The 'maximalist' tree
"The festive season is about excess, so think big and bold," suggests Annabel Lewis, founder of the luxury haberdashers VV Rouleaux. "Christmas is about 'maximalism'. Every year we have a tall, luscious tree with lots of light, dripping with colour and texture. This year is a mad combination of bright oranges, pinks and purples, added to lots of silver." And why confine yourself to baubles and tinsel? "I've opted for lots of ribbon bows, glittery flowers and glass icicles. The most important thing to get hold of before decorating your tree is florist's wire. This is particularly useful when attaching ribbon. Do not tie it around a branch in a bow, like a shoe lace, but treat it like a shawl around your neck: pinch it in at the middle and secure it with a piece of wire twisted at the back. To complement your tree, fill the house with sprigs of evergreen – holly and ivy are great, or if you can get hold of garlands of organdy leaf, these will look fabulous behind mirrors, frames and the backs of chairs." Forget the Less is More adage, she adds: "If it can be decorated, then it should be. As for the tree, if you think you need two sets of lights, then go for four." And the final consideration? Scent. "If you choose a Blue Pine, you'll have a wonderful, festive aroma. Mix this with the waft of burning log fires – and mulled wine – for the true scent of Christmas."
VV Rouleaux, London W1 (020-7224 5179), Miller Street, Glasgow (0141-221 2277) and selected John Lewis stores (vvrouleaux.com)
The natural tree
"Why splash out on glitzy decorations," asks the gardener and writer, "when Mother Nature does it better than the high street – and for less?" Take allium heads. "These come in three different sizes: the smallest, 'Purple Sensation', fills the palm of your hand, while Allium chubertii can grow as much as 45cms across. Sprayed silver and simply chucked at your tree, these will stick to its branches and look fabulous." Timing is all-important, she adds. "I tend to decorate early and pack away early. But one should really buy flowers on 21 or 22 December; these will last until after the New Year." When it comes to the tree itself, plastic is not fantastic: "Never go for a fake. You won't get the scent or the texture. A Blue Spruce will last up to six weeks without dropping a needle, and you can find them in most florists. Or try a deciduous Silver Birch; against its branches decorations will show up particularly well." And modesty, she adds, should be given a wide berth at Christmas time. "The tree should be as big as you can possibly fit into the room. The key when it comes to decorating is to go very packed but with very simple pieces." One can afford to go overboard this way: "I'm opting for purple, silver and clear glass, with lots of lights. And it's always great to have a real jamboree of presents under the tree. One can't get uptight about these things. It is a feast after all, not a famine!"
'Sarah Raven's Complete Christmas' is published by Bloomsbury at £25
The family tree
"A Christmas tree should look like a cacophony of Liquorice Allsorts, with a little bit of everything on it." So says the founder of the smart handbag brand Mulberry. "The key is not to be too precious. It's nice to have memories at this time of year, so we keep a box of decorations filled with bits I've found on my travels: Tibetan brass bells, which ward off the cats who like to have a sniff at the presents under the tree, and Chinese candles which inevitably set fire to the branches." While size is all-important, the economic downturn does mean cutting back a bit this year: "As we're lucky enough to have a high-ceilinged medieval hallway, we usually fill this with a 15-ft Norwegian Spruce. But this year my wife insists that we must opt for a more normal-sized eight-footer." But halving the size needn't mean reducing the spectacle: "The tree is always colourful, and this year will be no different. In fact, we're not planning to reduce the amount of decorations we use, so the tree will be even more vibrant." Star or fairy? "There is no debate. It's always a fairy perched on the top of our tree. We tend to secure it before hoisting the tree; this means manpower, which we're never short of. There are always lots of people in the house at Christmas – the boys and their partners still tumble into bed with us in the morning to open presents. The tree represents that 'squeeze them all in' aspect of Christmas: it's a higgledy piggeldy affair!"
Roger Saul owns Kilver Court Gardens, organic spelt food label Sharpham Park, and Charlton House Hotel (charltonhouse.com)
The renewable tree
Running the west London store Eco Age – which she owns with her husband Colin Firth, the British actor, Fairtrade spokesman and Oxfam ambassador – Livia Giuggioli has many a tip to help make yours a green Christmas. And limiting waste is top of the agenda. While a weighty 16,000 tons of food will be binned this year alone in the UK, failing to recycle greetings cards and wrapping paper will also contribute an estimated three million tons of rubbish. Add to this the 7.5 million trees bought in the UK – only 10 per cent of which will be recycled – and suddenly the festive season looks a little less merry. But you needn't cancel Christmas just yet: "Rather than buying a new tree every year, you can keep a potted one in the garden. We've had the same one for three years and every time we bring it in, there is something new about it," Giuggioli says. "The children cover it with low-energy fairy lights and an eclectic mixture of decorations. I keep a Christmas box, which consists of a mixture of pieces that belonged to my grandmother, bits I had chosen as a child, and additions from my own children. It makes decorating the tree even more fun. We bring down the box from the attic and wade through it all, reminded of special memories from over the years." It also saves cash. "Every year, adverts tell you to buy everything new, but really that's just mindless consumerism. Christmas should be about simple pleasures: making your home warm and cosy, and surrounding yourself with immediate family. Tradition and spending quality time with your loved ones is what makes this time of year special, not buying stuff for the sake of it."
Livia Giuggioli is the founder of Eco Age, 213 Chiswick High Road, London W4 (eco-age.com)Reuse content