassware scheme.

Luxury floral designer and former lead florist of the Soho House group, Ronny Colbie, filled me in on how to craft a splendid winter centrepiece. He says, “forage or source foliage that will last throughout the season as the base to all your bouquets. English pine, holly, twigs, and winter eucalyptus – anything that will dry nicely and add a festive scent. Once you have the base of foliage you can simply add flowers to suit and change as they wilt. For long-lasting blooms you’re best off with amaryllis, hydrangea, or winter berries.” Pair ruby red hydrangeas with pink Christmas hellebores and holly or deep pimpernel hydrangeas with white Veronica and foraged branches. As a finishing touch, consider tying a plush emerald or cream-coloured velvet bow around the vase.

‘A festive bouquet, white candlesticks, and brass or silver cutlery is all you need’ to create a visual feast

(String Furniture)

Tapered and twisted candlesticks flooded social media feeds in 2022. As they continue to add gleaming intrigue to tabletops, Peter Erlandsson, co-owner of String Furniture, encourages us to consider their holder counterparts this Christmas. “Adjustable candle holders have a long tradition in Scandinavia. It is a simple and ingenious way to keep the flame in the preferred position,” he says, explaining that String’s museum candle holder which comes in dark brown, olive green, and white, is height-adjustable, allowing candlesticks to stand tall when guests arrive, adding visual interest to a festive tablescape. Then, as you sit down to feast on turkey and Christmas pudding, the candles can be lowered so as not to obstruct your view of one another.

Other ways to decorate with Scandi simplicity this Christmas include embracing the concept of “hygge” – a Danish and Norwegian term that describes a mood of cosiness and “comfortable conviviality” characterised by feelings of wellness and contentment. Drape an oatmeal or sage-coloured mohair or cashmere throw blanket over the back of your sofa. And in the bedroom, keep the chill away with a waffled or chunky hand knit throw at the foot of your bed.

Lastly, a merry mantlepiece is a decorating focal point. Adorn this architectural feature with garlands of greenery, fairy lights, and candles. Founder of leading fireplace specialist Renaissance London, Owen Pacey says, “a mantel garland can be interspersed with seasonal flowers, leaves, and berries. Scented dried orange slices, pinecones, and cinnamon sticks create a Christmas fragrance”. Bespoke to complement your mantlepiece, Ronny Colbie crafts fresh, handmade garlands with each of these elements in his London studio. Additionally, Pacy recommends, “positioning candles of different heights in the basket of your fireplace to create a warm, cosy ambience”.

LSA’s Pearl collection of wine glasses

(LSA International)

As an alternative to draping your mantelpiece in a garland, consider a line-up of bouquets in vessels of varying heights, a series of sleek scented candles in beautiful pots, or an array of hand-gathered pinecones interspersed with tasteful glass baubles.

We can’t forget the stockings that hang below, ready to be filled with treats and tiny toys. In lieu of bright colours, focus on texture. Anthropologie’s forage pom pom stocking features delicately embroidered woodland creatures. Or for the staunch minimalist, consider a cream, chunky wool knit stocking or one dotted with hand-knitted poms. Who says stockings only belong on the mantelpiece? These would look beautiful lining a staircase or strung from the top of a window frame, too.

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