Designer trees for a cool Yule

It's no good just getting out last year's decorations, you know. Below, three style-brokers theme their firs for James Sherwood

Stephen Woodhams, floral and garden designer: "I thought it was time to get away from what I'd call the chintz brigade Christmas decoration. Festive garlands, fussy bows and tinsel are all a definite no. The trad school of thought plays on nostalgia and I wanted a much cleaner, modern feel.

"So, I've taken a conventional Christmas tree, sprayed it with a base coat of silver then used an ice-blue aerosol paint-spray over the silver coating. If you are going minimal, then you need to get the details right. I've sprayed the fairy-light cable silver. You are never going to find anything other than green cable when you buy your lights.

"Because the overall look is quite stark and cold, I wanted to emphasise the crispness of the tree with white light. Coloured lights just look gaudy and make your tree look like Blackpool illuminations. We have an own-brand collection of jewel-coloured baubles (89p each) but I stuck to one colour, the sapphire blue. By cutting the colour scheme to silver, blue and white light, I think the overall theme says Christmas rather than screaming it. Cluttering a tree with too much junk and too many colours looks old fashioned.

"The galvanised steel trash can I've used for the base of the tree follows my chain of thought because it is unconventionally severe but still beautiful. We use a lot of glass and galvanised steel vases and boxes in the shop. So, I was pushing the idea just a little further for Christmas. I worked on the same idea for Joseph's Christmas windows, using flame red, and the idea kept the contemporary feel. My message for Christmas decorations has to be keep it simple."

Stephen Woodhams, 60 Ledbury Road, London W11, 0171 243 3141.

Paula Pryke, floral designer: "I live in a loft, so I don't have a Victorian fireplace to decorate or stair rails to drape holly garlands from... thank God. Your Christmas decorations have to compliment the mood of your own interior, so it would be rather daft to live in a tastefully minimal space and then stick some gaudy monstrosity in the middle of it over the Christmas period.

"I took the silhouette of a trad Christmas tree and gave it a twist. I started with a conical metal "skeleton" circled with candle-holders. Then, I twined ivy around the whole structure to make what is essentially an ivy Christmas tree. Instead of fairy lights, I just put about 40 thick ivory candles in the holders and concealed the base of each candle with ivy. I made purple velvet roses with gold-edged velvet ribbon, which make the tree look so baroque once the candles are lit.

"Trying to be too minimal does take the fun out of Christmas decorations. You can still keep well within the bounds of good taste without being too boring. An alternative idea for Christmas trees that I used in my loft apartment are two 10ft cacti in terracotta pots, draped in white fairy lights. I'm also working with fruit: spraying real pineapples silver then clustering them into pineapple trees with silver palm leaves. I found my extravagant golden apples made out of reeds from the Philippines. They are a bit of fun, but you see what I mean about modern not necessarily having to be minimal.

"Trust me on this one: real fruit arrangements will see you through the 12 days of Christmas without going off. When they start to sag, you know it's time to take your decorations down anyway. This year, I'm concentrating on natural materials in exotic colours".

Paula Pryke Flowers, 20 Penton Street, London N1, 0171 837 7336.

Emma Bernhardt, owner of Mexican Interiors: "Utter, unadulterated madness. That's what I want from a Christmas tree. Everything I sell in Emma Bernhardt is sourced in Mexico, so it is party time all year round for me. Christmas is an excuse to go even wilder. Last year, I bought these huge bags of silver glitter-dust from Mexico and practically threw handfuls of glitter at my tree; letting it fall all over the floor. Not such a hot idea if you are obsessed with Hoovering, but who wants to Hoover over Christmas anyway? But this year, I wanted to work with a baby Christmas tree and make something so cute you'd want to keep it up all year round.

"I buy these strands of plastic roses in, you've guessed it, Mexico. I've just draped them on the tree without being too careful. It's a kind of 'pink roses are taking over my living room' look. Because the top of a Christmas tree looks bare without a crowning bit of glory, I just took more plastic flowers and bunched them until they looked as if they are exploding from the tree top. I attached the plastic posy with clothes pegs, bulldog clips, whatever... as long as they are pink. I also detached five of the rose buds and pegged them to the top tier of tree branches like a halo.

"I say anything goes with a Christmas tree. Go insane if you want to. It's a hell of a lot more creative than a solitary white lily in a glass vase tastefully displayed on your coffee table. I think Christmas is a good excuse for style victims to let loose for a month and indulge in all things glitzy and gorgeous."

Emma Bernhardt Mexican Interiors, 301 Portobello Road, London W10, 0181 960 2929.

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