What is this year’s most charming Christmas theme?

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: November 20th, 2016 In: The Middlesized House

Stylist Liz Bauwens has picked a Christmas theme for at least one glossy magazine every year.

She’s worked for the Vogue group, Good Housekeeping, Ideal Home, House & Garden, Country Homes & Interiors and lots more, as well as styling books and ad campaigns.

Upcycled Chic & Modern Hacks by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell

The interior style books that Liz and I did together. Note the ‘feather’ hooks on the left – all part of this year’s ‘birds’ theme.

I worked with Liz at Good Housekeeping in the 1990s. Since then, we’ve done six books on interiors together, with her husband, top photographer, Simon Brown. She finds homes to photograph and lovely things, and styles the photography, while I do the words.

The books are all about making your home look stylish without spending a fortune – titles include Upcycled Chic & Modern Hacks, Thrifty Chic and Fleamarket Chic. They’re all published by Cico Books (Ryland Peters & Small).

So I know that Liz is extraordinarily good at picking out something special, whether she’s in a French brocante, a fleamarket or a maker’s workshop.

Now she’s opened a shop called Otto Trading in Acton, London. I visited it to get ideas for Christmas decorating and to find out what theme she loves this Christmas.

Birds is a top Christmas theme 2016

Liz has identified ‘birds’ as a Christmas theme this year. I’m delighted to hear this. Firstly, it’s charming.

Secondly, The Middlesized Garden blog has decided to come indoors this week, because it is winter, after all.  Luckily, a theme of birds is entirely appropriate for a gardening blog. I feel I can write about birds in Christmas decorating without being accused of going off-topic.

Bird garland from Otto Trading

String a paper bird garland along your kitchen shelves this Christmas. Available from Otto Trading.

Liz travels around the UK and France to find unusual hand-made and vintage items which have simplicity and character. ‘I’m also interested in the fair trade and eco side of it all. How and where things are made is important,’ she says.

I love the way she’s hung this bird garland on open shelves. It’s small and delicate – it won’t get in the way of using the shelves. If you’re very nifty with craft, you could probably make one from bird stencils.

But I couldn’t find any suitable stencil patterns (I did look), so perhaps it’s better to buy it from Otto Trading for £6.50. Liz can post it, although she hasn’t got full online trading set up yet.

A Christmas theme of birds made of paper, iron or glass.

This rustic bird on the right is hand-made in England. Perfect for a Christmas themed mantelpiece – and it would look just as good on a garden table outside in the summer.

How to rock a theme

You don’t have to have everything the same when you have a Christmas theme. It’s a great opportunity to mix things up in a contemporary way without ending up just a muddle. Liz has feather patterned plates, feather hooks, several different sizes and styles of decorative birds, a bird garland, knitted birds and more.

When you walk in the shop, you don’t immediately think ‘what a lot of birds’. It just all looks very pretty and hangs together without looking ‘matchy-matchy’.

Above all, a Christmas theme doesn’t have to take over. You could just add a few decorative birds to your tree, or a paper garland to your shelves. You probably already have some birds amongst your Christmas decorations – I know I do.

A clever tip for shelves

I couldn’t resist telling you how Liz created her shop shelves, although that’s not strictly about either Christmas decorating or birds.

She bought old ladders and painted them with a quick wash of white paint. She then painted new scaffolding boards with the same white wash, and fixed them to the ladders. It was much cheaper than buying shelving, and has a lovely rustic look.

Find more of Liz’s clever tips in our books: Upcycled Chic & Modern Hacks, Thrifty Chic, Fleamarket Chic and Country in the City.

A quick, stylish Christmas table centrepiece

Use a branch from your garden as a light, contemporary centrepiece for a dining or side table. Liz found this apple branch in her mother’s garden, and used it as a base for her Christmas theme.

A garden branch as a Christmas table centrepiece

Use a branch with good proportions – not too big or it will topple over. This is around 1m/3ft high.

A branch in a jar or vase can be unstable, so Liz used white aquarium gravel to weight down the base. You can get it easily in pet shops, or via this Amazon link. (I’m an Amazon affiliate, so if you buy via the links, I may get a small fee, but it won’t affect the price you pay.)

Or watch the video below to see how Liz does it:

Find Otto Trading at 113 Churchfield Road, London W3 6AH for vintage and contemporary homewares, and also interior design advice.

Choose a Christmas theme

And there’ll be more Christmas decorating ideas coming up between now and Christmas, so do join us every Sunday morning – subscribe by email in the box on the top right of the page.

I also find that Pinterest is a great resource for visual ideas, so check the  Middlesized Garden Christmas Pinterest board for Christmas decorating ideas, too. Let me know if you have a Christmas Pinterest board, so I can look out for your pins. Thank you!

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