How 4 Interior Designers Switch It Up Over The Festive Season

The stretch between Christmas and New Year can often feel long and unpunctuated – which is why it’s nice to differentiate the days by mixing up the décor, food and music. And who better to ask than the interiors experts? Here’s how four of them change it up throughout the season…
By Georgina Blaskey /

Bee Osborn

Interior Designer, Osborn Interiors

“Christmas Eve is all about prepping for the food and festivities to come. I start by making a fish pie for supper to keep things simple. Then, we all pull together to get a head start on the Christmas lunch, with carols playing in the background. Two of my three daughters are very into cooking, so they’ll often want to introduce something new to the table – whether it’s a new way with sprouts or red cabbage. When it comes to the stuffing, however, I have two failsafe recipes; my favourite contains apricots and lemons – it’s fresh and zingy and I love it. I keep the turkey in the boot of the car from the day I buy it to free up space in the fridge and it usually stays nice and cool in there.

“I like get stuck into some homemade cracker sets on Christmas Eve. I also lay the table the night before and use embroidered mini stockings as place settings; inside each one I pop something specific to that person – for example, a hand cream or a miniature spirit. At 5pm we all go to the family service at a nearby church, filling our Thermos flasks with mulled wine to enjoy on the walk there. When we get back, it’s fish pie on our laps and an early night.

“On Christmas Day I get the turkey out the boot and cover it in butter and bacon. Then, I light the fire and it’s time for champagne and stockings, followed by scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Once the lunch is in hand, we’ll take a long walk, watch the King’s speech and then sit down to eat. Only after lunch do we open presents. My whole family love to play games, especially charades, Who’s In The Bag (a famous person guessing game) and the Book Game, which involves some inventive writing and strategy. After that we crash out and watch TV.

“Boxing Day is all about relaxing – PJs for a very long, lazy morning, followed by bubble and squeak and a buffet-style grazing table including cheese and chutneys, homemade coleslaw and salad. There’s always a walk with the dogs, too, and music plays all day. I never do anything special for New Year’s Eve – I always prefer to be cosy at home, enjoying a few glasses of champagne and reflecting on the year that’s been and the one to come.”

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CHRISTOPHER HORWOOD

Olympia & Ariadne Irving

Co-Founders, Carolina Irving & Daughters

“The advent calendar of our childhood kicks off the month – it’s a lovely tradition that builds our anticipation. We’re also obsessed with Christmas ornaments. Last year we bought lots in Naples, which we now use to decorate our Christmas table and fireplace. Our tree lights are always on, with Christmas classics playing in the background and a nice bottle of champagne in our Ice & Wine Bucket. The tree is the most exciting part of Christmas. We don’t like themed trees – we prefer mixing ornaments from all over the world. We also use faux clip-on candles to give it that ‘Nutcracker’ look, too. Lighting is crucial – we use candles all over the house and Christmas lights and tinsel over the doors, mantelpieces and mirrors. Christmas Eve dinner mainly consists of oysters in our big Gigi Platter, decorated with seaweed, just like a Dutch still life. It’s usually a lighter meal ahead of the feast the next day. We’ll then play cards or watch a film and have an early night.

 

 

“Christmas morning starts with bullshots (a cocktail made with vodka, beef bouillon and Worcester sauce) and breakfast while we open presents. We clear up and start preparing lunch. We keep it traditional with turkey and potato gratin and a chestnut purée. Once again, the Christmas music is on. At 1pm, guests arrive and we serve champagne and smoked salmon on bread, presented on our Anna Octagonal Platters. We go all out with our Christmas table. We use a mix of candlesticks of different heights – either our ScallopWaves or Concha candlesticks – and our Christmas tree is also in our dining room. On the table this year, we’ll be building pyramids of clementines decorated with cloves and sprigs of rosemary. Walnuts, lychees and pomegranates will act as the centrepiece – we are very inspired by early American Christmas traditions. Our new Gigi plates come in rich jewel tones, so we’ll using those, too. We tend to stay at the table for ages, laughing and reminiscing with family and friends before either playing cards or watching a film. Dinner is minimal – usually some leftover smoked salmon or a little cheese plate. On Boxing Day, we go for a long walk and eat Branston pickle sandwiches. This year, we’re going to Lamu for New Year.”

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CHRISTOPHER HORWOOD

Laura Stephens

Interior Designer

“In the run up to Christmas we always burn an advent candle during dinner – my girls love that tradition and I use a lovely holder from Tooka. The week before Christmas, my children help me decorate – we add bows to our wall lights and we wrap foliage around our banister. During the festive period, we try to see a Matthew Bourne ballet at Sadlers Wells – this year it’s Sleeping Beauty – and we like to combine it with a trip to Regent’s  Street to see the lights.

“On Christmas Eve we put on the carols (we always watch the Carols from Kings on the TV) and everyone mucks in with the Christmas Day prep. My youngest daughter puts everyone’s stockings at the end of their bed and without fail, before they go to bed, I read all of them The Night Before Christmas from an edition which has been handed down in my family.

“On Christmas morning we wake up at the crack of dawn and the girls bring their stockings into us to open them in bed – even Lulu our mini dachshund gets a stocking. I put on something sparkly, whizz downstairs to make sure the mantlepiece has lots of foliage and candles and that the fire is roaring, ready for our guests to arrive. We tend to host both sides of our family – grandparents, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts. They arrive in time for breakfast, which includes a Bucks Fizz, smoked salmon and bagels. 

“After this we go for a big Christmas walk – the only one allowed to stay home is my husband who gets the lunch ready. When we’re back, I set the table. To make it feel special, I change the covers on our dining chairs – I tend to elevate my usual pink and green scheme with lots of sparkle in the form of candles, crystal glasses and little bunches of green and pink stems with white berries. 

“On Boxing Day, I like to create a different look by putting gingham covers on the chairs for a more relaxed feel. We make Jamie Olivier’s turkey curry and set everything out on our kitchen island on vintage platters. Because Boxing Day feels more relaxed, I tend to use a mish mash of antique plates and cutlery which I put in baskets on the island. Everything is serve yourself. I change up the candles on Boxing Day to keep things fresh – this year I’ll be going for a tonal look with different shades of green using these from Rebecca Udall

“New Year is party time and I like to add some glam to my decorations. I have three of these fabulous gold chandeliers from Meri Meri. I hang them over the dining table to add a party vibe to décor. I go for gold on the table, too – these tapered gold candles are so elegant.” 

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Irene Gunter

Interior Designer, Gunter & Co.

“Christmas morning sets the tone for the whole day. There’s a slow start with champagne, mince pies and presents, followed by a brisk walk before lunch. Normally, mealtimes are usually very relaxed, but on special occasions such as Christmas Day, I like to dress my dining table so it feels special. The first step is a simple white tablecloth that can bring together all the different elements of a typical Christmas table. This year I’ll be injecting some festive cheer with these classic Christmas napkins from Gayle Warwick. Another Christmas tradition, which I brought with me from Belgium, is the seafood platters we eat on Christmas Eve. I’m not a big fan of turkey, so I often look forward to the feast the day before instead.

“Boxing Day is a very relaxed affair. The kids play with their presents, we blow away the cobwebs with a long walk, and then we snuggle up in front of a film. I take a relaxed approached to the Boxing Day menu. In contrast to the formality of Christmas dinner, food is served up buffet-style so our friends and family can help themselves. It’s occasions like this when my sideboard really comes into its own. I love candlelight, so that’s all that’s needed, along with a simple flower arrangement.

“Since having children, New Year’s Eve has changed. In a past life, my husband and I would book a meal at our favourite restaurant before strolling to the top of Wimbledon village to watch the fireworks with a glass of champagne. This year, we’re hosting at home and I want time to enjoy the party, so I’m certainly not planning an elaborate menu. We’ll have a cheese fondue, as it can be prepped in advance and it’s such a fun way to engage and eat. I’m sure a few board games will follow – though things can get bit competitive with some members of the family!”

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