Deck the Halls

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am


If it's Christmas, it must be red. Or purple. Or black. When it comes to decorating your house for the festive season, the only rule is to throw out the rule book, say designers. For Jim Marvin, a US design guru for the past 30 years who has designed for many Christmas events at the White House as well as themes for indoor and outdoor spaces in Hong Kong, the best advice is to free your inner colour genie.

'Colour, colour, colour - All things bright and beautiful is a wonderful theme,' advises Marvin. 'Follow your heart when it comes to colour. As a designer, I do not like too much co-ordination with the colour scheme of the furnishings. Christmas is a time to explore colour and express your thoughts and be daring.'

Designer Andy Tong has more than a decade of experience in decorating huge venues such as Harbour City and smaller home projects. He also advocates taking the lead from your own taste when it comes to colour. 'For colours and style, you can follow the fashion trend - although it's rather eclectic at the moment - or you can use colours that reflect your character,' he says.

The tree

When it comes to decorating your tree, take inspiration from Europe, where the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home at Christmas time began.

At this year's Tendence show in Frankfurt, Germany in August - one of the biggest interior design trade shows - trend spotters predicted that Oriental and Russian-inspired blues and purples would predominate in Christmas decorations this winter, along with the ever popular and more traditional reds and whites.

New products at the show included Christmas tree decorations in the forms of ducks, parrots and forest animals in modern colours. Traditional designs of angels and nutcrackers remain as popular as ever, as do fairy tale-inspired baubles.

The first consideration is the tree, because it is the centrepiece for all the season's gatherings, says Marvin.

'Plan the tree according to your surroundings and just start thinking creatively about how you can [generate] excitement and make the season a special event at home. I suggest you decorate to scale according to the number of family and quests you anticipate coming. Just simple groupings of colour on a tree, along with lights and large-scale glass ornaments, are a must to get a great looking design formulated.'

Tong likes tastefully decorated spaces and says it does not matter whether you use expensive hand-painted tree baubles or cheaper chrome and glass ones. Whichever you choose, you can still mix and match tastefully, he says. The tree should be the focal point of the home, he advises, even if it has to be a small tree to fit in the available space.

'Look at the colour of your home [and your] sofa, and mix and match with colours,' Tong advises. 'For a unique idea to decorate a tree, women can use it as a showcase for their jewellery to show their friends when they come over. They could decorate the tree with bracelets or earrings. You can also create your own theme to suit your individual taste, whether that is using a few colours or eclectic with many colours.'

For his own home, Tong is opting for all-out glamour. 'I always like the big six-foot trees but space doesn't often allow that in Hong Kong homes,' he says. 'Last year, I had a pale pink tree that looked almost white, with fibreglass tips that glistened. I used burgundy and pearl coloured balls with a glass wired star on the top. I am lucky to find these [unusual] items from suppliers. This year, I have a black tree and I will be using black decorations - it's very Chanel style - the decorations will have different textures and tones such as fur, black glossy balls and black crystal-looking items.'

The bling factor

Tong sources many of his decorations and ornaments in Berlin and London. 'They are the best places to find decorations that are detailed and tasteful. However, Lane Crawford has good quality Christmas items.'

Baubles are not only for trees - they can also make very attractive miniature displays, says Marvin. 'A quick way to get ready for the holiday is to use large, over scaled ornaments around a table in bowls. An assemblage of elements of glittery sprays with ornaments creates instant bling and beauty. They can be finished in minutes and start your holiday celebration in a short time.'

Marvin can also help with sourcing - he runs a holiday, floral and gift company, specialising in high-end Christmas ornaments, wreaths, mistletoe and gifts from around Europe and Asia. His temporary shop, Jim Marvin Designer Christmas (Shop 208, Stanley Plaza), is open daily until the end of the month.

Tree candy

Those with a creative talent could transform simple tree baubles into a special look, tailor-made to suit your own colour scheme, suggests Tendence. Clear-glass baubles can be filled with small beads, threads or miniature Christmas figurines to create a personalised look. For a more artistic look, consider the delicate wooden tree ornaments by Lynn Hatzius. Hatzius is a German-born, London-based illustrator whose intricate multimedia designs have graced the covers of books by Salman Rushdie and many other authors. Her ornaments cost HK$25 from Classified's Christmas pop-up shop on the first-basement floor of the Landmark, which is open until December 24.

A more traditional idea is to put sweets or chocolates on the tree, and how better than by using edible tree ornaments? Classified Pantry is selling traditional gingerbread biscuits decorated with coloured icing in star, heart and other festive shapes, in small and large sizes, for HK$18 and HK$25 each. The pieces add a traditional touch to the Christmas tree, and a wonderful, old-fashioned aroma to the home. The star-shaped 'Make a Wish' cookie benefits seriously ill children. The biscuits are sold at Classified's pop-up store, along with a host of delicious home-baked style Christmas goodies including mince pies and shortbreads.

Back to nature

Old-fashioned flavours fit with the return of traditional, naturally-inspired Christmas decor, another trend that Tendence organisers have noted this year, which is seen in the increasing interest in eco-products and sustainably sourced materials. 'Bamboo, for example, is a material that is all set to conquer the market,' say Tendence organisers.

It's a trend that is welcomed by Hong Kong interiors stylist David Roden, who says that inspiration for eco-friendly design ideas can be found everywhere in Hong Kong. 'It's always nice to have something real, like a Christmas tree or a wreath, or orange pompadours that smell nice,' he says.

'Buy Christmas trees that come from a renewable or sustainable forest. Hang some real mistletoe in your hall or entrance. Use LED-energy saving lights for your Christmas tree, and use as little plastic as possible.'

Christmas tree lights have multiple uses, too. Not for nothing are they called fairy lights - a string of the tiny white lights can work their own kind of magic in the home. Try packing a pile of them into a large glass vase to create a festive look, or draping strings of them around white statues or pillars.

Instead of buying everything new, make an effort to recycle as much as possible, says Roden.

'Try to recycle what you had last year or the year before. Look for cloth or fabric instead of wrapping paper, and reuse gift bags.'

For the Christmas lunch, nature offers innovative ideas that can make turn your table into a winter wonderland. Roden suggests using a mix of real nuts, berries, ferns and fir cones to create a centrepiece, then adding candles with Christmas scents such as cinnamon and orange. 'Dip a bunch of cinnamon sticks in orange or clemantine oil, and tie them up with ribbons or string.'

Christmas spirit

Whatever your final designs, don't let the spirit of Christmas get lost amid over-ambitious decorating plans. Set your design priorities around how you, your family and friends plan to celebrate. The level and scope of your designs should tie in with your Christmas plans, advises Marvin.

'Plans for Christmas [are] always very personal, and when you decide what it will entail regarding parties, entertainment or just a family gathering, plan according to the entertaining aspect of the holiday and make it fun, colourful and festive,' he says.

Let your Christmas decorations be the background rather than the centrepiece of the holiday, he says, and don't forget to enjoy yourself.

'It should focus around the family, friends and business associates as well. Above all, it is important to plan holiday decorations that reflect your taste, entertaining situation and your lifestyle. Your personal extension of your own taste is important. Remember, you are not making permanent decoration decisions, and [it] should not be as serious as those decorating decisions you live with for a long time. It is temporary, you can use good design principles as to scale, texture, colour and apply those by doing the decorations yourself - and you can make it fun.'