The dos and don’ts of Christmas decorating

Why is the so-called holiday season anything but a holiday?

It seems we run ourselves ragged for weeks in advance of Christmas with shopping lists, cooking plans, cleaning schedules and above all, stressing and fretting.

Then there’s the decorating which involves staggering on dodgy step ladders to pin swags of tinsel to the ceiling that you end up picking off carpets and upholstery for months. So this year, let’s try to take the hard work out of it and opt for something simpler.

As it happens, there’s no single in-vogue decorating style but if there’s a common thread, it’s not to overdo it. Instead, do little and do it well.

Start with a tree, the mainstay of any Christmas decorating scheme. I have a personal preference for the real thing, ideally a Norway Spruce with its tightly spaced branches on which your baubles stand out. But there tends to be fewer of these around in the past while, which leaves the ubiquitous Noble Fir always to be found — even on Christmas Eve. It can be on the scrawny side and not as successful at providing a dense backdrop to show off your ornaments.

If you’re planning to put the tree up in November and expect it to look good on January 6, best opt for an artificial one. Something notional like a twig tree works in contemporary spaces, or opt for all-white against neutral décor. Add a few peach or fleshy toned baubles to take the chill out of the look.

And in the house, focus attention on certain areas that can be decorated easily and without ornaments causing clutter. Try the banisters and fireplace mantelpiece. Both lend themselves very well to decorating without changes or additions getting in the way of the purpose they normally serve.

Something as simple as a string of white lights threaded through the spindles of the banisters is eye-catching and cheery when you open your front door to visitors. Just make sure you have a convenient electrical socket at the top or foot of the stairs, or opt for battery operated versions.

The mantelpiece with its roaring fire beneath, is a fantastic platform to display candles, to drape a swag of foliage, or a selection of your favourite Christmas ornaments. Make it as minimalist or busy as you wish, but if you are opting for the latter, make sure you have a variety of shapes, heights and textures. For a contemporary mantelpiece, display a run of candlesticks of varying shapes and heights. If they are backed by a wall mirror, the flames will reflect and create a doubly romantic and cosy feel.

This year the all-white candle arrangement is replaced by colour. Red has been revived, gold and silver are adding some glitz, and green set in silver candlesticks is the newcomer.

Where there’s an obligation to satisfy family expectations, which usually includes giving prominence to a few gaudy and well-loved baubles, mix them up with Christmas cards, snow globes and stockings which will keep these items from cluttering other surfaces needed when entertaining.

* Next week we’re looking for perfect and affordable gifts for the home


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