Bring some sparkle to festivities

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If you’re short of inspiration this Christmas take some decorating tips from the experts. Sharon Dale reports

The Home at Salts Mill is famous for its beautiful, useful and supremely well-chosen products and each one has had to work hard to earn its place on the shop floor.

The couple who founded the store, Robin and Patricia Silver, are passionate about good design and like many creative people they welcome the festive season as a chance to showcase their skills and try out some fresh ideas.

Here are some of their top Christmas decorating tips:

Hang a tiny moose clip container on the side of a cup or glass and personalise it either with tiny decorations or a name. Use 24 clips to create an advent calendar on a string.

Decorate a gingerbread man and ice him with the name of guests as a place card setting. You can buy icing pens quite easily now from supermarkets or specialists stores.

Have a cosy Christmas with ethanol fuelled fires. They are warm and inviting but without smell, smoke or grate to clean out. These are perfect for flats or homes without fireplaces.

Ribbons. In these financially difficult days, decorate a table simply with a couple of metres of ribbon either used as a runner or a bow as a centrepiece. They can be used to decorate a fireplace, stairs, doors etc.

Write a name on a bauble with a felt-tip pen and pop into a wine glass as a place card – this is a lovely colourful personalised touch. Again, it is inexpensive and quick. Remove before drinking.

Write a name or a little festive message on plates before serving with drizzled balsamic dressing for a main course, chocolate etc for desserts. They can be fun for all ages, witty, rude or welcoming.

Tea lights in clusters of different sized and varying heights of tea light holders. Colour co-ordinate for maximum impact.

For an alternative Christmas tree plant a few branches in a vase and decorate with baubles.

Cupcakes are all the rage but how to display them to full advantage is more tricky. Try a tiered cake stand, a footed cake plate or a big platter standing on an upside down bowl for added height. This also gives the opportunity to decorate the plate or serving piece and to follow through the theme of the cupcake decorations, such as a real holly leaf or a few edible red berries. Just following a colour theme can be quite enchanting and outstanding. The cake display stand, above, looks festive decorated with baubles and ribbon.

Think of more imaginative shapes for mince pies. They don’t have to be round. Try triangles, squares, little boat shapes or anything that gives a new twist on an old favourite. Shape can be as important as colour.

Decorate your car, especially if you have to spend a lot of time in it. Not just a bit of tinsel in the inside but some ribbon can be far more effective and attractive. However, make sure that nothing interferes with the driver’s view of the road or interferes with the controls.

The hall or porch is the first place a visitor sees on entering a home so try some lights intertwined in the spindles of banisters or fix Christmas cards to the outer face of the stair treads.

Jugs of coloured water, dyed with natural food colouring, can look festive and very colourful and this costs next to nothing.

Remember the real meaning of Christmas. Display a nativity scene or make a set with modelling clay. A perfect way for children (and adults) to show off their skills.

Fill vases with baubles, ivy, small sprigs of holly or tie ribbons around them. This can be very effective and again inexpensive.

With the enormous variety of complicated LED tree lights and tableaus, don’t forget just how warm and comforting a large, natural, flickering candle can be.

The Home is at Salts Mill, Saltaire, www.thehomeonline.co.uk

How tree lights came into being

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas in 1500. One Christmas Eve, he was struck by the beauty of a group of evergreens shimering in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a fir tree indoors and decorated it with candles, which he lit in honour of Christ’s birth. The tradition became widely established, though sometimes resulted in fires. It wasn’t until the 1917 that electric lights were invented by New Yorker Albert Sadacca. He and his brothers established Noma. which became the largest Christmas lighting company in the world.