Christ­mas decor is re­de­fined at the Cape Town home of stylist Shel­ley Street, where South African crafts, hand­made gifts, tra­di­tional el­e­ments and a nod to mono­chrome Scandi style com­bine for an in­trigu­ing fes­tive fu­sion

Destiny - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­pher: War­ren Heath, Bureaux. Styling: Shel­ley Street. Text: Mandy Allen

A for­mer mag­a­zine stylist and cre­ative con­sul­tant, Street now runs Space So­lu­tions, her own cre­ative brand­ing stu­dio of­fer­ing art di­rec­tion, graphic and con­cep­tual de­sign, mer­chan­dis­ing and in­te­rior styling. Which means she has very de­cided ideas about style and in­te­ri­ors. Come the fes­tive sea­son, for in­stance, her home's del­i­cately ac­ces­sorised with a black and white Christ­mas pal­ette that's both chic and strik­ing. “I love the mono­chrome look, as well as Scandi de­sign and its as­so­ci­a­tion with light wood, so I de­cided to do a Scandi-Afri mix,” she says. It seems apt, given her self-pro­fessed rev­er­ence for sim­plic­ity, that the Christ­mas tree is a Ka­roo thorn, its stark, graphic form en­hanced by a coat of white paint. “This wouldn't be Christ­mas, though, if there weren't some­thing en­chant­ing, so the tree has the sweet­est, hand-carved wooden birds which I'm in love with, as well as pa­pier-mâché baubles that are a quirky take on the usual bling ver­sions,” she adds.

Other adorn­ments re­flect Street's affin­ity for South African and African pat­terns and lo­cally crafted ob­jects with a unique, whim­si­cal feel: a laser-cut card­board na­tiv­ity scene; a small, dec­o­ra­tive African Christ­mas tree made from tin; Christ­mas crack­ers that she fash­ioned us­ing pat­terned brown pa­per and African-print shweshwe fabric; a herd of beaded ze­bra that, in this con­text, look less “cu­rio kitsch” and more “Afro- chic”. There's also a wreath which, from a dis­tance, looks like some­thing de­signed by Tord Boon­tje, but is in fact made from pieces of fyn­bos, wine corks and other nat­u­ral ephe­mera shaped to­gether and spray-painted black. Many of the ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions are an eclec­tic union of new and old, black and white, solids and pat­terns typ­i­cal of south­ern Africa, ev­ery­thing un­der­pinned by strong black ac­cents. Here sub­tleties are to be dis­cov­ered in the lay­er­ing of ma­te­ri­als, tones and tex­tures such as beaded place-mats, a coarse, hand­wo­ven ta­ble run­ner, bone and wooden serv­ing uten­sils, all from Africa Nova (, to­gether with vin­tage sil­ver­ware and serv­ing plat­ters, as well as cre­ative sur­prises: beaded Africa Nova neck­laces used as nap­kin rings and sim­ple white su­per­mar­ket­bought pil­lar can­dles in var­i­ous sizes wrapped in brown pa­per.

“All the colours work re­ally well in my home and aren't out of place among my col­lec­tions of nat­u­ral ob­jects,” says Street. “So even though the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions are tem­po­rar­ily here, ev­ery­thing still works to­gether on the eye.”


1. Can­dles. And more can­dles. Prefer­ably all in white and in dif­fer­ent heights and widths. I love fra­grant can­dles at this time of year: cin­na­mon, vanilla, pine, woody and am­ber notes, as well as re­ally great-qual­ity in­cense and lim­ited-edi­tion room sprays (Jo Mal­one al­ways has the most gor­geous spe­cial fes­tive range).

2. Fairy lights are cen­tral to my fes­tive dec­o­rat­ing. I use lots of them: in the fire­place (De­cem­ber in SA is siz­zling, so it's the only ac­tion the fire­place sees!) and draped around the large door frame of my liv­ing room. We spend lots of time eat­ing out­doors in sum­mer, so there are also loads of so­lar fairy lights in all my out­side pot­ted trees for a mag­i­cal am­bi­ence.

3. Pare down colours to neu­tral tones and in­cor­po­rate tex­ture where you can – found ob­jects from na­ture are an ef­fec­tive way of do­ing this. I also love the idea of us­ing things out of con­text: a bracelet as a nap­kin-holder, for ex­am­ple. And I'm par­tic­u­larly fond of wooden and bone serv­ing uten­sils and ves­sels.

4. Think sus­tain­ably and give old things a new iden­tity. Up­cy­cle old ob­jects and glass con­tain­ers us­ing spray paint and wrap gifts in brown Kraft pa­per, butcher's pa­per or news­pa­per (I'm par­tial to news­pa­pers from Asian super­mar­kets and the salmon-pink tinge of the Fi­nan­cial Times) and fabric the way they do in Ja­pan (called furoshiki). There's a lot read­ily avail­able in our homes and gar­dens to in­cor­po­rate into our dec­o­rat­ing.

5. Don’t over­think it when styling your Christ­mas ta­ble and tree. Choose the colours and el­e­ments you love and layer them to­gether. Don't be too se­ri­ous about what you're try­ing to achieve – friends and fam­ily al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate your ef­forts and en­joy eat­ing at a beau­ti­ful ta­ble, but ul­ti­mately, it's about re­la­tion­ships, good com­pany and great food more than any­thing else.

A small Ka­roo thorn tree has been painted white to strik­ing ef­fect. The black, white and nat­u­ral tones of the dec­o­ra­tions re­flect Street’s over­all vis­ual theme – one that’s pared down, tex­tu­ral and non-tra­di­tional.

TOP: Christ­mas crack­ers are made from brown Kraft or butcher’s pa­per, as well as South African shweshwe fabric, with its dis­tinct dot­ted cir­cu­lar print. The over­sized teacup is from British ce­ramist Emma Bridg­wa­ter’s iconic Black Toast col­lec­tion; the dark stained wooden tray is from Coun­try Road (www.coun­try­ au or www.wool­ BOT­TOM: The ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions con­sist of crisp white items and pat­terns typ­i­cal of SA, un­der­pinned by strong black ac­cents and lay­ered ma­te­ri­als, tones and tex­tures. The start­ing point for Street’s mix-and­match ap­proach was a col­lec­tion of plates by renowned South African ce­ram­i­cist Mar­tine Jack­son (www.mar­tine­jack­ Her loosely stylised, African­in­flu­enced pat­terns are a graphic pair­ing with hand­made bead­work place-mats and a wo­ven ta­ble run­ner (from Africa Nova). With the sim­plic­ity of white can­dles wrapped in util­i­tar­ian brown pa­per, the mood is con­tem­po­rary and fresh. There are ad­di­tional in­ven­tive twists in the form of beaded neck­laces as nap­kin rings, as well as cheap drink­ing glasses that were given a luxe “dipped” ef­fect us­ing mask­ing tape to de­mar­cate a neat line and fin­ished with gold spray paint. The cup­board is an an­tique SA Rail­ways locker made of Ore­gon pine.

TOP: One of the most en­vi­able fea­tures of Street’s home is the large, in­dus­trial-style win­dows which let in masses of nat­u­ral light. The wreath hang­ing from one of them was made by Street us­ing Cape fyn­bos, which she found while walk­ing in the veld. To build up the tex­ture, she added bits of wood, old corks and a few pine cones. She spray-painted it matte black and added hand-carved birds (from Africa Nova) to give it a whim­si­cal, fairy­tale char­ac­ter. Sev­eral other Christ­mas-in­spired ob­jects with a lo­cal vis­ual iden­tity – a laser-cut pa­per na­tiv­ity scene by Cape Town pa­per artist Pauline Irvine of Ar­tymiss (­, a quirky, laser-cut me­tal African Christ­mas tree by Tin Town (www.tin­town., graphic vases and a hand­made black and white fes­tive bauble fea­tur­ing the ubiq­ui­tous gecko (all from Africa Nova) – also ap­pear, along with Street’s framed black and white pho­to­graphs and col­lected ephe­mera. BOT­TOM: Sum­mer in Cape Town brings an abun­dance of lemons, which Street pre­serves sim­ply with salt (a few weeks ahead of Christ­mas Day) to eat with fish and chicken. The per­fect hand­made-with-love gift, the fabric cov­ers are shweshwe and African wax cloth fabric cut into rounds and tied with hemp string.

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