I went to function earlier in the year and was blown away by an amazing, decadent, quirky dessert bar – full of lollies, cupcakes, ice creams – it was beautiful.
Getting obsessed as I do with things I tracked down the woman behind it – Louisa Shipman, founder and designer at LouLou Events, and asked her to share some decorating tips for your Christmas table.
Accents of gold on table linens, glassware and plates really help to bring out the festive feel at your table.
What’s your favourite colour scheme for Christmas?
I am a big fan of mixing it up for Christmas. Each year I decorate in a different colour scheme. I love using neutrals and usually let my favourite object for the year be my guiding point for the colour scheme and style. I love crisp whites with accents in metallic (whether it be gold, silver or copper) and I then like to add in natural elements of either wood, stone or even shell.
What’s your favourite trend for Christmas this year?
I’m seeing lots of neon and geometric pattern. More and more we see trends on the catwalk making their way into interiors and I love that people are becoming more relaxed and adventurous with their Christmas decorating. Gone are the days of only decorating in green, red and white. People are becoming more confident with their styling and not relying on the Christmas cracker to be the only form of decoration.
Name five things every home needs this Christmas?
1. My number one Christmas essential is lights and lots of them. You can use anything from candles to fairy lights or even neon lighting for a bit of extra fun. A tree is a must whether it be real of faux.
2. If you are limited for tree space you can try this great idea – buy some fairy lights and 3M hooks then drape the lights across the hooks that you have placed on your wall in the shape of a tree. It makes for a very bright and impressive tree.
3. Music is another essential and there is nothing better than a Christmas album to get you in the holiday spirit. Bing Crosby, Elvis and even Mr Buble can be heard in our house at Christmas time.
4. Baked sweets are always beautiful additions to any home around the holiday season. I love baking and it’s always great to be able to have some homemade sweets on hand for when friends drop in.
5. Lastly is the Christmas wreath. There are so many ways of making a wreath your own style at Christmas. I love the idea of making one out of vintage baubles in an array of colours and I have also seen wreathes made completely of sugar coated lollies which is sure to attract some attention.
How will you be styling your home this festive season?
My home is very monochromatic and layered with lots of white, black and hints of wood. I always try to keep the Christmas decorations in theme with the house with just a slight twist.
Elegant and simple always works best as clutter and over-decorated turns into chaos when you have children and to be honest is too overwhelming to live with on a daily basis.
Without a doubt there will be an array of handmade decorations from my little ones to go up. Our tree is huge, it’s the kind that means my husband has to lift up our children to place the decorations on top. It’s one of my favourite sights at Christmas time. I have plenty of lights to go up around the house this year.
I am opting to decorate in white, grey and gold and will make the decision closer to Christmas on the choice of flowers. I usually take an early morning trip to the Flower Markets a few days before Christmas. I always manage to find a flower or foliage that I haven’t seen before or had long forgotten about which then forms part of our table.
What flowers are perfect for a Christmas table?
Depending on the type of setting you are having you can really have fun with the flowers. It doesn’t take a lot to make a huge impact and if you are limited for space on your table go for an array of smaller vessels with single stemmed flowers. They can be dotted along the table and moved easily to fit in the platters of food.
If size is not a problem then I love to mix up elements of wood, blooms and even fruit. Crab apples and even figs still on the branch look amazing and help create a rustic festive feel.
If you are having a more formal Christmas then you can go for arrangements that are of one colour or tone and have limited foliage. Peonies are perfect for this and given that they are in season at this time of year it makes for a picture perfect setting. You can group them up and when they start to open they take on a full and luxurious feel.
I chose these flowers as they are warm in tone which work well with the linens and are perfect for Christmas.
Where do you shop for your Christmas decorations?
I have been collecting Christmas decorations for as long as I can remember. I travel overseas quite often and I always love to pick up trinkets wherever I go. Earlier this year on a trip to San Francisco I picked up an amazing foldable gold star from the museum of modern art’s gift shop. It was designed by John M Kostick and originally based on models of mathematical concepts. It geometric form and star shape are the perfect addition to my Christmas decoration collection.
I am also a huge fan of using jewelry as decorations for the table. I love to go into shops like Lovisa and Diva to pick up well priced statement necklaces and bracelets that can be wrapped around vases for a fun and cost effective display.
I have some amazing 3D pendants that I have also used as candlestick holders before. You can pull the pieces apart and work your magic with a hot glue gun.
When do you put your Christmas tree up?
I put it up on December 1st and usually at some stage during the first week in January for taking it down. Last year I took the tree down a little early because I had a busy week ahead but it made me feel like the Grinch who stole Christmas.
What are your Christmas Day plans?
Christmas Day is crazy busy for us. My husband and I try to steal a few hours in the morning with our two young children opening presents and relaxing before we join family and friends for a big Christmas lunch. As each year passes there seems to be an extra person at the table, this year my step sister is having her engagement party two days before Christmas so there will be my future brother in law who is American and his family joining us. Our extra special addition this year is my four month old nephew Dante. It’s his first Christmas so we will definitely be going a little overboard.
After lunch we usually lay comatose on the lounge or floor where everyone talks, laughs and sometimes falls asleep. If it’s a hot day a swim is definitely on the list.
What family traditions do you have at Christmas time?
Definitely the old school Christmas music finds its way to the surface – my mother used to play Elvis and Bing Crosby albums every year and whilst at the time I used to think she was so embarrassing when she would dance and sing around the house, now I do exactly the same thing. My mother and I work together to make sure Christmas is fun and relaxed for everyone. I handle the decorating and she does all the cooking. I usually bring some sweets and the gingerbread house ready for smashing and eating.
What is your favourite thing to eat on Christmas Day?
My Italian background means that every Christmas we start the meal off with some form of pasta, usually it’s spinach and ricotta filled cannelloni, with an amazingly rich red sauce. The roasts are always incredible but it’s the sweets that truly wins my heart. Every year my grandmother and now also my mother make Italian fruit mince pastries that are native to the south of Italy. They are to die for and so hard to stop at just one. Another favourite of mine is Struffoli, they are honey tossed mini pastry balls that have been deep fried and then coated with warmed honey! They are piled high on a plate for all to devour. They are super sticky and messy to eat but I adore them. They always take me back to my childhood.
What’s your most treasured Christmas decoration?
Our Christmas stockings. My husband and I bought ours one year early on in our marriage whilst we spent Christmas in Montreal. We didn’t know anyone there at the time and we were feeling a little home sick; we came across a shop that was selling Christmas stockings and we bought two. After we had our two children I had my grandmother monogram stockings I bought for them so that they would always have a memory of her to bring out every Christmas.
Personal touches, like re labelling drink bottles and arranging your flowers in multiple vases are simple and effective ways to make a big impact.
What are your top tips for hosting a Christmas dinner?
I think a successful Christmas dinner or any dinner party for that matter is when your guests’ five senses are thought about and met.
Sight – Choose decorations that are not only easy on the eye but work in with the style of event you are hosting.
Sound – Have some soft background music playing that fills the room but doesn’t overpower it.
Taste – Choose a menu that you know you can excel at. Never ever try a brand new recipe out on your guests unless you are extremely confident you can pull it off. I also like to spend a little more than usual on a good wine, something that will go well with your meal and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. A nice touch is to have extra bottles on hand so if your guests love the wine you can send them home with a bottle.
Smell – Usually the aromas of whatever you are cooking take care of this but if you are having food brought in or you’re not starting the cooking until after the guests arrive, light some soft fragrant candles earlier on: linen, citris or pear are my favourite scents for this.
Touch – Have food on hand that requires your guests to uses their hands, this may be pre-dinner appetisers or sweets for dessert. I also love to use decorative table arrangements that invite you to touch them – things made from nature are perfect for this. Branches, shells and even feathers all work perfectly.