You look at the calendar and realise that Christmas is a few weeks away. What do you do? Definitely not panic because the UK's most colourful blog is at hand to help you be one step ahead during the festive season! This month I have partnered with AXA Insurance to share all my tips for a stress free Christmas! And scroll down for a little video where I share my quick guide to holiday success!
Planning ahead is crucial whether you have relatives staying over or entertain friends just on Christmas day. Not only do you need to make sure the house looks its best but also that you are not exhausted come Boxing Day. Here are my top tips to stay one step ahead when decorating your home this Christmas.
1/ Get the right tree in
I like to decorate early and by the end of November I will have chosen my tree. Last year I wrote this post about choosing real or artificial tree. My preference, for a number of reasons, is to have a real one. But how to choose the right tree?
I always get a Nordmann Fir because it retains its needles well and lasts longer. In comparison, a Norway Spruce does not have the same 'shelf-life' and you should buy it only 1-2 weeks before Christmas. Not earlier or it will dry out unless routed.
If your preference is an artificial tree, you may want to consider a pre-lit one. That way you don't need to worry about jumbled up fairy lights after the holidays!
Tip: Once you bring your tree home, remove the net and let it rest for a few hours in a watered base (for non-potted trees). This way the branches will drop on their own and you won't need to force them down or take wild guesses about where your baubles will end up.
Before you start decorating the tree, add the fairy lights. My preference is not to waste lights where they are not seen. So if your tree is pushed against a wall, then its back should have no lights at all. Bring the lights forward where they are most enjoyed.
How many lights do I need? Calculate 50 lights per foot height. For our 7-ft high tree, I used a box of 380 warm white lights. For our 4-ft a box of 180 lights was enough.
This is where the fun begins! Choose your colour scheme and get ornaments and decorations that will compliment it. This year, I have gone for a champagne/copper theme in the living room and blue and pink in the dining room. Pinterest is always a great place to pick some inspiration and one of my favourite boards is this one. Trend alert: Pink and pastel colours are so on trend right now! Give them a go!
Tip: Bigger baubles should be used on the lower branches. Add progressively smaller ones as you go higher up. Local tree nurseries are a great place to source unusual hanging decorations and ornaments.
Everyone should help with the tree and in our home there will be Christmas songs playing in the background. Even if the kids just stuff baubles 'wherever', let them do their thing and re-arrange afterwards (they won't notice!).
If the tree is a little sparse around the base and you don't have a tree skirt, huge gift wrapped boxes at its foot are great gap fillers and a good way to re-use boxes from recent deliveries. For a coordinated look, try to have wrapping paper similar to your colour scheme.
An easy way to add fun and something 'extra' is with groups of large honeycomb decorations. You can hang these next to the tree in clusters (see below), scatter a few at the bottom of your tree or attach on stair railings.
By the end of the first week of December you should have also sent all your Christmas cards to get this task out of the way. You can still send cards in the coming weeks but check here for this year's Royal Mail's recommended posting dates especially if you are sending cards abroad.
Do not leave deliveries for the last minute. With Christmas being the busiest year for couriers and the Royal Mail, things do get delayed and sometimes, unfortunately, lost. Avoid dramas by making sure that 'Santa' delivers all presents well in time for them to be wrapped! By the way, have you written your wish list yet!?
And if you are out and about, make sure you take advantage of most courier companies' 'drop to a safe place or with a neighbour' service to avoid having to drive to the nearest depot. That's time better spent on...
...ordering the turkey of course!
And shop around for that. Believe it or not, I get the best price at my local butcher and that means a) I support a local business and b) I know where my turkey comes from. And apparently this year it's from an award winning farm and costs £10 less than a high end supermarket's offer.
4/ Treat your guests
With the Christmas tree decorating complete, you should now focus on giving your guest bedroom a boutique hotel vibe. Invest in a good quality mattress and a warm duvet and dress it for the occasion. My preferred theme for winter is 'alpine' with lots of white, red and black. See more about this theme and shop the look here.
Use throws and accent cushions as well as atmospheric lighting. Add string fairy lights or cotton ball lights over large twigs to eye-catching effect. Compliment the look with faux fur or natural sheepskin rugs to keep your guests' feet warm and give the room a luxurious feel.
Leave welcome gifts like chocolates or perfumed candles on a bedside table or chair (orange and cinnamon is the best choice for candles this season). If you are feeling extra generous, new pairs of slippers and city guides - for those coming from afar - will be surely enjoyed.
5/ Table setting
When it comes to dressing the Christmas table, more is more! I like to test my table setting a week before Christmas, and if anything is missing I can still get replacements on time. Beautiful glassware and cutlery add to the festive spirit. Decorate with vases full of flowers or ivy, holly and spruce. You can also stud satsumas with cloves - they look and smell great!
Above: Invest in statement pieces like winter themed plates that don't really scream Christmas so you can use them often throughout the year. The bread plate above is from Anthropologie. I used a tablecloth with pink accents from South African firm Halsted Design to bring the scheme together.
Colourful candles, linen napkins, gold cutlery and fabulous looking plates and accessories are the finishing touches that will wow your guests and turn you into the host with the most! After all, a convivial setting is just as important as delicious food. Trend alert: Gold cutlery is big this season. I got mine here.
Resources: Limited Edition blue butterfly print 'Morpho' by Louise McNaught, Riseart.com; Bird Fynbos Tablecloth Kingfisher and napkins: Halsted Design. Gold cutlery and brass lantern, Mia Fleur; Blue Ducks and pink planter, Spitafields antiques market; candleholders and shaker, Anthropologie; glassware, LSA International.
Tip: Battery operated fairy lights can also be used around the centre of your table. Artful touches such as mini wreaths attached to the back of chairs can bring a natural feel.
Below: For the holidays, my dresser is filled with sparkling glasses, spirits and cocktail accessories to make an enticing bar area. You can use a sideboard or bar cart for this. Remember to drink responsibly.
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When is your service and MOT due? Mine is on the first week of January so I am bringing it forward as we are planning to have a mini break over the holidays. This is really important if you are planning to travel over the holidays (when garages are mostly closed).
Tip: If you are planning to be away during the festive days, get some plug timers for your sockets. Table and floor lamps in your home will go on for a few hours in the evening giving the impression that someone is always home.
So there you have it. My 5-step guide to stress-free Christmas to make sure you are one step ahead with your decorating!
This posts is in collaboration with AXA Insurance but all opinions are my own. AXA have some fabulous tips to help you protect your home. You can follow AXA on Twitter and Facebook for more expert tips with the hashtag #OneStepAhead.