349 Hagley Road, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, B17 8DL
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Ho Ho Ho!...No. please don't laugh at the decorations
It’s that time of year again when we make the annual visit to the loft, to retrieve a plethora of dusty boxes containing all manner of goodies, from the fairy lights that you really meant to fix last year before you put them away, to the myriads of baubles, tinsel and assorted dangly things, and the singing Santa. Yes, it’s Christmas !! (Well actually it’s only just Advent, but don’t get me started on that one !)
I remember once, many years ago seeing in a store something that I thought was the answer to all things Christmassy. It could best be described as half a Christmas tree. It was as if someone had taken a perfectly good tree, cut off and thrown away the top and bottom sections and just left the middle, which was to be hung from the ceiling as if floating in mid air.
Now I thought this was the fleas’ knees, the rat’s pyjamas, the absolute epitome of style, so I bought not one but two – one for my living room and one for the showroom window. I can still hear the hysterical laughter of both my family and staff, who thought I had obviously taken leave of my senses or started on the Christmas punch a little early.
It just goes to show I should have recalled, as I often do, the words of my Design Mentor now long departed, an exquisitely mannered and dapper gentleman called Walter Walker, who was Design Director of Alfred Allen in Bristol Street for more years than many a donkey. “John,” he once said to me, “the day you think you are the arbiter of good taste, you might as well pack up and go home.”
And that’s the point I’m trying to make. Although the rules and guidelines of good interior design don’t just fly out of the window, when it comes to the Christmas interior they can certainly be at least relaxed, if not flaunted altogether. Don’t be afraid to experiment, push the boundaries, try something different. After all, if ten years ago you’d have told your friends you were thinking of having a black Christmas tree they’d have called you a Satanist! And if it does go horribly wrong, and your interpretation of Christmas 2013 suffers the same fate (I call it lack of understanding and vision) as did my half Christmas trees, at least you can pack it all away on Twelfth Night and put it down to experience. It’s not as if you’ve just had that bright green sofa delivered that seemed like such a good idea when you ordered it!
So . . . real or false, themed or random, uncluttered or stuffed to breaking point? I’m talking of course about the tree, and it really is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer. For many years now I’ve always had a real tree, and am happy to put up with the inconvenience of a few dropped needles in exchange for that wonderful smell of pine when you enter the living room each morning. As for whether to theme it or not, well I suppose you really should, taking two or possibly three colours from your decor and majoring on them for your tree ornaments and other assorted bits and bobs around the room. But here I have to admit to being a little hypocritical. My tree is a completely random collection of ornaments and baubles of every shape, size and colour, collected over a number of years from cities and countries we’ve visited, or that I’ve bought just because I like them. The crowning glory of which is a somewhat tousled silver and gold cardboard star that my daughter, who now runs my showroom, made when she was in infants school. This is much to the annoyance of my wife, who thinks I really should know better and follow her ideas of a simply themed tree. So we’ve made the perfect compromise – we have two trees, one goes in the living room while the other has pride of place in the dining room (yes I do still have and enjoy a dining room, in case you thought I wasn’t practising what I preached in last month’s article).
As for the rest of the house, you can go as mad as you like with garlands on mantelpieces, fabulous table decorations and runners, swags up banisters, holly protruding from just about every nook and cranny, and of course mistletoe liberally dotted around and about. <
And why stop at the inside. I love to see a welcoming holly wreath on the front door, and a well lit tree or shrub in the garden. Just a word of caution though: in recent years there has been a tendency towards over-decorating the outside of the house. In some areas you see street after street of houses obviously competing with each other to see who can cram the most illuminated Santas, elves, reindeer, shooting stars, sleighs and anything else remotely connected to Christmas (as long as it’s not in any way religious of course – oops there I go again, but isn’t it sad that a priest friend of mine couldn’t find anything whatsoever relating to the Nativity to put on the outside of his church) onto their roofs and on every other inch of their properties, putting a strain no doubt not only on their own electricity supply, but on the National Grid itself ! Please, a little moderation in all things.
Well, except for the Christmas turkey of course . . . oh and the two kinds of stuffing . . . and don’t forget the mince pies . . . and champagne, buckets of champagne . . . . . .
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - December 2013