Get creative this Christmas with these bright ideas. Sharon Dale reports
Robin and Patricia Silver
Robin and Patricia Silver own The Home store at Salts Mill, Saltaire, which is famous for its fantastic displays and its beautiful and practical products. They have a brilliant eye for good design and here they have applied it to Christmas dcor:
Use magazines as an alternative to place mats. They can be colourful or themed to the particular taste of each diner. Guests can also read them between courses if they get bored.
Use vintage plates, each one can be a different pattern or shape to add variety and colour to any table setting. These can be mixed with one or two special new pieces used as a centrepiece or serving dish.
Vintage glasses can also make a bit of a stir especially for cocktails.
Give each guest a tiny gift, tied up with a ribbon as a memento of the occasion. They can also double up as a place marker if their names are included. The Little "Lili" bag is perfect for this as it can hang on the side of a glass or cup and is just big enough to hold a tiny keepsake, special little sugar cube, chocolate or biscuit. A "Lili" bag is a tiny plastic shopping bag, about two inches square with one handle bent over so it can hook onto a cup or glass.
Small battery powered sets of lights can be wound around a flower arrangement in a vase and some can even go into water
Larger garlands can be made with sets of tiny LED lights interspersed in between the foliage. This makes for a brighter more interesting garland, which can be used in traditional places such as over a fireplace but also used in more unusual spots such as along the length of a dining table or over a door. They can even be a viable alternative to a Christmas tree, especially if space is at a premium.
Dress the backs of chairs with a garland or small wreath. They can be individualised to the guest and therefore become a "living" place marker. Tie a little gift like a cookie cutter to each one so that a guest can take it home as a keepsake.
A decoration is not just for a Christmas tree. Try tying up a cluster of baubles with beautiful ribbon and putting them in a bowl or a storm lantern.
Tie a cluster of baubles around a storm lantern with a candle inside so that the flickering flame shines off the metallic surfaces of the decorations.
Use tea lights of different heights to make a more interesting setting with greater impact. Try turning one upside down with another sitting on top which can not only give a different height but make the tea light holder look completely different as it is inverted.
Get larger tea lights, which make for a far more interesting appearance.
Use hanging tea light holders to get varying heights. They look particularly good suspended low over a dining table or coffee table as an alternative to a candelabra and can be suspended from a ceiling light, if necessary.
There's the new breed of fire that does not require any installation and is powered by smokeless, fume free ethanol. These can be used indoors or outdoors and offer an opportunity to have a flickering fire in places where there is no chimney. Placed in a hallway or entrance, they are immensely welcoming.
This year in particular may be a year when a "thought about" gift is more important as nobody wants to waste money. Sometimes, an inexpensive item when personalised or presented in a special way can have more impact than an expensive
gift that is not really wanted or useful. Let your imagination
go wild. For example, a little chocolate in an origami paper boat floating on the water in a bowl could look enchanting or a key ring hanging on a plant or flower stem.
As we always say, use beautiful smelling candles to evoke the Christmas spirit. Talking of which, please don't forget the Christmas spirit...mulled wine or eggnog (served in vintage cups) for your family and friends.
Janet Baker owns Gimbals restaurant in Sowerby Bridge with her husband Simon. They are both gifted chefs, but Janet also has an incredible talent for original and quirky interior design, as diners at Gimbals will testify.
Christmas is her favourite time of year and her festive tables and room trimmings mix antiques and vintage pieces to stunning effect. Her restaurant windows are talk of the town and this year she has hung vintage paper bells at different heights.
"A friend of mine has a fantastic balloon and party shop in the market at Sowerby Bridge and she found the bells in the store room there and gave them to me. They're from the 1960s or 70s," says Janet, whose favourite hunting ground for antiques is the Caldene Antiques Centre in Mytholmroyd.
Here, Janet shares some more Christmas decorating ideas:
My Christmas table this year is quite sumptuous and it reminds me of the things you find in your grandma's top cupboard, the sort of things she only brings out on special occasions. It's the glitz and goodies you don't have on a daily basis. There's a lot of rich red colour and it's got a very Victorian look. There's also a lot going on, so hopefully, every time you look up you can see something different.
The table runner is actually my 1920s scarf which has little bits of metal in it. I've put it on a white table cloth, though if you don't have one it could just as easily be could be a white sheet.
I've put the cheese, nuts, dates, figs, oranges and pomegranates on pressed glass cake stands all around the table. The stands are really cheap in charity shops and antique shops and they also add a bit of height to the table. The pomegranates are great and the children can enjoy picking at them between courses.
The centrepiece is real twigs and berries with little vintage, glass baubles hung from them. I've put them in a pressed glass vase I found at the antiques centre for 7. I took my sons Charlie and Louis out in the snow to collect the twigs and we had great fun. The twigs don't dominate and you can see through the gaps in them, so they don't obscure the view to the other side of the table.
I've decorate the light over the table too with curled, hanging ribbon that I buy from a brilliant place in Hebden Bridge called the Ribbon Circus (www.ribboncircus.com). I've added separate crystals from old chandeliers – you can often find these in antique shops, and little baubles and some vintage Christmas lightbulbs that I use as baubles.
I bought really good quality beeswax candles from Toast (www.toast.co.uk) this year. They aren't cheap but they look beautiful and they smell faintly of honey. I found some inexpensive, old, cut glass salt dishes, which make great candle holders. They were only 1 each from the antiques centre.
The napkin holders are homemade from ribbon, baubles and a bunch of redcurrants. You can nibble on the redcurrants between courses.
I've decorated a mirror with some alliums I dried out and sprayed with fake snow.
I've bought my crackers from Toast this year and they are pricey, but the gifts are lovely. I have made my own in the past, buying cheaper crackers and opening them up and putting a better, personalised gift and a joke in.
I've been collecting old decanters all year. I make my own damson gin and pour it into the decanters for presents and to sell in the restaurant.
I always make my own advent cans instead of a calendar for my sons Charlie and Louis and they love it. I save up old tins and paint them blue and white and put gifts in each one. One day it might be a chocolate, another day it's a little vintage boat. They're just little things costing a pound or two.
Marks and Spencer
Window dressers at Marks and Spencer's Briggate store in Leeds, have this advice:
Add warmth and mood to your home by grouping together a selection of different height candles surrounded by decorations or pine cones.
Get that cosy Christmas feeling by adding festive soft furnishings to your sitting room. We chose the red and white Fair Isle throw and the Noel cushion. These won't date and you can use them year after year.
Hang baubles from lengths of ribbon along a mirror to give a modern, contemporary look to any room and to double the effect.
For something extra special at
Christmas dinner time tie baubles
with ribbon to the backs of dining
chairs. This is very simple but
Bring some fun to Christmas lunch by using novelty festive crockery. You can't use it all year round but you will use it every Christmas.
YP MAG 11/12/10