The graphic artist and interior designer shares her advice on styling your home for Christmas, festive tablescaping and how to keep the family entertained. Plus, find out why festive outfits are a must for her cats.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but with it comes a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and preparations ahead of the big day. This year we wanted to make Christmas extra special for our loved ones, so we enlisted the help of graphic artist and interior designer, Emma J Shipley on how to decorate your home for the most stylish and magical Christmas.
With jewel-toned, whimsical designs inspired by myths and the beauty of the natural world, Emma’s interior collections perfectly complement the festive season. Here, she shares her tips on how to style the most festive table, how to decorate your home and why Christmas is one of her favourite times of year.
Colourful Christmas: In Conversation with Designer Emma J Shipley
What’s the most magical thing about Christmas for you?
The joy of doing nothing and not feeling guilty about it! And of course spending time with family, the food and everyone coming together to celebrate.
What are your favourite traditions?
One of my latest traditions is dressing up my cats in Christmas outfits! Although I’m not sure they’re so keen…They usually allow just enough time for me to take a festive photo before getting too annoyed about the whole thing.
There seem to be two types of people when it comes to preparing for Christmas: those who are super-organised and start planning around October, and those who do a mad dash! Which category do you fall in?
Oh, absolutely mad dash! Although I’ve been online shopping for Christmas for a few years now, so I make sure I have things ordered just in time to receive everything in the post. I’m also getting my tree up early this year as it feels more necessary than ever to enjoy some festive cheer at home.
Where do you hope to be for Christmas this year?
I would love to be in the mountains, skiing or on an adventure in the Arctic Circle, but I think that might have to be postponed until Christmas 2021! But I’m lucky to be healthy and have my family close by, which is all you need for a special Christmas.
What does Christmas at home look like for you?
I love decorating the tree. For me, it's all about a mix of different decorations from different eras (with a “more is more” philosophy, of course). I’m not into a colour-themed tree; it should incorporate all colours and ideally be visible outside as well as in to spread some joy – we have ours up against our large, living-room windows. Throughout December, I love having plenty of flower arrangements to bring colour and nature into the house. Dried are lovely for winter and last for months if you look after them!
Real or fake Christmas tree?
Has to be real for the true magic of nature.
Emma’s Styling Tips for Creating the Perfect Christmas
It’s Christmas, it’s only once a year and it’s temporary, so I say: go all out with colour. Don’t be afraid to mix lots of different shades – you needn’t feel confined to a strict theme. Highlight colours by incorporating them in items such as table runners, flowers or centrepieces. You can’t go wrong with fir green, soft metallics and jewel tones including emerald, ruby red and magenta.
You want each guest to feel special. This can be as simple as tucking small dried flowers or fir sprigs into folded napkins, creating name cards from last year’s Christmas cards or even making your own, personalised crackers (visit our blog for how to make these). You don’t have to spend a fortune – often the more homemade touches, the better.
I’ve always thought that wrapping can be lovely even when using the most basic, reused materials. For years, my go-to wrapping has been newspaper (choosing a relevant section for the recipient), tied with twine or leftover ribbon, and using tags made from last year’s Christmas cards.
There’s still something magical about a Christmas Eve stocking. If you don’t have one that's been passed down in the family and you have some basic sewing skills, it can be a lovely thing to make yourself.
There’s quite a bit of time sitting around with the family at Christmas, so I love making sure we have some activities at hand. This year, it’ll be my new Lynx and Zambezi puzzles. They’re 1,000 pieces each and a fun activity to share (along with snacks of nuts, chocolates and wine) over the holidays.
Step by Step: How to Create the Most Stylish Christmas Table
Lay out your tablecloth, if you’re using one. This can simply be white or a block colour, with a statement table runner on top. I made my own from our Sylph silk fabric as it comes in the most lustrous jewel colours, perfect for Christmas!
Lay out your placemats and coasters at each guest’s place. I usually have two coasters per guest to allow for water and wine. Crystal or coloured glassware make the day feel extra special.
I love creating a table garland. Large vases of flowers can block off guests from each other; something flatter means you can nestle other festive pieces among the branches. Jars of tealights, chocolate coins, pine cones and dried fruit slices are favourites of mine. For the base of the garland, I snip branches from the bottom of the Christmas tree, where it won’t be noticed, and add in pampas grass and other dried flowers.
Add decorative side plates and colourful napkins, tied or held with napkin rings and sprigs of holly. Now your festive table is ready for the main event!
Share pictures your festive table with us @domusnovalondon #ChristmaswithDomus