Florist Willow Crossley’s cottage celebrates the holidays with swathes of foliage and flowers at every turn
A profusion of flowers and foliage decorates wonky walls and higgledy-piggledy rooms for a charming country Christmas in florist Willow Crossley’s house
it’s a mishmash,’ says contemporary floral stylist Willow Crossley of the Grade Ii-listed extended cottage she lives in with her family near Woodstock, Oxfordshire. ‘It’s very higgledy-piggledy and wonky. The walls and doors are anything but straight, but it has so much character.’ Dating back to the 16th century (‘you know, I’m not sure when exactly!’), the Cotswold stone building was enlarged and added to over time, culminating in a floor plan that’s dizzying to behold.
The family relocated to the countryside nine years ago, after stints in the South of France then London, moving from an urban one-up-one-down to this labyrinthine space, which seems almost custom-built for small children to explore. With woodland a five-minute walk away and a nearby river to swim in, life in this little corner of the world is idyllic. ‘Here, the boys can run wild and free,’ smiles Willow. ‘It’s pretty dreamy.’
As you’d expect, greenery pervades every room. ‘Foliage makes the house feel lived in and alive; it seems so stale without plants,’ Willow tells us. ‘I’m always bringing the outside in, flowers from the garden, or I’ll set off into the woods to find some branches or greenery.’ For Christmas, this means plumes of dried hydrangeas, snowy paperwhites and lashings of eucalyptus at every turn. ‘Eucalyptus just smells so delicious,’ Willow says. ‘I love having that scent around at this time of year. It really takes me back to the Christmases of my childhood.’
The house is very much a family affair, with creative contributions from Willow’s mother, artist Kate Corbettwinder, brothers (Ned owns gifting company Not-another-bill; Tom runs building firm Blockhouse Build) and sister-in-law designer Matilda Goad speckled throughout the space. Willow, too, has plenty of projects in the pipeline. Since the publication of her fourth book The Wild Journal earlier this year, which explores the nurturing properties of nature, she’s created a four-piece rug collection with designer Amy Kent, adorned with flowers from each season, reflecting her natural, local approach to floristry. Her collaboration with wallpaper brand Barneby Gates will launch in the spring with floral, whimsical designs with which Willow plans to cover the attic bedroom. But her biggest focus is her online floristry course with teaching platform
Create Academy. ‘It’s me talking about flowers for hours and hours in my home studio and the woods around the house. I’ve poured everything I know into it,’ she says. For the Christmas modules, expect lessons on wreaths, garlands, table centres and decorations in Willow’s typical laid-back, effortlessly chic style.
The feel of the house is one of intimacy and character. ‘The cottage is very much an extension of us; it’s like our baby,’ Willow smiles. ‘We’ve really made our mark on it – making and mending things creates such a homey atmosphere; it’s so loved.’ Alongside the flora, natural materials, antique furniture and vintage fabrics define the space, creating an air of informality – this isn’t a house that minds if you spill something. ‘I just want it to be cosy,’ Willow explains.‘to me, home is somewhere comfortable, squashy and warm, where you can totally decompress surrounded by the things that mean something to you.’
While Willow spends the festive season creating immaculate arrangements for clients, at home it’s a very different story. ‘I used to try to make it perfect, but I’ve had to relax and let the children get involved,’ she grins. ‘So we cover the tree in decorations the boys have made, and then Kit will come along and put seven baubles on one branch so it topples over – but for us, that’s just part of the joy of Christmas.’