Cosy up for winter
Don't be left out in the dark - lighting and textures are key for these colder months
If there's one thing we can count on, it's the dark. The year is spiralling down towards its shortest day and, whatever else the weather has to throw at us, there will be long, dark nights ahead. It's a time of year when the home needs all the cheering up that it can get.
Catherine Carton, the blogger behind The Dainty Dress Diaries, is a winter strategist. It's a difficult season for her - summer is her natural habitat - but she's mustering her resources. When the hour changed, she layered up the sofa with snuggly rugs, furry throws, and sparkly sequined cushions. She bought a couple of cinnamon-and-berry scented candles and took the winter lamps out of storage.
"I struggle with the dark evenings," she says. "If I can add a bit of twinkle it just makes me happier. I use a daylight lightbulb in my office to stop me from getting tired when I am working. At home, I use extra lamps in my living room and bedroom to add light without it getting too harsh."
Then she put up a Christmas tree in her bedroom. "It went up in early November," she admits. "I always have the decorations up early to create a backdrop for my YouTube videos, but it's a luxury thing too. I've only decorated the bedroom though - I don't want the neighbours to think I'm a weirdo!"
She will decorate the front part of the house in December, just like a normal person. In the meantime, she's enjoying her secret Christmas tree.
Carton's home is decorated in a very distinctive style. She calls it shabby chic, but there's more to it than that. Imagine the happy marriage of a rosebud teacup and a powder puff, and you'll get the idea. It's very feminine, very sweet, and deeply reflective of her personality. But how do you adapt such a summery look for the winter months? "I tone down the floral prints in favour of plain colours, keep a light colour palette, and add texture with my fabrics," she says.
Promoting her own aesthetic is not what Carton is about. With Dainty Dress Diaries, her mission is to empower people to decorate their own home in their own way. "I want people to create the home that they want on whatever budget they have," she says. "Take me, for example. I wanted a cute cottage but I have to live in Dublin because of my work." In fairness, she's done a pretty good job of making a small Dublin townhouse look like a traditional country cottage, rosebuds and all.
Carton has a talent for upcycling - and for showing other people how it's done - which she discovered through necessity. She bought her house in 2013, in the depths of the recession. "That's what made it possible for me to buy, but I was only 25 and I had no idea how expensive furniture was! I'd spent all my money on the house so I had to get furniture for free and upcycle it. Then I'd save up for things like wallpaper that you can't upcycle."
Now, Carton videos her upcycling projects and posts them on YouTube. If you want to make winter candles from vintage teacups or cushions from Ikea rugs, she's your woman. Recently, her projects have become more ambitious. "I'm jack of all trades and master of none," she admits, "but I'm getting braver. I'm starting to use power tools!"
For Caroline Foran of Gaff Interiors, styling a house for winter is like dressing for bad weather. It's all about the layers. "If you have enough space, try overlapping the rugs on the floor so that you layer up the cosiness from the ground up," she suggests. "Then move on to the sofa and mix up the textures. Faux sheepskin throws are a great layering tool and they can stop a leather sofa from looking clinical."
A good variety of textures - chunky knits, velvets and rough weaves - will give depth to a subtle colour palette. "At home, I use grey, white and cream but the textures are different, so that's OK. And step away from industrial-style bare lightbulbs. It's winter and you need a lampshade!" Her favourite source of lampshades is Made, where most pendant shades cost less than €50.
And go easy on the candles. "You don't want a whole crypt of them," Foran says. "And you definitely don't want lots of competing fragrances."
I'm with her on this one. Too many scented candles are like wearing cheap perfume and perfumed deodorant at the same time. Choose just one scented candle of the best quality that you can afford.
After that, the cosiest thing that you can do is buy an ottoman. "They're the unsung hero of interiors. They're really practical - you can store rugs in them, you can use them as a coffee table, and you can move them around the room, but the best thing about them is putting your feet up. It's the ultimate cosy thing to do."
For ottomans, and all things sofa-related, she's a fan of DFS, sponsors of the Gaff Interiors Christmas pop-up. That's happening this weekend at Studio 10 on Dublin's Wicklow Street.
There's a shopping element to the event with Irish handmade homeware from the likes of Kopper Kreation (a plumbing-chic copper piping candelabra costs €40); scented candles from Jane Darcy (€30); and painted wall-tiles from Alanna Plekkenpol (from €40). Expect also a display of DFS furniture, styled for winter by Gaff interiors with tablescapes, festive wall features, and Christmas trees.
"We have loads of different ideas for Christmas styles - luxe, Nordic, traditional and kitsch - and demonstrations from local florists, cake decorators and calligraphers," Foran says.
Tickets cost €12 (all of which goes to the Peter McVerry Trust) from Eventbrite via gaffinteriors.ie. See also dfs.ie, daintydressdiaries.com, kopperkreation.com, janedarcy.ie, and alannaplekkenpol.com.
Llamas are everywhere this Christmas! And why not - they're cute and fluffy. This llama pom pom cushion costs €30 from debenams.ie, where you can also buy llama duvet covers, mugs, and salt-and-pepper shakers. Move over flamingos!
This winter tealight holder is made in porcelain and looks like just what we need to cheer up the long, dark evenings. It comes in rose, plum, and navy - all with gold interiors - and costs €11 from aprilandthebear.com.
We're all expected to wear our Christmas jumpers. Why shouldn't the sofa have one too? With stags, trees, and snowflakes, this Classic Noha Red, Navy & Natural Winter Throw ticks all the Christmas jumper boxes (€69.95 from meadowsandbyrne.com).
Gilding the lily
With its golden palm leaves, this little Palm Tree lamp (38cm high) is a table-top stunner and, blessed with LED technology, it can do the bare bulb thing without creating glare. It costs €375 from dust.ie.
The Pop Up Pottery and Craft shop runs at Cleo, Kildare Street, Dublin, until December 2. Book a spin on the potters' wheel (email firstname.lastname@example.org) or shop the cool ceramics selection, including Niamh Synnott's ceramic planters (€130-€150).