Christmas at home with the CREATIVES
Designers, makers and influencers share their decorating tips, neat cheats, family recipes and gift ideas for adding a chic and unique twist to the celebrations
SUZY HOODLESS Interior designer, suzyhoodless.com
This year, I’ll be kicking back in our west London home. I love bringing together the traditions I was brought up with and introducing my own layer, too. It’s fun and utterly exhausting, so there are, of course, a few shortcuts. I love Nigel Slater’s The Christmas
Chronicles. He recommends cooking almost everything in the days preceding the big event, including the gravy. It’s a book of notes, stories and recipes for midwinter. And my favourite hack with awkward-shaped presents is to make rectangular bags out of wrapping paper, before dropping the present in.
I often give my husband a painting sourced from Rowe & Williams gallery in Yoxford, Suffolk. It just seems like a very personal gift and something he might not buy himself.
I’ll be ringing the changes decoratively by filling the house with oversized greenery and slotting in brightly coloured flowers and birds, plus tons of lights and even more candles. I add to my decorations each year, buying a few things as and when I see them. Sound and scent are important, too: I have angel chimes from my grandmother that make the most wonderful tinkling noise, as well as pine-scented candles.
My ideal Christmas lunch starts with smoked trout on rye with horseradish crème fraîche and champagne. Then we have roast goose, apple sauce, lemon potato stuffing and Marsala gravy, plus my mother’s puréed carrots and parsnips. On Boxing Day, we cook hot smoked fish and leek pie.
On my ultimate guest list would be my family of course, plus Picasso, Peggy Guggenheim and Hans Wegner.
OTTOLINE DE VRIES Designer, ottoline.nl
I’ll be spending Christmas back in Aerdenhout in the Netherlands where my parents live. The whole family, including my three siblings and their partners and children, will gather together. There will be 21 of us in total.
This year we have invited my family to come over just before Christmas to experience London’s unrivalled festive vibe. Our Christmas gift to all of them is tickets for carols at the Royal Albert Hall. We have been once before and I know now how to prepare. We’ll dress up and bring as many bright and flashing Christmas decorations as possible.
Being Dutch, we don’t do gifts at Christmas. Instead, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) comes early in December. We compensate by decorating the tree extravagantly and lighting as many candles in the house as possible.
My fantasy feast would be a Dutch family lunch in a snow-covered
London with family and friends. We would dine at Kenwood House, my favourite spot in London, but it wouldn’t be a formal event, more a generous feast with finger food. After lunch, we would all go sledging and ice-skating on the lake down the hill, which would be frozen and decorated with thousands of lights. We’d finish by the fireplace with hot chocolate and someone playing the piano.
On my ultimate guest list would be my grandmother. She is the one that inspired me to pursue my creative dream, but she passed away before I could. Apart from her creative talent, she was an Anglophile and an English teacher at school, so she would love a Christmas lunch in London.
NATALIA MIYAR Architect and interior designer, nataliamiyar.com
I’m heading to Miami for the festivities – it’s a wonderful time to be there as my dear friends who live all over the world come home for Christmas. There are dinners and alfresco drinks parties and the Florida sunshine gives everything a relaxed feel.
Decorating the table with beautifully wrapped small gifts is a great way of adding a layer of adornment without needing extra decorations. I also like to keep the menu simple by incorporating food that does not require cooking, such as stone crab, smoked fish, caviar and champagne – the preparation is minimal but the indulgence factor is high!
The most unusual gift I’m giving this year is cooking classes to my nephew. It’s not a typical gift for a six-year-old, but I’m hoping it will inspire a lifelong love of food.
Each year I collect one-of-a-kind
pieces that I find on my travels to add to my ever-growing collection of tableware. Recently, in St Moritz, I bought some fabulous cocktail napkins embroidered with exotic animals. They go perfectly with some cocktail glasses etched with cheetah, elephant, giraffe and tiger motifs that I bought in Miami. This year’s theme involves a tropicalforest-like setting with ferns, palms and evergreens, topped off with intricate animal ornaments. I am sure it will be a hit with my nephews.
When it comes to my cocktail trolley, I often throw Cuban-themed parties so rum-based cocktails are a must. A firm family favourite is Romeo y Julieta (named after the Cuban cigar). The ingredients are Bacardi rum, lime, guava and cardamom bitters, tobacco liquor and smoking tobacco leaf.
EMMA SIMS-HILDITCH Interior designer, simshilditch.com
This year, I’ll be celebrating in our cosy barn in Wiltshire. We always try and spend Christmas at home so that we can have an extended family day.
My best festive cheat is to half roast and refrigerate the potatoes in goose fat a day or two before Christmas. Then give them their second roasting on the day, which takes half the time and frees up the oven for the bird.
I’m giving my three adult children a wine-tasting day with lunch in London. We are great appreciators of good wine and this will hopefully give them some knowledge while also allowing us to gather together.
I love to bring the outside in when I decorate. This year I will be out in the countryside foraging for wild berries, fir branches and ivy to create table decorations and garlands. Scent is also important to me and I find Diptyque’s Cinnamon candle very festive.
We always have an advent tree. I’ll use a miniature Christmas tree and make little advent parcels to hang from the branches. Then each day when a parcel is plucked, we replace it with a decoration. This is the tree from which I’ll hang all of the crumpled heirloom decorations that I don’t want to throw away but aren’t quite to my taste any more. Even though my children are grown up now, they still adore this ritual.
My fantasy Christmas would have a Scandinavian feel. It would be fun to challenge our cooking skills and take inspiration from the Northern climate. And our tipple of choice is champagne with a home-made raspberry liqueur.
SUZANNE SHARP Co-founder, The Rug Company, therugcompany.com
Every year we make mince pies whilst
listening to Christmas carols. We fill bowls with Quality Street and decorate the tree with items we’ve collected over the years. We watch the same movies, too, including Notting Hill and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. My granny’s trifle always makes an appearance at Christmas. The ingredients are: 300g sponge cake; raspberry jam, to taste; 50ml sweet sherry; 225g sliced peaches or raspberries; 100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks; 300g ricotta; 600ml double cream; zest of one small lemon; handful of flaked toasted almonds. To make, spread the cake with a layer of jam, cut into chunks and put half in the bottom of a dish. Drizzle half the sherry on top, then add half the fruit. Mix the chocolate into the ricotta, and spread half on top. Whisk the cream with the lemon zest and spread half on the ricotta. Repeat and finish with a sprinkling of almonds.
I’ll be ringing the changes decoratively by tuning our dining room into an overgrown garden. The easiest way to do this is to load the mantelpiece with foliage, bearing in mind scale and height. I weave in baubles and fairy lights for sparkle. The table is scattered with greenery and usually stems of cosmos. Then we add sheepskins on the chairs for an instantly cosy feel.
MOLLY MAHON Textile designer, mollymahon.com
When it comes to wrapping I buy rolls of brown paper and let the children have a massive print off. We use my blocks and carved potatoes, too. To keep the look vaguely sophisticated, I limit the palette to two colours. This year we are going for turmeric and red.
I’m giving my mother-in-law a hand-block-printed pink bespoke dog
bed. We don’t sell them yet, but her dog Tilly is going to test run it for us.
This year I’ll be using our new red and pink stripe tablecloth and really going to town on this colour
theme. There will be bright pink candles and glasses. My daughter loves to make flowers out of tissue and the boys might make paper stars to stick on the windows. We make our own crackers using our block-printed paper. The final touch is swapping the fabric blue lampshade that hangs over the table for a festive red.
I am a real traditionalist when it comes to Christmas lunch, so we will be having turkey and all the trimmings. I get up really early to put the bird in the oven – I love to do it, as I can then light the fire and put the carols on before anyone has woken.
My ultimate guest list would be full of creative women so that I can talk all things decorative with them. Guests would include Vanessa Bell of Charleston; Frida Kahlo; my style icon the Duchess of Devonshire; British illustrator and author Marion Deuchars; colour theorist Angela Wright; Gitto Patni, my mentor in Jaipur; printed textile designer Pat Albeck; and Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave.
I’ll be ringing the changes decoratively by turning our dining room into an overgrown garden
The most unusual Christmas gift I am giving this year is probably the mermaid tail for my six-year-old
MARTIN BRUDNIZKI Interior architect, mbds.com
I’ll be spending Christmas in my home in Parsons Green, London. The city is such an unusual place on Christmas Day, it’s so quiet and the streets are empty, which is exactly what I need after a busy year. I will likely visit my parents in Stockholm a few days beforehand and enjoy some traditional Swedish Christmas spirit, too.
I think the wrapping is as much a part of the present as the actual gift. I take great pride in my wrapping abilities and love choosing papers and ribbons that will add a little something extra to the bottom of the tree.
Decorating is my favourite part of
Christmas. I always have a real tree and it will be dripping in traditional glass baubles, gold and red ribbons and white lights. I have collected these ornaments over many years, some are from Svenskt Tenn, one of my favourite shops in Stockholm, and others from Liberty.
The house is filled with foliage and I’ll have a beautiful wreath on my front door. I also love lighting scented candles, which are often tied with red ribbon.
When it comes to the festive meal, I tend to enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch with a roast turkey and the usual additions, however I do include a bit of a Scandinavian twist. I like to prepare a smorgasbord of Swedish foods to start with that can be enjoyed with pre-dinner drinks. This will include herring, gravlax and dressed boiled eggs.
My favourite Christmas tipple is a negroni. Also, when I visit my parents in Stockholm, we always have a few toasts with aquavit.
NICOLE SALVESEN Interior designer, salvesengraham.com
For the first time in several years, I will be spending Christmas with all four of my siblings and their families at my mother’s house in Kent. I have a feeling it won’t be quiet.
The most unusual gift I’m giving is probably the mermaid tail for my six-year-old. We also have presents at each place setting on Christmas Day. Everyone has to guess what it is before they open it – there have been some amusing surprises over the years!
I go way beyond the traditional green and red decorations at Christmas. With three little girls under seven, there is always a lot of sparkle involved. We like to collect decorations throughout the year from our various travels and we love a home-made Christmas bauble.
Food is the key element of the day and I believe that more is more. I am not a huge fan of turkey so for our Christmas feast, we will be opting for
goose or duck. I love cooking and trying new recipes, so I will be testing out canapés on everyone.
Without doubt, my ultimate guest list
would be my family. For me, the festive period is all about being surrounded by those closest to you. The children relish the excitement of Christmas and that has really brought back the magic of it all to me and my husband.
PHILIPPA CRADDOCK Florist, philippacraddock.com
We will be celebrating Christmas in our Sussex cottage, with family and friends. The lead-up to Christmas is always a little crazy with work until we kick off the festivities on the 23rd, which is our youngest’s birthday.
One of my best tips is a super-quick, brilliant table decoration for when
you are short on time. Simply line the centre of your table with a mass of pillar candles, ideally in differing heights and widths, and then lay spruce branches in between. If you don’t have any spare, just snip out a couple from the back of your Christmas tree. It’s an instant, minimalist, elegant table setting.
When it comes to more unusual gifts, this year I am giving a series of DJ lessons for one of our children who has decided that is what he would like to do when he is grown up.
My ideal Christmas Day meal is simply a late and long lunch. The table will be dressed with plenty of candlelight, a soulful playlist and a full roast, followed by the most delicious Christmas pudding made by my sister-in-law. A dream of mine is to have everyone together, as our family is spread far and wide across the world.
We always have an eggnog at this time of year - we make it with almond milk, dates and plenty of nutmeg. On my ultimate guest list would be Eddie Izzard, for his hilarity and stories of adventure; Joan Rivers, for her genius wit; Tom Hanks, for his positivity; Coco Chanel, for her elegance and design wisdom; David Bowie, for the music; and Oprah Winfrey, for her wise words.