Three trees are the stars of the show when this Ilkley designer does Christmas at home

Interior designer Ann Marie Cousins spends hours decorating her Ilkley home for Christmas and the result is stunning

One of the sitting rooms with the mantlepiece decked with candles
One of the sitting rooms with the mantlepiece decked with candles

After working flat out designing and implementing schemes and sourcing products for other people, interior designer Ann Marie Cousins admits: “I’d quite like fairies to do Christmas for me”.

As finding the little folk has beaten even the most determined, she has set to, as she always does, following a formula that she implements every festive season. Almost all the trimming up revolves around three enormous trees with the tallest standing 13ft high in the hall of her large Victorian house in Ilkley.

There is also a nine foot high one in the sitting room and a seven foot tree in the playroom. All are artificial and pre-lit with warm white lights. “I have artificial ones because the children like them up on December 1 and I don’t think real ones would last into January,” says Ann Marie, who adds: “It takes about two hours to build the biggest one in the hall and five hours to decorate it.”

A White Company wreath was the ponly one big enough for the extra large door

It also takes scores of tree decorations to fill it, the best of which are high up out of harm’s way. The theme for the hall’s faux fir is red, white and silver, with Ann Marie’s treasured Jonathan Adler and Swarovski crystal decorations on display near the top. The six large boxes of baubles and decorations for this tree get a little more full each year as one of the family’s festive customs is to buy a few more pre-Christmas. The latest are from the York Minster shop.

“I’ve learned that hanging them on the end of the branches isn’t enough with a tree that big. So I push some further back which adds depth to the whole look,” says Ann Marie.

The sitting room whose predominant colour is pink has its tree trimmed with teal, green, purple and gold decorations. The Christmas tree in the playroom is the one the children, aged 12, nine and six, are allowed to trim however they choose.

“I let them go mad in there and so I can keep the other trees a bit more grown up,” says Ann Marie, who also found a place for one of her husband David’s best buys – a pre-lit stag’s head from the middle aisle at Aldi. It looks perfect against the navy wall in the snug. As the front door is enormous, the average 40cm wreath looked too small so a 60cm everlasting one from the White Company has proved a good investment.

Passers-by can see the tree in the window

Many of the family’s normal traditions have had to be abandoned this year, including the pre-Christmas trip to Ann Marie’s native Ireland and having friends round, which is sad because the house is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

It reflects Ann Marie’s love of colour, pattern and texture and few can match her skill in blending them to such great effect. Her home is the perfect showcase for her talents with daring combinations that few would attempt for fear of failure.

A former lawyer who followed her heart to retrain in interior design, she has been in demand since opening her business, AMC Design, seven years ago. “Not everyone has the confidence to use colour and pattern, which is why they come to me. I can provide ideas they may never have thought of and push them to be bolder. It’s really all about

giving rooms more personality while reflecting the preferences of my clients,” she says.

The reindeer was a bargain buy from Aldi

While interiors trends still come and go, she believes that the use of rich colours is here to stay. “They really suit Yorkshire homes because the Northern light is cold. They help bring warmth and interest. I also think that people have realised how soothing and enveloping they can be, especially this year.”

While colour abounds, the fashion for everything grey seems to be fading, though its use as a standard neutral instead of white or cream is the new norm. For those who can’t run to the expense of replacing big ticket items like grey carpets and sofas, Ann Marie suggests adding colourful throws, rugs and a bright ottoman.

Spending big on interiors shot up in lockdown and that looks set to continue. “People have realised the importance of their home and maximising the efficiency of it and they are investing in it. That is one of the few positives that have come out of Covid,” she adds.

Her own six-bedroom home is picture perfect thanks to a comprehensive refurbishment after she and David bought it in 2011. With the help of Richard Addenbrook of Sense of Space Architects, she reconfigured the internal space, designed a basement room and converted the attic.The whole place was also insulated, rewired, replumbed and reroofed before Ann Marie dressed it.

The children were allowed to decorate this tree in their playroom exactly how they wanted.

The work took the property from 2,800 sq ft to 3,700 sq ft and gave it a heart in the form of a huge living kitchen, created by combining the old kitchen and dining room. “I was thinking about moving again but lockdown changed my mind,” says Ann Marie. “I realised how lucky I was to have a lot of space, especially as both David and I realised we can work more from home. The children also love having lots of room for friends and it is a great place to have at Christmas.”

*AMC Design, Ilkley, Heidi Marfitt Photography,

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The top of the hall tree reaches up the double-height stairway
Interior designer Ann Marie Cousins is best known for her clever use of colour and pattern