Have yourself a real homespun Christmas

Reindeer bolster cushion, €20, M&S.

Step away from tack, writes Kya deLongchamps, and embrace all things folk for a fairytale Christmas.

The multi-coloured blaze of modern Christmas decorations would all but take your eye out. Once the hour ticks over midnight to the Dec 26, the gaudy invaders look instantly dusty and faintly ridiculous. What about something truly seasonal?

Decorate to warm and illuminate the darker days of winter, (the Pagan inspiration for this time of feasting and gathered light), but with a gentle, muted, less synthetic finish.

Evict the tree, and most of these rustic players could comfortably lodge about the shelves and mantles until the days lengthen into spring.

Folk style is about a home-spun, handmade look. For Christmas surrounds, it takes its inspiration in part from the naïve motifs, prints, natural materials, and the nostalgic simplicity of a Northern European rural Christmas.

If you like Skandium, Ikea, reindeer jumpers, Kirstie Alsopp’s Home Made Home, (Channel 4), and a touch of environmental feelgood factor, a folksy Christmas is an ideal escape from strangulation by lametta.


Themes: Don’t leap to purely Christmas characters — hold fast to the ideal of darkest winter in a moonlit forest. The Twelve Days of Christmas has a good run down of festive creatures and characters.

Try woodland elements of animals, trees, cottages with their windows alight, starlight, and snow.

Surreal folk animals and woollen capped children are everywhere in cartoonish form for the more sentimental.

In inspirational design classics, my pick would be the magnificent porcelain of Iitalla designer Klaus Haapaniemi’s in the Taika (magic) series of owls and curious trees in sapphire blues and white, available at Ambientedirect.com at around €28 for a cup and saucer and €68 for an heirloom bowl.

Animals/dolls: Deer are pronking through the shops this year in every conceivable guise from majestic photo-print reindeer throws and candle snuffers, to groovy life-size wall mounted MDF heads to make yourself by Miho of Germany.

Ideal for raising laughter on the day, they will survive bold and beautiful all year long. From €24.90 at zuloh.com. The fox, a creature of fables and stories, is also dressing cushions, tea-towels, and standing alone in primitive sculpture. If you want some human character, look for the iconic lead painted Russian doll, part of a whole line of goods in Marks and Spencer&.

Hand-made/home-spun: Now of course it doesn’t have to be handmade, but it should look handmade, and if you can stretch to handmade — well goodie for you. In soft furnishings, such as cushions or stuffed decorative pieces, look for rough spun materials with large visible stitches or chunky appliqué.

Attempt some simple embroidery, a doddle in kit form. Edge old white sheets and plain sheers with a red velvet braid or bobble trim for window or table-cloth.

Add a block print in fabric paint in a simple motif. Warm throws in primary colours and wide band tartans in 100% Irish lambs wool are the natural companions of holly, candlelight and traditional festive accessories.

Keep ornaments for the tree to wood, glass, (cheat with resins and plastic) and porcelain in a bare fret-cut style, with simple flat painting and a low glitter count. We love Belleek Living tree ornaments, (from the Kilkenny Shop and other outlets nationwide), for their lacy hearts, birds, and deer — so beautiful, who could stand to put them away come the New Year? Around €10 to €15 a piece.

Paper decorations can provide hours of family activity. Browse Pinterest.com for the best of very best ideas for the tree, garlands and more, using paper, card-stock and wallpaper samples. If you’re just too sophisticated to glue up a paper chain, take heart from Petra Boase divine paper snowflakes and spikes — the cat walk of laser cut creativity. From €2.50 to €7 each. Petraboase.com.

Comfort with colour: This year, pure wood-hewn Scandi-folk, has been cheekily warmed up with the colour of some 1970s yeah-baby-yeah, celebrating new graphics, colours, and European retro.

Poster paint blue, red, and green can all speak Christmas without effort. Still, there’s nothing to stop you taking to on-trend folksy teal, blue based greens, mustard yellows, and burnt orange — all honest, country colours typical of a muted winter garden, and using natural dyes. Fresh checks and bosomy flower motifs usually reserved for spring can all come out and play. If you long for some metallic reflections, red and green will sit more easily with gold. Blue with silver is fresh and uplifting, but don’t get your knickers in a yuletide twist.

A reasonable harmony of naturally accrued things old and new is comfortable and unpretentious. If you keep to a largely white or off-white ground and just add berry red, teal or a deep green, you’ll be ringing out that seasonal flair.

Less being more: Decorating more sparely but with great key pieces is tasteful frugality and it doesn’t cost as much as an hysterical, glitter-ball Christmas. I’ll admit to giving up on a real tree in favour of very large bare wind-felled branch that my daughter and I paint up outside, daubing in grey and lichen colours, and frosty white, before cheering up clear ‘crystal’ ornaments, wooden soldiers (both Euro shop steals) and stars cut from last year’s cards. Without a single light, our Christmas branch has a strange, architectural loveliness for us anyway — oh — and it’s free.

LED lighting is both safer and more brilliant than incandescent light. Push aside the disco flashers for generic winter fairy lights in white or a single colour wound around ordinary objects and architectural details such as mantles and stair-rods.

For a quick fix of nature’s bounty, put together favourite ornaments, candles, a sculpture, a bowl of fruit in a garland of winter greenery, (culled from the garden), or faked frosted leaves and berries, with their promise of spring, at this most beloved holiday.


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