As we end the year with Brexit uncertainties and chilly predictions of economic turmoil, we are in dire need of some comfort and joy.
It’s why we should make the most of December, which offers the perfect excuse to bring some seasonal warmth and festive fun into our homes.
The shops are full to bursting with decorations that have become ever more creative so, even if your budget is small, it’s worth staging a shopping trip to pick up some good ideas. The big stores, such as Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols and John Lewis, are all dressed for Christmas. Anthropologie in the new Victoria Gate Centre in Leeds is always inventive as are garden centres and independent shops and galleries. The Country Living Christmas Fair in Harrogate, on today and tomorrow, also offers a feast of inspiration as it features lots of designer makers and handmade items.
For those who want a fresh look for their Christmas tree, John Lewis is running “treetorials” in its Leeds store every Thursday at 6pm until December 22.
Here, James Prince, head of John Lewis Leeds, gives his tips for creating a show-stopping tree and we add some advice on window dressing, crafting, cushions and lighting
*When it comes to selecting the right tree, says James: “You first need to carefully consider how much space you have at home. If space is limited, slim trees such as our Slender Spruce or Pencil Pine are good choices. As for the look, choose a theme. This year our Ostravia, Ruskin House, Chamonix and Shangri-la themes all call for lavish dressing, while Snowshill and Helsinki are delicate and contemporary.
“When adding lights, the trick is to start from the bottom up and try to space them out as evenly as you can. Copper wire lights are a key trend this year.
“A good tip is to buy tree decorations in multiples to make your tree look harmonious. Glass baubles, like the John Lewis crackle glass baubles at £2.50 each, are an inexpensive base to start with. Flower and foliage stems and garlands are also a brilliant way of adding new shapes, textures and direction, while making the tree appear fuller. Scentsicles, which are scented decorations, are a fragrant addition.
“If you have an artificial tree, don’t forget to double over the very top branch to create a really secure perch for your tree topper.”
*Window dressing: Lights tacked around the edge of window always look warm and welcoming but can be fiddly. Much easier are large, stand-alone willow or twig stars with battery-operated fairy lights wrapped around them. Live Laugh Love, have them for £14.95. You can do the same with a Strala paper star, £4 from Ikea.
*Christmas cosy: Hygge, the Danish art of living cosily, is having a positive effect on our interiors. Blankets and throws over the arms of the chairs and sofas are an invitation to snuggle and there are plenty of winter-themed versions. Ikea has a snowflake-covered fleece throw for £7 and House of Fraser has a Linea polar bear throw for £60. Check out Yorkshire Blankets on Etsy.com. The Barnsley-based makers have eco-friendly, 80 per cent wool throws from £14 and matching heart-shaped wreaths made from blanket off-cuts for £20. Sheepskin rugs are also making a comeback thanks to Hygge.
*Lights: Fairy lights everywhere, including the hall and the stairs, are a must, as are Christmas scented candles. Whimsical wooden and ceramic tealight houses are increasingly popular. Put a candle inside and the flickering flame makes it look like someone is home.
*Cushions: Christmas cushions are everywhere this year and range from the tacky to tasteful. Their popularity looks set to reign as they really do add comfort and joy to a room and area quick and easy festive décor fix. John Lewis has a good selection as does Mark & Spencer. For budget buys look in Wilko, www.wilko.com and Poundland.
*Crafting and makers: Christmas is a great excuse to get crafting. All you need is some felt, cotton and a needle to make decorations for the tree and some paper and scissors to make giant paper stars and snowflakes. You can buy miniature festive scenes in jars but they are also easy to make using jam jars, cotton wool for snow and plastic Christmas cake decorations, such as snow-tipped trees, reindeer and snowmen. You can find the latter at www.craftcompany.co.uk. The Hobbycraft blog is a good source of projects, blog.hobbycraft.co.uk, as is Pinterest.com.
*Don’t forget to support designer makers. Find their work in independent shops, galleries and fairs. Online stores, such as Folksy.com, Etsy.com and Notonthehighstreet.co.uk are also good hunting grounds.
*Festive greenery: To decorate a mantelpiece, drape the ivy in swags anchored by sprigs of holly, add baubles then weave fairy lights among the foliage and add a few cinnamon sticks. You can also cut star shapes from ivy, tape them onto garden twine and use as a garland.
*Personalisation is a key trend this Christmas and includes everything from bespoke baubles and named sacks to personalised Play-Doh. John Lewis has a number of festive items that can be personalised this season. Designer makers are also excellent at this kind of bespoke service. Find them on Folksy.com, Etsy.com and Notonthehighstreet.co.uk.
The Country Living Christmas Fair at Harrogate International Centre today and tomorrow is also a great place to find personalised products and interesting new homeware and gifts. Tickets are £11 each. For details www.countrylivingfair.com.