High-street cheats to achieve that classical Christmas look

Kya deLongchamps says a naturally inspired traditional Christmas is marked by crafted input, a fantastic scent and rarely flashes on a circuit.

A contemporary rustic Christmas style has emerged from the weary tartan bows, atrophied robins and tinkling brass bells to a more elegant, restrained woodland dream.

Warning — there’s something loud and blazing, dubiously charming and rudely dubbed ‘Kitschmas’, doing the rounds this year. It’s a-flutter with sugar pink flamingoes perched on a white plastic Christmas tree. Come with me instead, and let your natural Christmas DIY talents shine (alright — also including a few high-street cheats!)

Naturals love Neutrals

Those grey, white and bone pale walls are the perfect backdrop for rich natural boughs of greenery, bare wood branches, pure snow white candles, and the dull golds and silver decorating of a soft Nordic-style edit.

Authentic pine cones, hessian stockings, paper garlands and painted traditional 19th century-inspired ornaments can be found at any Tiger Store or Euro outlet, and finds from the forest floor on those family walks.

For winter bouquets and sprays, add a discreet cheat with Gisella Graham’s 55cm berry and mistletoe snow frosted stems from Debenhams, tangling them through plain evergreen foliage from the garden.
€10 each at debenhams.ie.

For those with true courage, interior
decorators vouch for vast features for 2017 — suspending porcelain branches over dining tables, and complete branches of sappy pine swaged up around the walls as reconstituted mural Christmas trees or framing paintings and mirrors right to the ceiling in vertical garlands.

Get those crafty kids into paper

Sorry to come over all Walton’s Mountain, but let’s remember Christmas is a time to get together. 

Old style glue and crafting provides not only unique decorations, but plenty of hilarity along the way. Take a look at the fabulous simple things you can make in under an hour for next to nothing with online video guides.

Fold out impressive large Christmas 3D starbursts and snowflakes with striped sweetie and kebab bags — follow the delicious Emma Scott-Child at KickAss Crafts from Ladyland on Youtube. youtube.com/channel/UCLvfUeSYP4wwpNNiYhYQI1w.

Cut up last year’s cards into stars with the younger elves using paper scissors. Assemble a Christmas tree on a wall anywhere with old cards, set corners out and draped in battery LEDs.

Christmas table centrepieces

From fruit to fresh flowers and twisted snowy branches spiked with candles — every reasonably-sized table can carry a centrepiece for the high days of Christmas. 

Work with the shape of the table and ensure the display doesn’t interfere with the real estate necessary for feasting and the vital eye-line of guests. My personal favourite is a frameless mirror laid as a glittering pond flat on the table surface and set with fat white candles, florist’s moss and fringes of fir cuttings.

For added shine, scatter some flat glass pebbles over the mirror surface. Snow spray can add frosting to leaves, flower and timber, and adds foxing to glass, from €2.99 a can, Dealz.

Meadows & Byrnes Taper Candle trays (€5-€10) are a stunning versatile centrepiece vessel for the season.€45-€98, meadowsandbyrne.com. Real Irish linen and clear glass — simply a cracker.

Tree tops

Amid the faux firs this year are faux bares, such as Paul Costello’s pre-lit trees for Dunnes Stores (€70). These contemporary takes cannot shake a twig at what you can do with one or several stout fallen branches — real and bare. The shape of the whole, its colour and the texture of bark will be its signature.

Alternatively, dry the wood out completely with a week or so in the garage, before painting up with a chill sheen of children’s white poster paint. Graze the finish with a little blue and yellow ‘lichen’ and set it in a corner or a container with hefty rocks to hold it utterly steady before winding in white LEDs and decorating with wool, ribbon, straw twist baubles, paper stars and pine cones.

Create gentle drifting stain glass windows of citrus slices dried out in a very slow oven and suspended on ribbon. Back in Dunnes, redirect your spare change to Caroline Donnelly’s metal Cable cars, Puddings, Trucks and her Bird ornament with articulate dangly legs — and just €3 a piece.

Alternative ornaments and trim

Arm yourself with dozens of cardboard luggage labels fitted with real twine, plus gold and silver or thick glitter decorating pens (€13.30 for 5 from Baker Ross or try Eason’s). 

Use the labels to add individual wishes to your Christmas tree, written out by young and old or even visiting guests. The prayer or wish idea can be done with a simple wrap of colourful wool or ribbon left by the principal tree or a special secondary, Wish Tree to add over the holiday.

For garlands use thick twine twisted or plaited up into a nice rope, tying on tiny Christmas trees, birds, Santa hats and stars. Use sprigs of faux foliage, flowers, wooden clothes pegs and small pine cones between the hanging labels, and add anywhere from a table edge in the hall, to over a picture or draped on a bed head or end.

Light Magic

It’s easy to be dazzled by the choice in mains-operated lighting, but white no-flash light set on green really cannot be beaten for its pure elegance, and you can use those bright sparks all year for other celebrations too.

Battery operated LED fairy lights crammed into glass jars provide safe glowing lanterns for stair edges, hall tables and even children’s rooms, and at €1.99 a string from any Euro store are my pick for budget-beautiful decorating.

Choose light strings with clear wire casings to blend into foliage. Ikea’s Strala gift-package light with its crisp bow in white can sit on the floor by a sofa, add drama to a hall, or in the smaller version add glow to a side table, €16/€12.

For a natural candle to infuse luxuriant essential oils in a safe soy base, try Soilse. An Irish blend of cinnamon cloves, orange and cranberry.

€18.95, soilsecandlecompany.ie.


Once explored, it’s hard to buy into the latest media rave for Swedish ‘lagom’ at Christmas. 

It’s an old-fashioned at best, and scolding at worst. Even championed by Ikea — it doesn’t translate. The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as — ‘enough, sufficient, adequate, just right.’ 

Balance and restraint? Not something we Irish are known for in the glitter-spangled excesses surrounding the blessed yuletide event.

It’s a principal rather than the polite Danish directive to simple, rustic cosiness encapsulated in Danish ‘hygge’.

Lagom is a much more exacting state of being, rooted in a deeply-valued, personal and political doctrine — it’s social fairness, understatement and consideration in material things. 

It reaches towards a determined, sustainable frugality and indulgent treats and chucking ornaments over every surface is not egalitarian Lagom.

Adhering to its true Lutheran spirit would be positively oppressive. It’s best expression is in folksy Christmas cards, modest wrapping and fish-rich julebord edged in saffron buns. 

English born blogger Niki Brantmark, who lives near Malmo in Southern Sweden is largely responsible for selling Lagom as a concept in the UK & Ireland, but when it comes to interiors she dives into hygge like a happy Dane! myscandinavianhome.com.

Old school ornaments

Try to dry any fruit as much as possible before using the oven. Slice and pat with kitchen paper repeatedly. The juicier ones will dry out, it just takes a little longer.

Three-quarter inch slices of orange, lime and lemon are about right. Use a sharp knife to prevent squashing the fruit while cutting.

Cut apples so that the core makes an attractive star at the centre, leave pips in. For citrus, cut across the segments, remove pips.

Set your oven to about 100C, and plan for around 3-4 hours depending on the type and thickness of the slices. Better too moist and still coloured than too dry. Finish on a sunny windowsill if needs be.

Tiny apples if you can find some, can be wired and hung for the season. Give them a good polish for shine.

For slashed whole fruit (see image), cut citrus fruits from the top to bottom 6-8 times spacing the cuts evenly.

Don’t cut through the ends. Skewer two or three top to bottom on a metal kitchen skewer before setting on a wire rack to dry in the oven.

Try peeling whole citrus fruit in one spiral. Then just dry the one piece of curly peel.

Mix up small whole citrus like satsuma with slices of fruit threaded onto raffia, ribbon or string.

Great for the tree or hung around the house. Spike with whole cloves for a glorious smell!

More in this Section

Sale away into January with discounts on home interiors


New father’s life ‘changed forever’ after he was run over by surgeon

The biggest cancer killer will take your breath away

Hopefully she had an idea...

Power of the press: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks discuss 'The Post'

More From The Irish Examiner