How to create a fabulously festive living space with Rachel Southern

I love December. Not just for the carols, gifts and Elf but because I get to cover my entire house – indoors and out – in twinkly lights without my husband raising an eyebrow and mentioning our electricity bill. My annual goal is to able to read the festive edition of the Radio Times, in the dead of night, by fairy light alone. 

When it comes to festive décor, I’m not a trend follower. I’m much more about the memories than adopting a new colour scheme and buying a complete set of matching baubles each year. There’s something lovely about opening dusty boxes, taking out familiar decorations, and smiling at old favourites that have been slowly collected over the years. It means that no colours or styles are ignored in my house and beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments sit next to sequined monstrosities (mostly chosen by my children) on the tree. But somehow, they all work together.

I think it’s because how I decorate my living room for Christmas is very similar to how I decorate in general. I love white walls, well-made furniture and natural materials. They’re the perfect neutral backdrop for adding colour and personality through fun accessories and quirky artwork. During the festive season, my living room can take ALL the colour and ALL the sparkle because there’s little to compete against.

Take the Cube sofa, for example. In a beautiful soft grey colour with a gorgeous woven texture, you could add any colour or style of cushion and they wouldn’t look out of place at Christmas. A festive red berry colour, child-friendly Santa and Rudolf cushions or chunky knitted ones like I’ve chosen for the winter months. Great quality, neutral basics mean that you can go to town on the accessories.

Whatever colours you love and however you choose to style your home during December, here are my top tips for a fabulously festive living room:

Don’t aim for perfection

Because December is a packed-full month, we tend not to put up our tree until the children have finished school. And I’m sure this will shock many people as I know the tree tends to be the ultimate festive spectacle in every living room but I play little to no part in decorating ours. I unwrap the baubles but after that I stand back and let my six and nine-year-old take complete charge. The results can be very entertaining with 90 percent of the decorations placed on a handful of branches and then the rest dispersed round the back of the tree. It makes my Christmas watching them do it. They love it so much. We can sometimes strive to achieve magazine-like styling in our homes, but I think that there’s a certain charm in things being somewhat haphazard. Forget Instagram-worthy and go for imperfectly perfect.

Bring the outdoors in

For years we used to have a fake Christmas tree as opposed to a real one – it was so much easier and tiny-toe friendly when the boys were younger – but I really missed the scent of a freshly cut tree. To counter this, I used to buy (or cut from the garden) holly, eucalyptus and pine tree branches to pop along the fireplace and hang from mirrors and framed prints. I don’t do it quite as much now as we have a real tree but it’s rare that I don’t have a large vase with handful of cuttings on the living room coffee table. They add a sense of festive freshness to the room and it’s nice to have a natural element to counter all the sparkle.

Don’t limit baubles to the tree

Some baubles are too beautiful to be simply hung from a tree branch. I like to use them to add a little colour and joy around the whole of our living room (and house, to be honest). Put several in a beautiful vase, add a length of velvet ribbon and hang them from picture hooks, or pop them in glasses or gin cups on your home bar or bar cart. 

Add a handmade touch

Because I have two school-aged children, our home is filled with a lot of handmade decorations, particularly at Christmas. The boys love getting the Christmas cookie cutters out and making air drying clay decorations. They’re easy to make without much supervision so your children can have fun creating while you’re busy getting on with something else.

Think about your favourite festive scent

I touched on scent earlier and how much I love bringing clippings in from the garden as they make the whole room smell so fresh. Scents trigger memories and there’s no time more nostalgic than Christmas for remembering years past. Perhaps pick a candle that you only light during December that reminds you of this special time of year – mine is cinnamon although it’s one of my least favourite tastes, oddly enough. As soon as that first flame flickers, I’m ready to open door number one on the advent calendar and count down to the big day. 

Get ready for guests

Finally, as it’s probably the only time of the year that we’re home long enough for family and friends to drop in for more than a quick cuppa, I’m make sure that our living room is as cosy as it can be for people to feel like they can put their feet up and stay awhile. That means extra cushions, baskets filled to the brim with blankets, and wood ready to throw on the fire. It’s one of the main reasons we chose the Oak Furnitureland Cube sofa

The cushions are almost cloud-like and beg to be sunk in to. The L-shape makes conversations super easy and it curves round our coffee table meaning that Christmas board games can be played in the living room while we also watch The Holiday (my favourite Christmas film), Elf (my husband’s favourite) and Nativity (a family favourite). And it’s also spacious enough to accommodate an over-night guest without the boys having to give up their beds. You just never know when the lure of festive cocktails will prove too tempting.

To find out more about how Rachel is styling the rest of her home this Christmas visit her blog or join her on Instagram @rachsouthern.