Spruce it up

Tis the season to wrangle the tree lights out of the knot they’ve managed to entangle themselves in while sitting in the attic for the past 12 months. There’s a reason they’re called fairy lights, it seems: the second you take them off the tree, an enchantment strikes, tying them into incomprehensible knots designed to frustrate.

That’s only one part of the Christmas conundrum, though. Many of us are finding it difficult to find space to decorate at all.

Smaller house sizes – CSO data shows that the average new dwelling size in Ireland fell by 7.6pc in 2019 from 2018 – means lots of us have precious little room to play with when it comes to adding any extra decor at Christmas time.

And this isn’t the only reason you might not want the full-on tree experience.

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Christmas trees, while undeniably the signifier of the season, can be expensive. Prices start at around €40 for a five-footer.

Plus, unless you buy from a sustainable grower and then dispose of it responsibly once Christmas is over, trees are not that eco-friendly, and that is of growing concern across the board. A faux tree is an option, but being made from petrochemicals, these aren’t earth kind either. They can offset their carbon footprint, but it will take about 20 years of use to do so.

Small wonder we’re looking for alternatives. Here’s the good news: “There are lots of lovely ways to add the festive feel to your home without a tree,” confirms Siobhan Lam, owner of Irish interiors store April and the Bear. “Our favourite trend this season is hanging brass rings of various sizes from windows – simple but effective. We’re wrapping ours with gold-wire fairy lights for a Scandi feel, but eucalyptus leaves look beautiful wrapped around the rings as well.”

Lam suggests you work with what you already have to hand. “For those who only want a subtle festive hint in their home, hang decorations from house plants.

“Paper or velvet baubles work great, as they are light and the texture contrast with the plants is stunning,” she advises. As for what plants to gravitate towards, sturdier offerings such as cacti, monsteras and figs take particularly well to a draping of lights and decorations.

Foraging in your garden or while out on a winter walk can offer up a simple, stylish solution that’s Instagram-friendly and is space-saving too. “A large tree branch hung with gold decorations is so chic,” Lam comments. “It’s such an easy way to add a festive feel to a space without going too over the top.” Adorn it with hanging decorations and small lights – you could even think about a spritz of gold or silver spray paint – and Bob’s your uncle.

For Lam, with a 17-month-old at home, her festive decorating has changed out of necessity. “All decorations have to be above hip level,” she laughs.

“This Christmas our house will be covered in fairy lights and white paper stars. They are so bold and make a proper festive statement. So effective and easy to hang,” she says.

  • Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of ‘House and Home’ magazine

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