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Deck Your Halls: expert tips on how to dress your home for Christmas

This festive season, we asked three local experts for their top tips on how to dress a show-stopping dinner table, decorate a fake or fir tree and make a Christmas wreath. With advice from Harvey Nichols Bristol’s display manager, The Mount Without’s award-winning stylist and Bouquets For Days’ owner, we delved into the intricate art of tablescaping and discovered how to keep those fairy lights tangle-free…

1. Dress Your Table

Ask the expert: Kirsten Butler, award-winning stylist at performance and event venue The Mount Without

Whether you’re cooking a dinner with all the trimmings, having friends bring a dish each, ordering-in, or just gathering around for an impromptu bite to eat, here are four simple tips for styling a festive table. It’s all about layering up the details…. and these details can be shop bought, hired-in or even handmade.

Create with colour – and start with the linen
Picking a colour palette will help when choosing decorations, linen and tableware. You may have a look that is traditional each year or you may want to change it up and go for something totally different. Take inspiration from your home, the colours that you love, your soft furnishings – what colours make you feel calm, happy and festive? A great place to start is with the linen – a tablecloth or runner is the first layer and the base for everything else to go on top of.

Consider your centrepiece
If you have a rectangular table then adding foliage down the centre always looks (and smells) great. You can forage for this, buy from a florist or there are some great faux garlands that you can use year after year. If you have a round table then a flower arrangement, lantern or festive decoration can fit in without it being overbearing. Remember to keep any centrepieces below the eyeline so you can chat across the table easily and ensure there is enough room for any sharing dishes.

Let there be light
A must for the festive season! This can range from tealights to tiny fairy lights to tapered dinner candles or pillar candles. Whichever you choose, candles can be incorporated into the centrepiece as well as around the home to give a warm and cosy feel. For those feeling more ambitious, have a go at drilling candle holes into an offcut of wood (pictured right). It could be used many times over for different occasions and you could even paint it different colours depending on the occasion

Upgrade your glassware and cutlery – go for the wow factor
What is going to greet your guests when they sit down? Are you having different china, glassware or cutlery? It’s easy to hire-in so how about leaving the everyday stuff in the drawers and cupboards and using something different? Gold cutlery with gold rim glassware always adds that wow factor to your table. Also, think about napkins that tie in with your colour palette – you can fold and lay these between the cutlery. Adding a name tag is always a personal touch – especially when it’s handwritten. Nestle in a homemade decoration or sprig of mistletoe and you have a lovely festive touch for your guests.

saintmichaelonthemountwithout.com; littleweddinghelper.co.uk

2. Style Your Tree

Ask the expert: Lydia Hayward, display manager at Harvey Nichols Bristol

If you prefer to use a natural tree, I always make sure that once out of its net, you leave it for 24 hours to naturally fall into place. This allows the tree to relax into its shape before being decorated. I prefer to use an artificial tree as they are generally fuller and the pines don’t drop. To make sure they look full, fluff out each branch starting at the bottom and work your way to the top. I bend all the branches upwards slightly as this gives the best support for decorations.

Style it out

Step 1: Fluff the tree – this takes around 45 minutes for a 7ft tree.

Step 2: Add fairy lights – I personally prefer a soft yellow light as this gives a warm glow.

Step 3: Add the more decorative baubles, larger at the bottom.

Step 4: Use the extra baubles to fill the spaces.

Step 5: Ribbons are a nice alternative to tinsel – I always add ribbon last to fill any sparse areas.

Keep the lights tangle-free
To stop the lights from getting tangled, I wind them around an empty wrapping paper tube. Make a cut in one end, tuck the cable in, then wrap the lights around the tube in one direction. When putting the lights back on the tree, you can unravel them straight from the tube, placing them on to the tree as you walk around it, tucking them into the branches as you go.

Adorn your tree
I always start with the most precious decorations first, putting the larger baubles at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. I always place my favourites at the front. I then use the more basic baubles to fill the gaps. If you have baubles of the same style, make sure these are not grouped together.

Secure the star
I use nylon thread to make sure my star is secure. I also use this to tie on decorations as I don’t like to see the string of the baubles.

Think festive, fun and fanciful
I always make sure my tree is balanced with it surroundings so it doesn’t look out of place. Colour, and unique decorations, are always crowd pleasers. However, if you have more traditional taste then a classic gold, red and green works well. To create a Christmas feeling in your home, make homemade decorations, candied oranges and dried cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon – or even baked salt dough, painted and glossed, can look really effective.

Embrace the space
I love to decorate the mantel piece using garlands and baubles. I keep to the same theme as the tree to help tie the room together. Candles are a nice way to create a Christmassy atmosphere too – I use cinnamon and berry scents.

Dream of a green Christmas
You can purchase eco-friendly tinsel, or even buy paper tinsel to be more environmentally friendly. Paper garlands or ribbon can look more lux than plastic tinsel.

Go big in small spaces
I think even having a mini, thinner tree in a small space adds that festive feeling. If there isn’t room for a tree of any kind, then creating a festive window or mantel piece is also a nice way to add some Christmas magic to your home.


3. Create Your Wreath

Ask the expert: Ellie Jones, owner of independent florist Bouquets for Days

Making your own Christmas wreath is super simple and there are really only two golden rules to remember; always move in the same direction with your foliage, if you start going in reverse you’ll get in a muddle, and you’re making a wreath not a clock, so be sure to arrange your accessories in a way which doesn’t then look like numbers on a face. Here are five simple steps to help you on your way…

Step 1: To start, you need your base. I use a plastic free set up of moss packed onto a wire frame.

Step 2: Once your frame is ready, you can move onto attaching your foliage. Gather together a small bundle of mixed foliage, sprigs of fir and spruce are really long lasting and will remain fresh for weeks so these are my preference when it comes to foliage, but you can also use any dried leaves that you may have to hand. Wire the stems of this bundle onto the moss base.

Step 3: Gather another bundle of the same size and wire these over the stems of the bundle you’ve just secured. In this way, as you move around your wreath you’re covering the stems of each bundle and the result is a ring of foliage tips without a stem in sight. Remember to cover the sides of your wreath as well as the front, you want it to look good from all angles, and keep working in the same direction, right to the final joining bundle which you’ll tuck underneath.

Step 4: Once your base is covered in foliage, you’re then ready to attach the accessories and get your wreath looking festive. Whether you’re using dried fruit, fir cones, cinnamon sticks, dried flowers, seed heads, feathers, baubles, ribbons or anything else, the process is the same; attach a wire to the accessory, place it where you want
it to sit and then thread the wire through the wreath and fold it back into the moss base like a wire stitch. The best way to achieve visual balance is to work with odd numbers: if you have two fir cones it’s easy to accidentally end up with one either side of your wreath, glaring at you like eager eyes so try working with three or five instead and get creative.

Step 5: Once everything is attached, step back and decide where the top of your wreath is and create a wire or twine loop from which to hang your wreath. Make sure this loop goes around your base frame to ensure it’s secure enough to withstand winter storms if you’re making your wreath for outside.
Et voilà! Give yourself a pat on the back, then get hanging.

Ellie is selling her own Christmas wreaths for delivery across Bristol as well as taking private commissions for bespoke designs. She is also holding a wreath-making workshop at PRIOR in Quakers Friars on 2 December, 7–9pm, and 4 December, 3.30–6.30pm, £48 per person. Find out more at: bouquetsfordays.co.uk