Oooh, please yourself...
As the late, and some would say great – probably me included – Frankie Howard used to say. In his case, it was usually after a joke that went down like a Siamese at Crufts, but in this case I refer to all things Christmassy.
As regular readers will know, I’m always a little uneasy about writing the December editorial. Whilst I love to regale you about all that’s fabulous and new in the world of interior design throughout the year, and am more than happy to give you my take on what makes a good room good, I find it difficult to pontificate about the Christmas interior.
This is not only because there are sooooo many ways to make your home fabulous at Christmas, nor that whatever you decide is just what “Chez Vous” needs to top off Christmas 2019 is probably exactly the right thing for you, but to be perfectly frank I’d feel a bit of a hypocrite.
Let me explain. Every year we at Biddell Towers, as it’s laughably referred to by our musical theatre buddies, embark upon an expedition the like of which Bear Grylls would be proud. One Sunday afternoon around the beginning of December off we trot to one or more garden centres, home stores and/or DIY sheds in search of the perfect addition to the Christmas house. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a few tree decorations, a garland or two for the stairs, or a runner for the Christmas table.
A couple of years ago it came down to a choice between a five-foot-high singing Santa, an equally tall lantern that sprayed fake snow and also played tunes, and a hanging model of a bi-plane piloted by Rudolph himself singing “Santa Claus is coming to town”. And what did I do? Yes, you’ve guessed it . . . I bought them all !!!!!
This year we were at the Boldmere Christmas festival, freezing cold and soaking wet, when I noticed an outdoor tree, emblazoned with built in lights, being sold by one of our fabulous local traders. “That would look amazing in our front garden !!!” I said to my wife. “But you already put lights along the fence, and we do now have 4 Christmas trees” she helpfully reminded me. A good point, well made – however I bought it anyway.
It’s not that good taste is totally to be abandoned at Christmas (although some would disagree in the above-mentioned cases), but the rules of good interior design can certainly be relaxed.
So . . . real or false, themed or random, uncluttered or stuffed to breaking point? I’m talking of course about the tree, and it really is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer. For many years now I’ve always had a real tree, and am happy to put up with the inconvenience of a few dropped needles in exchange for that wonderful smell of pine when you enter the room each morning.
As for whether to theme it or not, well I suppose you really should, taking two or possibly three colours from your decor and majoring on them for your tree ornaments and other assorted bits and bobs around the room. But here once again I have to admit to being a little hypocritical. My tree is a completely random collection of ornaments and baubles of every shape, size and colour, collected over a number of years from cities and countries we’ve visited, or that I’ve bought just because I like them. The crowning glory of which is a somewhat tousled silver and gold cardboard star that my elder daughter, who now runs my showroom, made when she was in infants school. This is much to the annoyance of my wife, who thinks I really should know better and follow her idea of a simply themed tree. So we’ve made the perfect compromise – we have a tree each (along with the tree in our 6-year old’s bedroom, and the communal tree in the porch).
As for the rest of the house, you can go as mad as you like with garlands on mantelpieces, fabulous table decorations and runners, swags up banisters, holly protruding from just about every nook and cranny, and of course mistletoe liberally dotted around and about. I wouldn’t dream of insulting you by telling you exactly where to put them though – well, not until twelfth night anyway.
And why stop at the inside. I love to see a welcoming holly wreath on the front door. We’ve actually got a woven wood one with Rudolph’s head gleefully protruding from it.
Of course, these days there are myriads of illuminated Santas, elves, reindeer, shooting stars, sleighs and anything else remotely connected to Christmas (as long as it’s not in any way religious of course, but don’t get me started on that one !!!) to adorn the outside of the house. I’m a bit worried now. Now that you’ve discovered how my Christmas interior works (and for me it really does), will you ever listen to anything I say again?
Ah well, it could have been worse. At least my wife was able to convince me not to come away with the large flashing “Ho Ho Ho” to go on the garage doors.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - December 2019