Tuesday 25 October 2016

Interiors: Nordic white Christmas

Danish-inspired decor and frosty colours dominate this season's festive trends

Published 27/11/2015 | 02:30

A display from Nordic elements.
A display from Nordic elements.
Draw-it-yourself Christmas stickings from Eat Sleep Doodle
Christmas decor from House of Fraser
White is big this Christmas

Growing up, we had the best Christmases. Way better than anyone else's Christmas. It wasn't until I was about 10 that I realised my best friend up the road thought that her family had the best Christmas too. And so on… Christmas traditions can be very different, even between families living in the same street.

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There's no one-size-fits-all solution. So that's why it doesn't matter if you have a real tree or a fake one. If you love tinsel and spray-on snow, then go for it. The taste police are on holiday.

That said, it looks like it's going to be a white Christmas - with or without the weather. The shops are full of pale frosty decorations and trees that look as though they've had a blast from the White Witch. Overdone, this can be a chilly look. The trick is to combine the white elements with graphic shapes and warm colours.

"This year I have mostly white decorations and metallics," says Helle Moyna of Nordic Elements. "I have baubles made in wire - I like those because they're not going to break - and some supersize decorations that look really dramatic hung in the window or on the tree."

Moyna's Christmas aesthetic is influenced by her childhood, growing up in Denmark. "I would never have a fake tree. I never even saw one until I moved to London in my 20s. We don't do fake trees in Denmark! And we all have our favourite types of real tree."

Because real trees tend to shed (even if the vendor swears they won't), the Danish tradition is to put down a rug to catch the pine needles. "We wouldn't just put a Christmas tree on the floor. We put it on a blanket. My dad still has the one that my granny made in cross stitch."

In Ireland we traditionally spend January picking pine needles out of the carpet. For those that want to adopt this sensible Danish custom, a Christmas tree blanket from Nordic Elements costs €42. It's octagonal (120cm in diameter) with a dark graphic of a star on an off-white base.

In Denmark, where winter darkness sets in at 4pm, candles are a big part of the Christmas décor. "One of my favourites is the Calendar candle," says Moyna. "It's a large white candle marked with silver numbers from one down to 24. We light it every morning and let it burn down to the next number while we're having breakfast. Then we blow it out and start again the next day."

A Calendar candle in a Scandi-style cast iron holder costs €28.75. Another candle-related Christmas ritual involves four candles, one to be lit on each Sunday in Advent. "Every year I buy four different candles and arrange them in a bowl of moss and pine cones. I'll be lighting the first one on Sunday - once it gets dark - to start the countdown," adds Moyna.

As with many Danish traditions, this involves a strong element of hand making. "We all make our own candle decorations! Part of the countdown for Christmas is about everyone sitting around cutting and gluing and making things."

People who like a hands-on approach to Christmas might enjoy the range from Eat Sleep Doodle. It includes a draw-it-yourself Christmas stocking (€24). It's made of cotton and comes with a set of pens so that you can decorate it yourself. When the holiday is over, wash the stockings in a 40 degree cycle and they'll come out clean of all decoration so that you can start again next year.

For Jonathan Legge, designer and co-founder of Makers and Brothers, Christmas is all about decking the halls with boughs of holly. "Growing up, preparing for Christmas meant pulling ivy off the trees, cutting back the holly bush, and weaving the foliage up through the banisters and all around the house."

This year, as part of their Dublin-based pop-up, Makers and Brothers have gone into partnership with The Informal Florist. Expect relaxed, non-traditional Christmas wreaths with not a glitter-dipped branch in sight, along with workshops where they help you to make your own.

But if you come looking for spray-on snow, you'll be disappointed. Legge shudders at the thought. "I don't like spray-on snow. Some people squirt that stuff everywhere. It's hard to tell what's underneath."

Candles were a big thing in the Legge household, and Makers and Brothers have continued the tradition with a range of beeswax candles made by the Camphill community in Kilkenny. "They burn slowly and steadily and the beeswax is a by-product from the production of honey, which is nice. We'll be putting the candles in brass candlesticks made by a traditional Swedish producer," says Legge.

Two tall beeswax candles cost €12.50 and the Nattlight candle holder from Skultuna costs €82. Legge plans to spread foliage across the mantelpiece and intersperse the candles with clove oranges. "Clove oranges are our other favourite thing. We make them ourselves. They smell amazing but they're a killer on the thumb!"

Their mother, he remembers, always put a platter of candied peel, roast almonds, and chunks of dark chocolate on the table for the few days around Christmas. It was a decorative thing, arranged with candles and clove oranges as well as treats. "You were allowed to eat it, you just weren't allowed to eat all of it," he says.

This year they'll be keeping that tradition going, using a wooden platter made by Tony Farrell in Cork (from €22).

Nordic Elements' Christmas pop-up takes place today and from December 1-19, with details on nordicelements.com. Makers and Brothers' Christmas pop-up takes place every weekend from now until Christmas, with details on makersandbrothers.com. Both pop-ups are in Blackrock, Co Dublin, but you can also order online, as you can from eatsleepdoodle.com.

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