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349 Hagley Road, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, B17 8DL

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Christmas Tree

It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaas !!!!!

. . . as Noddy Holder has tunefully wailed every year since 1973 (boy, wouldn’t you like THAT royalties cheque landing on your mat each January), and once again it’s time for the great retail machine to go into overdrive, trying to convince us that we can’t possibly live without all manner of goods that we didn’t even know existed, let alone craved for.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas, it’s undoubtedly my favourite time of the year, but as regular readers (sit up straight both of you) will know, I’m no fan of over-commercialisation. It seems that the fact that you can buy Christmas cards, decorations and trinkets in September almost anywhere from Asda (other supermarkets are available) to your local pet shop is no longer enough. We’ve had bits and bobs like Santa socks, ties that play Jingle Bells, and festive door mats for years now, but am I wrong or does it seem that this year the unquenchable retail monster has gone into overdrive ?

A few years ago you’d go into a clothing store and see the odd Christmas jumper. These days you can’t get in the door for them !! Red ones, green ones, fluffy ones, ones with protruding Santa’s noses – not to mention Rudolph hats complete with antlers. I love and completely get the idea of special table linen for the great day, but this year I saw for the first time something that I thought was stretching the theme a bit, and to be honest going a tad too far – Christmas bed linen. Am I missing the point here ? Surely, unless Santa picks the wrong chimney to come down, or your Christmas Day goes something like “Ok everyone, we’ve had the dinner, listened to the Queen, now last one up to the bedroom’s a sissy . . .” nobody’s going to see it.

Of course, I realise I’ve just shot myself in the foot, and totally negated everything I always say about putting time, money and emphasis into your own bedroom to make it a fabulously “you” room regardless of who else sees it, but for one day a year ??? I suppose I ought to jump on the bandwagon and say that we could run you up a lovely pair of curtains with sprigs of holly on them, hang them on Christmas Eve and take them down on Boxing Day. I’m sure my son in law, who is also my curtain fitter, wouldn’t mind.

So what does the tastefully decorated house look like on Christmas Day ? Well, probably exactly like yours and mine. Whilst the rules of good interior design don’t fly out of the window each December, they can certainly be relaxed. And as my design mentor Walter Walker, now long dead God rest him, design director of Alfred Allen used to say, “John, the day you think you’re the arbiter of good taste you might as well pack up and go home”

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 elder 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.

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.

All I need now to convince me that the economy’s finally recovered isn’t the choice of 68 different Christmas jumpers, but for all the cranes on the city’s building sites to be decked in festive lights as they always used to be. Oh yes, and for a life-sized Santa to be abseiling down the side of the Eaton Hotel.

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - December 2014