Considering garden designer Butter Wakefield has dedicated her working life to the great outdoors, you’d be forgiven for thinking winter may not be her favourite season. But while opportunities to enjoy her creations in their best light – sunshine – are limited, the drop in temperature happily heralds the approach of her most-loved time of the year: Christmas. Indeed, when we visit her at home in Shepherd’s Bush, the prospect of sharing her love of the festive period has filled her – and her house – with joy. There’s a tree decked from top to bottom with her personal collection of Christmas decorations; stockings embroidered with her children’s names; and vases bursting with foliage, filling the space with delicious scents of the season.

“I don’t think many people go quite as crazy as I do with the Christmas decs,” Butter smiles, her gentle American lilt still ever-present despite her 30 years in the UK. “Christmas is all about decorating the house and the tree, and then it’s that celebration of being together as a family and having the time to cook and relax. It’s so special.”

A mantelpiece decorated with foliage, candles and a wireless lamp. Two stockings embroidered with the names Zoe and Jack hang from the mantelpiece.
Red-and-white plates are stacked on a wooden dining table, which is decorated with a festive garland and gold cutlery.

A maximalist at heart, she describes her take on decorating as “more is more”. While her taste may be eclectic, it is always carefully considered. Having spent several years working in interior design and now landscape gardening, she has honed a carefully trained eye for balancing colour, texture, function and form.

Decorating her house naturally begins at the flower market, where Butter extends her green-fingered activities to traditional Christmas flowers and plants, seeking out stems for homemade wreaths and table decorations. For those wondering how to decorate with flowers at Christmas, Butter has some wise words of advice: a real tree is a given, as are plenty of greens “jammed into a jug. The vessel is as important as what goes in it,” the designer says. “I have a collection of pink lustreware jugs and they’re particularly pleasing.”

When it comes to flower arrangement ideas, she advises seeking a narrow-necked vase to keep stems upright. “You want height in the middle, a reasonable balance of colour throughout, and a mix of interesting textures and stems,” she adds. “If you’re using big, flowering blobs of colour, such as hydrangeas, I’d recommend using them sparingly. Keep them low down, so they act as a full stop at the bottom of the jug, and then maybe one or two higher up. They’re the stars of the show, but you need very few of them.”

A floral embroidered armchair is decorated with a red, silk houndstooth cushion. Next to it sits a side table, with a ceramic blue lamp.
A sitting room featuring a striped sofa, zebra-print rug, green upholstered coffee table and mantelpiece decorated with Christmas stockings and foliage.

The fruits of Butter’s labour combine to become her Christmas table centrepiece, another opportunity for her love of all things bold comes to the fore. “I do think a Christmas table setting has to be kind of over the top,” she says when we ask her for her tips on how to decorate a table for Christmas. “I like to split it between shiny, ridiculous baubles and then lots of natural greenery, so there’s a real juxtaposition.” She recommends ensuring there are varying heights – be that glassware, vases or decorations – plus plenty of candlelight “because it’s just so magical”. Using a Christmas table garland is a great way to bring greenery to your display if you’re worried about using anything too tall.

As for how to prepare for Christmas day, the designer is an advocate of getting ahead, ensuring the festive period itself is as laidback and seamless as possible. Her tips for hosting Christmas dinner are having “a fridge full of possibilities”, plus plenty of nibbles and pink champagne. With so much effort put into planning Christmas day, the main event in the Wakefield household is suitably wholesome and relaxed. There are games around the dining table, Christmas films and a gentle stroll before a feast of roast beef, Delia Smith’s Parmesan-baked parsnips and a “proper” pudding.

With her four adult children scattered between the UK and the US, Butter revels in having the whole family under one roof again. “We call the festive season family lockdown,” she laughs. “We take it quite seriously, because we love being together and it happens so infrequently.” Having grown up in the United States, where Thanksgiving and its values of gratitude and family are part and parcel of the season, Butter appreciates the opportunity to bring everyone together. “My mother is a great entertainer and hostess, and an incredibly good cook, so I value that tradition hugely,” she says. “I think gathering everyone around a table is possibly one of the nicest things you can do for your friends and family.”

To discover more of Butter’s world, follow her on Instagram @butterwakefield