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No, right a bit, up a bit . . .

I have to admit to always being a bit stuck as to what to write in the December editorial. Whilst I love to regale you about all that’s fabulous and new in the world of interior design throughout the year, and am more than happy to give you my take on what makes a good room good, I find it difficult to pontificate about the Christmas interior.

The other day our social media lady pointed out an editorial in another magazine (obviously vastly inferior to the stupendous publication you are now perusing dear reader) in which an interior designer was not only telling the reader which smelly candle and trinket should go in which room, but exactly where they should be situated and in what quantities. I found this a bit uncomfortable and somewhat patronising, until I realised of course that the designer in question had a shop selling . . . you’ve guessed it – smelly candles and trinkets.

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, design director of Alfred Allen, now long dead God rest him, 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 (and I’m sure the smelly candle and trinket designer would tell you it’s obligatory !!!), 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 idea 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. This year it’s my turn in the living 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. I wouldn’t dream of insulting you by telling you exactly where to put them though – well, not until twelfth night anyway.

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 2015