How to work a Christmas theme with just a few tweaks

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: November 20th, 2016 In: Decorations/parties

What’s your ‘Christmas theme’ this year?

Are you just a little bored with your usual Christmas decorations? If you pick a Christmas theme, you don’t have to buy a whole load of new decorations.

You can still use your favourite family Christmas decorations.

But give them a twist by picking out a theme. You may buy a few new decorations, and you will probably put a few away (to be brought out next year).

Stylist Liz Bauwens knows all about Christmas themes. She’s been picking them for glossy magazines for many years.

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 good example of a Christmas theme

Liz has identified ‘birds’ as a charming and contemporary Christmas theme.

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. You could do the same with a ‘star’ theme, for example.

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.

Admittedly, 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.

Or you could pick a colour theme…

Christmas doesn’t have to be red or green. Try picking out another colour as a focus, such as white, orange or even a pink Christmas.

Or take inspiration from the garden for your theme. This twig wreath is made from tree trimmings.

So forage for Christmas twigs and greenery, and use them as simple, free floral decorations and on the mantelpiece or table.

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

Wildlife-friendly Christmas decorations for the garden

While we’re talking about birds – if you love seeing Christmas lights in the garden, but are concerned that they will be bad for wildlife, read this for gorgeous wildlife-friendly Christmas decorating options.

Another way is to use solar fairy lights. In winter, the days are short, so they have very little time to re-charge and are usually only on in the early evening. I use BlingString solar fairy lights, available from Amazon for our garden, and in winter they usually go off before 11pm.

(I’m an Amazon Associate, by the way, so you can click on the link to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay.)

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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