How the style experts get their homes Christmas-ready

willow crossley
Florist Willow Crossley decking her mantelpiece with ivy and eucalyptus Credit: Tom Griffiths 

Not decked your halls yet? No problem. From a wild-foliage chandelier to supersized bows, five experts show you how to nail every festive detail – no dash to the shops required

December often passes in such a flurry of parties, work commitments, school plays, present-buying and food-planning that, all of a sudden, Christmas Day is approaching and you still don’t feel ready. The house is often the last thing you turn your attention to. ‘By the time I get to Christmas, I’ve decorated so many other people’s houses that my own is done at the very last minute,’ says florist and stylist Willow Crossley. Don’t panic: with a bit of inspiration, you can use these eleventh-hour tips from designers and stylists to make your home look gloriously festive, without spending a fortune.

Florist and stylist Willow Crossley on: the mantelpiece

‘I love to use big garlands on the mantelpiece, which look spectacular but are easy to do. I go into the garden, clip off long strips of berried ivy, eucalyptus, for the scent, and jasmine, which keeps well. I lay it out on the floor in a long sausage and bind it with reel [floristry] wire. That forms the base of the garland. Then I add more decoration – flowers such as hydrangeas, or non-floral decorations such as big velvet bows. Finally I dot candles along the top. It’s a wonderfully eco way of decorating and, together with your tree, makes a big statement in your living room.’

Fabric and wallpaper designer Molly Mahon on: handmade decorations

Molly Mahon’s block-printed home Credit:  Emma Lewis

‘I almost never buy decorations; I would much rather get my kids involved. Our tradition is that we love to decorate with long, block-printed paper chains, which my three children cut and glue on their own. ‘We carve festive shapes such as stars into potatoes and use them to print on to A4 paper, brown wrapping paper or even just newspaper: everything gets used up. There’s a lot of waste generally at Christmas, so it does feel good to be a bit more mindful and conscious of what we use and buy. ‘Decorating with the children makes them feel part of the excitement of Christmas. I love it. I don’t know how long they will want to do this with me, but for now, I’m enjoying it.'

Molly Mahon

Creative consultant Matilda Goad on: the tree

‘I love Christmas; I got married at this time of year, so it’s special for me. It’s fun to have a different take on the tree each year, as so much in your home is permanent. Your decorating doesn’t need to be expensive – look around for things you already have in your home. Whatever theme you choose, attack it with gusto – an underdecorated tree can look sad. One year I did the whole tree in bows; I used scraps of fabric from the floor of my studio and cut really long strands, so they wouldn’t look too traditional. What I loved about it was that I was using up what I already had. The only problem is that because I wanted a full tree, it took ages! But looked spectacular.’

Matilda Goad at home with this year’s themed tree Credit: Anton Rodriguez

Interiors expert June Summerill on: the table

‘I love setting the Christmas table, alone, late on Christmas Eve. I always use a cloth to dictate the mood, maybe with a white-linen runner. I set napkins that match the cloth and might tie them with string, a little bouquet of herbs from the garden and a small orange rosehip.

June Summerill Credit: Courtesy June Summerill

I’ve carefully kept a beautiful branch of magnolia, which forms the centrepiece. This Christmas it will be touched with gold paint and I’ll hang four orange baubles on its branches. My flowers will be little white cyclamen, with grasses to give height and feathery magic. If I use crackers, I put one at each setting, with my guests’ names on them. When it’s all done, I go to bed and get excited about Christmas Day.’

A festive tablescape created by June Summerill

Florist Kitten Grayson on: a wild chandelier

‘We create intricate chandeliers in some of the grand rooms we work in, which draw the eye to the ceiling, and add height and sumptuous grandeur – and you can do the same at home on a smaller scale. For my Christmas table this year, I’ll go outside to find a fallen branch and attach it with wire to two hooks in the ceiling.

Kitten Grayson Credit: Courtesy Kitten Grayson

You use that as a base to adorn with baubles, dried flowers, rosehip berries and other pretty things you find in the garden or your decoration box; hang them from gold thread at different heights. I also wrap fairy lights around it. The whole thing looks wild and magical. What’s really special is when you lay out the food below, along with lots of tall, tapered candles, it becomes an extra part of the decoration.’

Kitten Grayson's top tip: 'Pick up paperwhite flowers from the garden centre and place them in terracotta pots down the centre of the table.' One of Kitten's floral chandeliers is seen here at Heckfield Place in Hampshire Credit: Courtesy Kitten Grayson

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