Wishing you a quirky Christmas with Abigail Ahern

Time to throw out the Christmas tradition rulebook, and show more creativity. Famed for her unexpected decorating twists, designer and author Abigail Ahern is sharing ten tips for creating an unconventional festive home. Says Annie Deakin.

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The Independent Online


1. Ditch the conventional Christmas tree - Bay trees strung with fairy lights are a fab alternative to the traditional Christmas tree. I have a row of bay trees bought from Columbia road flower market in my open plan kitchen. They look magical, smell amazing and can be used in cooking so I think of them as multi-functional. They are hardy trees so, when your guests have left, you can plant them in the garden at this time of year.

2. Swap mistletoe for petals - Pot pourri gets a bad rap but the most intoxicating thing you can do is scent your home with Santa Maria Novella pot pourri (available from Amazon). I decant it into little tea light holders and scatter across house, in the hall, the loo and the sitting room. It is a mix of herbs and flowers collected from the hills in Florence. It gives a beautiful underlying scent across the house.

3. Spray glitter on roses - Flowers on the Christmas table are a must for me. I spray fat headed flowers (generally dark red roses) with hair spray and sprinkle glitter over them. They look really magical when beside twinkling candles. They flicker and glimmer.

4. Floral alternatives to the predictable ponsetta - Cranberries are incredibly cheap around now; I put cranberries with a little posy of flowers into clear vessels and tumblers so that it looks really festive and lovely. Another flower that I use that gets bad rap are red carnations. I create an oasis ball filled with stubby carnation stems and perch them onto coasters or tea-light holders to vary the heights. If it was a different flower, it would cost a fortune.

5. Display baubles with attitude - I stick any leftover baubles under really sweet glass cloches normally used for storing cheese. I plonk these on tables around the house. Christmas baubles are sparkly and twinkly and it’s a more original way of displaying them than hanging on door handles or around pictures.

6. Boil up Christmas fragrance - Half an hour before guests arrive, I simmer a saucepan of water, fresh ginger, cloves, vanilla pod, allspice, orange peel and cinnamon. Like mulled wine but without the alcohol, it creates the most incredible smell across the house.

7. Dress chairs with sheepskins - At this time of year, I am always softening our cold hard dining room chairs with cosy sheepskins or throws. There is something about adding soft textures to the dining table to makes it seem more welcoming.

8. Drape fairy lights instead of tinsel - Nothing shouts glamour more than fairy lights everywhere; you can’t really go overboard with fairy lights at Christmas. I drape them on our centre island, stairs, over mantles, mirrors, up banisters and over paintings. They are so twinkly and glamorous.

9. Inventive solution to hanging coats - Buy a load of simple doorknobs from a DIY store and paint them in colours. I cluster them together and drill to the wall for hanging guests’ coats. I always have a problem at this time of year as I don’t have a cloakroom and hate the idea of guests running upstairs to plonk coats on a bed.

10. Serve drinks with a difference - I like to create frozen fruit ice cubes. I put fresh blueberries and raspberries with water into ice cubes and freeze them. When guests arrive, I add them to their drinks; whatever it is - prosecco, champagne, cocktail or gin – they look really sweet.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.