IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TREE
We all know the classic Christmas tree; red, silver and gold. This season’s hottest festive looks are bit off piste, but will have you raking up those Instagram likes.
All you need for this look is an army of helpers; better still if you have children — they will genuinely enjoy this adventure. You will need paper — preferably brown or cream, adhesive and rope; draw a bunting pattern on the paper, cut and glue onto rope to drape. Download paper craft templates, print, cut and glue to create small houses and other objects to hang. Grown-ups can help too: knit baubles in white and red wood, stuff with cotton. If you are predisposed to culinary experiments, try making gingerbread ornaments (you can google Nigella Lawson’s recipe) and like her, put your young ones to work on the icing. Mix in a few market-bought baubles, stars and fairy lights. To make the tree more playful, use your kids’ small toys and stuffed dolls as baubles, and thrown in some festive ribbon.
THE COUNTRY TREE
The festive season is one for comfort and simple joys. Food, good company … gifts! Jokes aside, all one dreams of, especially expats living in the desert, is cuddling up next to the fireplace. A country-inspired look is still possible, and while it will not light the furnace, this look will warm the heart with its rustic elements. You will need a metal bucket to house the tree’s base. The carpenters in Bur Dubai or Sharjah will help you make wood-like plaques, stars, birds in ply. Glue black and white pictures of loved ones on the plaques, decorate your tree with the ply baubles and switch on the lights! Gifts wrapped in newsprint and hessian will further hone the look.
Frozen was for children. This look delivers high-visual impact, but requires you to commit to it 100 per cent. You will need a flocked artificial tree. A flocked tree is your regular fake foliage, sprayed with a mixture of adhesive and cellulose fibres that creates a snow-kissed look. You can always buy a flocking kit online to revamp your old tree — spray it with water, sift the flock onto it and let it dry. There is only one look that goes well with a flocked tree: noble metals. Mix silver with gold and go to town festooning your tree. Add yellow lighting for a magical glow. Crystal or glass ornaments such as icicles and stars add depth and texture to your winter wonderland.
FESTIVE DÉCOR FOR THE NOT-SO-CHRISTMASSY TYPES
Yes, there are people who would rather steer clear from obvious declarations of festive joy. They are not Grinches, maybe they just like a sombre approach. Maybe they are minimalists. Luckily, we have something for them, too.
The tree can be a bone of contention for these sorts, but how about an artistic installation instead? You will require real conifer branches (which are easily available at Dubai Garden Centre). Use them individually to illustrate a profile of the tree on a wall. Anoint with monochrome, metallic baubles.
Tabletops too, have restrained options. A white base always helps, as does a tray that will keep all ‘clutter’ in check. Fill the tray with an array of candles, pine cones and conifer sprigs; tip your hat to the season’s festivities.
THE EXPERT TELLS YOU HOW
No one does Christmas in the UAE quite like Fairmont on the Palm. At the heart of the hotel’s festive season is their annual tree-lighting ceremony that features a larger than life Christmas tree, beautifully festooned with the season’s magical spirit. Karen Joyce, Director of Housekeeping at the property, offers a tutorial on how to make your tree show-window worthy.
“The location of your tree is important,” says Joyce. “Obviously, it should be next to a power point, but where you place it will also dictate how you decorate.” In the middle of a room, you need to invest in top quality baubles to cover the tree 360 degrees. In a corner, you can concentrate your best ornaments on the visible half, using filler pieces at the back. Chose a location that would not have kids or pets in the way. You don’t want a fallen tree when you get back from work.
Especially if it’s out of a cardboard box, you need to pay attention to the branches. Spend time on each branch, spreading and expressing it; this will help you achieve a fuller look.
There can never be enough lights on a Christmas tree, but luckily, there are basic rules to curtail the overzealous. Eighty-100 lights per foot (height) should do the trick. While draping the lights, install the lights from the top of the tree to the bottom. With the lights, draw an uneven spiral, or the profile of the X-Mas tree (like in children’s colouring book), making sure you push and tug the cord so that the lights are dispersed on the surface as well as the inner branches. Your tree will, quite literally, glow from the inside. If you are buying new lights, copper-wired ones are best; in any case, make sure you roll out your lights around the tree as working with an open roll is a nightmare.
Once you have your colour scheme sorted, baubles are down to a simple rule — cheap ones inside (near the stem), to fill out the inner section of the branches. The expensive, nostalgic and vintage ones go towards the tips. Also, the precious ones are best at the higher part of the tree — where they meet the eye! Once you’ve hung the bauble, wrap its thread about the branch to keep the focus on the ornament. “Cover the base with a simple tree skirt but always hide it with beautifully wrapped gift boxes for the finishing touches” says Joyce.
THE FESTIVE TABLE
Foliage is the new haute decor when it comes to dinner tables. From wedding receptions to banquets and restaurants, flowers have been replaced by a runner of greens. For an easy-to-maintain festive look, place branches in glass vases (artisanal, bottle-type work best) in clusters. Intermingle the vases with candles and battery-operated, copper-wire fairy lights in apothecary jars. If your home allows (it helps if you have a chandelier hanging over your dinner table) suspend a conifer garland or wreath above the space.
An easy and effective means to frame your dinner table with drama is via IKEA. The old trusty has a great collection of star-shaped paper lanterns that are easy to hang. Intertwine them with battery operated lights for maximum effect.
For place-settings, the year’s hottest trend — white ceramic and matte gold reigns supreme. Lend texture through your choice of ceramic wares, and layer the look with napkins in earthy grey tones. Tuck in some holly or other festive greens.