Christmas looks different for everyone who celebrates. For some, it’s matching festive pyjamas, cheesy films and chocolate boxes on repeat. For others, it’s a more elevated affair, with as many sequins and as much champagne as they can muster. While everyone has a personal take on the season – and it’s those individual traditions that truly make this time of year so special – it’s always fascinating to discover how others mark the festive period. We’re particularly keen to know what Christmas looks like for those with impeccable taste, and so we approached two interior designers to discover how they like to spend the festivities. We were delighted to speak with Joanna Wood, founder of the eponymous design studio, and her daughter and fellow interior designer Hattie Hansard, to discover how they celebrate the season. They let us in on their family traditions, and imparted a few pearls of wisdom in the process – from Christmas decorating ideas to festive tablescapes and more. Here’s how they spend Christmas.
When you spend your days designing beautiful homes, it seems only natural that you’d wholeheartedly embrace a season in which decorating plays a central role. This is certainly the case for Joanna and Hattie, who both seek ways to bring a festive feel to their spaces as they gear up to the celebratory period. So, how do interior designers decorate for Christmas? Though Joanna and Hattie may strive for design perfection in their daily lives, a more carefree approach is on the agenda for the festive season. “Christmas is not a time for subtlety so, whatever you do, go big,” says Hattie. “Try and take the pressure off and enjoy the process. I think the real key to decorating your house for Christmas is to let it be entirely personal – it really doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
A personal touch is indeed the resounding theme for the family’s festivities; Joanna always kicks off proceedings by turning to her prized collection of Christmas decorations, which she has been gathering for many years. “I’ve built up my collection over decades,” she says. “Some decorations are over 30 years old and I just add a little bit more each year.”
In addition to more traditional ornaments, nature’s beautiful bounty serves as an ultimate source for Christmas decorating ideas. Holly, fir and ivy, sourced from Joanna’s own garden, all play a starring role in her home at Christmastime. “I adopt my hunter-gatherer mode. I planted a mistletoe tree too; using homegrown keeps the carbon footprint down,” the designer says. “It’s nice to mix a bit of gold into the natural foliage – some twigs painted gold is a very quick but elegant trick.”
For Hattie, whose flat in Notting Hill doesn’t have space for a Christmas tree, natural foliage provides a refreshing alternative. She sources pine tree trimmings from her local tree seller and uses them to create garlands, which she drapes over mantelpieces and doorways. “I decorate them with some very kitsch ornaments – Elvis Claus is a particular favourite of mine,” the designer says. “Homemade paperchains, lots of ribbons and strings of dried oranges are also easy and affordable favourites.”
Spoiling your loved ones (and being spoiled) is one of the joys of the festive season, though this doesn’t have to mean showering each other with gifts – gathering together and enjoying one another’s company is often the best way to spread the season’s merriment. “For me, the festive feel comes from the camaraderie of everybody getting together,” says Joanna. “We all enjoy the spirit of the season and everyone is (hopefully) in a jolly mood.” Indeed, when it comes to Christmas hosting tips, Hattie notes that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. “I think it’s important to make everyone feel special at Christmas,” the designer says. “If you can’t stretch to a present for every guest, Christmas cards instead of place names can be a nice touch.” As for making people feel welcome? “Make a cocktail,” says Joanna. “Gather some pretty glasses and fill them with something delicious.”
With the festivities so often centring around feasting, it’s little wonder the dining table takes the spotlight during Christmastime. Joanna and Hattie like to give theirs the attention it deserves, with beautiful decorations that speak to the season. “More is more on your Christmas table,” says Joanna. “Think lovely linens, with bows tied around pretty napkins, place names, and holly leaves set amongst candles, nightlights and festive votives.” Helping her mum bring the festive scene to life is Hattie’s “favourite part” about Christmas, and she takes the opportunity to elevate the everyday by adding plenty of the season’s magic and sparkle. “Seasonal foliage layered with as much silver as you can is a good place to start,” the designer says. “Also, do your guests a favour – dim the lights and add lots of candles to help them look as pretty as your tablescape.”
We all have different takes on Christmas traditions, and for Joanna and Hattie, family festivities toe the line between the classic and the unique. Celebrations always begin with decorating the house together, with wreaths on the front door and “the bannisters and fireplaces decorated with swags and greenery,” says Joanna. Once the halls are decked, the family settles down to watch a film. “For some reason, Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version) is our family Christmas film,” says Hattie. “We watch it religiously every year after decorating the house.”
On Christmas Eve, they hang their stockings on the mantelpiece, and get ready for a big lunch the following day. “Tradition dictates crackers, and we never go without a Christmas pudding,” says Joanna. This year, they’ll be spending Christmas in the Cotswolds. “It will be a big party of family and friends,” including OKA Co-Founder and Creative Director Sue Jones, who always hosts the family for Christmas Day. “You can imagine how wonderful and spoiling that is,” says Hattie.
Opening a gift that somebody has put thought and care into is a real treat during the festive season, and the mother and daughter have their eyes on a few pieces from our very own collection this Christmas. Joanna is hoping to unwrap our Pussy Willow and Orchid Bunch, which is “the most beautiful shade of burgundy,” the designer says. “I’m torn between that and the Faux Peony, Ivy and Cosmos Wreath – hint, hint, Hattie.” As for Hattie’s own wish list? “I would like to hear some good news on the radio,” she says, “and some OKA cushions please, Mum!”
To find out more about Joanna Wood, visit the company’s website.