Art of a perfect Christmas

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Artist Laura Wallace uses her talents when decorating her home for Christmas. The result is picture-perfect. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gerard Binks.

Most artists and makers love this time of year. It’s a chance to flex their creative muscles and indulge in some festive fun.

The home of Laura Wallace

The home of Laura Wallace

Laura Wallace is a prime example. She puts down her paint brushes, shuts her studio and makes dressing her house a priority.

Her Ilkley home offers a beautiful canvas for the mix of cherished Christmas decorations, new additions and freshly-gathered flowers and foliage.

Her favourite task is decorating the enormous fir tree with her three children, Emily, William and Anna, who are fuelled by mince pies and cake.

“I think a tree has to tell a story. The children each have their own box of decorations and many of them were presents from my parents, who buy them a new one each year. There are lots of birds, fairies and hearts and things the children have made. When they grow up and leave home they’ll each have a set of decorations to take with them and it will remind them of Christmases past,” she says.

The home of Laura Wallace

The home of Laura Wallace

Each branch might have two or three decorations on it and Laura adds glittery leaves, pussy willow stems and dried peppercorns to fill the gaps.

Birds and butterflies are tied on with floristry wire so they appear to be flying just above the branches, which are lit by white fairy lights.

The tree is in the dining room, which also boasts a garland of conifers, berries and Wallace tartan, which is a tribute to the family’s Scottish ancestry.

They spend holidays on Orkney and it’s where some of Laura’s most treasured seascapes are painted. She is also celebrated for her Yorkshire landscapes and her intimate studies of flowers.

The home of Laura Wallace

The home of Laura Wallace

Her house acts as an informal gallery for her originals and prints, known as “Little Lauras”, and visitors often walk away with a picture tucked under their arm.

There are a few she won’t part with including a seascape painted at Birsay in Orkney, which is her husband’s favourite. She and Mark, a banker, love the countryside and the coast and the wilder the better. It is one of the reasons they decided to move out of London after 18 years.

After buying their 1920s home in her native Ilkley, Laura was keen to put her own stamp on it, using her interior design skills. She worked on projects for Harrods, the Crown Prince of Thailand and various sheikhs and bankers before studying at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art.

She remodelled the property, which now has a large living kitchen and a sensational master bedroom suite with its own wood burning stove. Furniture is an eclectic mix, skilfully put together and includes inherited pieces, oriental cabinets from Bradford-based Shimu, new buys and some bargain pieces from the Newark antique fairs.

The home of Laura Wallace

The home of Laura Wallace

Walls are painted in Farrow and Ball’s soft neutrals like Mizzle, Skimming Stone and Archive with a touch of the purple-toned Brassica..

Almost all the rooms get a Christmas makeover. The stairs have a garland that is decorated with butterflies and dried flowers from Ilkley shop, Leaves and Linens. At the bottom is a nativity lit with tiny, battery-powered tealights.

The tapered candles are from The Home store at Salts Mill, and she is also fond of scented Diptyque and Jo Malone candles.

Fairy lights bring sparkle to the kitchen. They are tucked in a clear vase of silk flowers and run along the mantle over 
the Aga to brighten the festive greenery and berries, while foliage and a collection of red hearts hang from the light over the table.

“There’s more of a Scandinavian feel in the kitchen, whereas in the dining room it’s more of a Victorian Christmas look,” says Laura, whose family traditions include attending the Christingle service at Bolton Abbey, followed by champagne and games before an early night.

On Christmas Day, the children open their stockings in front of the fire before a big breakfast. Then it’s Christmas dinner, present giving and supper with more games.

“We always sing the Twelve Days of Christmas and everyone has a line and has to get up and do the action to it,” says Laura, who says there is nothing like a Yorkshire Christmas.

“I tried to have a London Christmas but it wasn’t the same. It’s so much nicer to be in the countryside.

“I love going for a big walk and getting really hungry and it’s wonderful when it snows. I’ve still got my old sledge made from two old skis and a deckchair.”

When it’s all over and the children are back at school, she unlocks her studio again.

“Instead of hitting the January sales I go in there and paint,” she says. “That’s how I spend my ‘me time’.”

• Laura’s paintings are online at www.laurawallace.co.uk, which features a print gallery with prices from £35.