Friday, 05 February 2016

As long as it sparkles

All year round we obsess about our homes – colour coordinating scatter cushions with rugs, lamps with drapes; perfectly positioning flower displays for stylish impact. Then comes Christmas.

Christmas decorations photo
Christmas decorations by Bloomsberry of Carlisle in the home of Judith Pattinson

For two or three weeks of the year all style bibles are left on the shelf, good taste takes a nosedive and anything goes... so long as it sparkles.

Out come the 20-year-old baubles, the tatty fake tree that should have been dumped at the turn of the century, the fraying tinsel that tries – but fails – to hide balding branches.

Never mind that singing Santa has lost his voice or that Rudolph’s red nose no longer glows. What was packed back into its box last January, comes out again in December. That’s just the way it is – at Christmas.

Pause for a poorly disguised shudder from international floral designer and demonstrator Derek Armstrong. The Carlisle florist adores Christmas. He loves to adorn his home with its special sparkle, its frosted fruits, painted roots and berried branches. But singing Santas...?

“Well, put it this way,” he said, as diplomatically as he could manage. “If you have older items with sentimental value – maybe they were gifts or carry memories of childhood – think carefully about how you might include them in a creative arrangement for a specific area of the house.”

Hide them, in other words?

“Well, no. But for instance, could those old, faded gold baubles be themed into a design with black ribbon and painted branches for drama? Could they be combined with lime green accessories for impact?”

It’s clear Derek, of Bloomsberry Florists, Bank Street, Carlisle, doesn’t do singing Santas or Rudolph with his brake lights out – however old and sentimental they may claim to be.

He does do wreaths of white roses, pine, silvered ribbon and crystal drops. He does do sumptuous servings of rich red fruits, twinkly baubles and frosted foliage in oversized Martini glasses. He does do trees dripping in burnished gold, copper and shimmering bronze ribbon.

“We’re all a lot more clued-up about design issues than we used to be,” he said. “Television room-makeover programmes have made us much more conscious of style. But Christmas seems to throw even the most stylish into confusion.

“Lots of people are really careful with interior design for 50 weeks of every year and then for two weeks at Christmas, they forget all about colour scheming, positioning, respecting space, lighting and shading. There can be a tendency to carry on what our families always did when we were children – a bit of tartan here and there and a tree with red baubles.

“It doesn’t need to be that way. Use existing colour schemes and work with them. Dress up the candlesticks that stand in your room year-round with ribbon and a sparkly candle to complement decor. If you don’t want a tree or feel you don’t have space, it’s perfectly fine to arrange a few blue pine branches in a glass vase, hang pretty baubles and crystal drops from them.

“Anything does go at Christmas. Be imaginative. But it helps if you can think the look through along the design lines you apply through the rest of the year.”

Derek’s brand of Christmas decorative design was demonstrated at a charity weekend at the home of Brampton parish councillor and former Carlisle mayor Judith Pattinson. His festive ideas for decking everything from the halls of stately homes and drawing rooms of grand houses to homey flats were put on display to raise money for Eden Valley Hospice.

“I do love trees,” he said. “I love dressing my home for Christmas and always include a big heavily decorated and beautifully lit tree. But I enjoy living with the decorations – everything from wreaths and trees, lights and garlands to painted or petrified twigs.

“I have no hard and fast ideas about when the decorating should start. Travelling around the country to give demonstrations, I’ve noticed homes fully trimmed up by mid November. Time pressure and being busy at work tends to mean I don’t start at home until the second week in December. “But I’m superstitious and insist it all has to have come down by twelfth night. That’s when the rethink on overhauling decor starts to set in. I enjoy that too. It never stops, really.”


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