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 favorite 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: the holiday season. Indeed, when we visit her at home in west London, the prospect of sharing her love of the celebratory period has filled her—and her house—with joy. There’s a tree decked from top to bottom with her personal collection of ornaments; 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 decorations,” Butter smiles, her gentle American lilt still ever-present despite her 30 years in the UK. “The holidays are 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 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 color, texture, function and form.
Decorating her house naturally begins at the flower market, where Butter extends her green-thumbed activities to holiday plants and flowers, seeking out stems for homemade wreaths and table decorations. 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 lusterware jugs and they’re particularly pleasing.”
When it comes to holiday floral arrangements, she recommends seeking a narrow-necked vase to keep stems upright. “You want height in the middle, a reasonable balance of color throughout, and a mix of interesting textures and stems,” she adds. “If you’re using big, flowering blobs of color, such as hydrangeas, I’d recommend using them sparingly. Keep them low down, so they act as the base 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.”
Her skills come in handy when creating a floral centerpiece for Christmas, another opportunity for her love of all things bold to come to the fore. “I do think it has to be kind of over the top,” she says when we ask her for her tips on how to decorate a dining table for Christmas. “I like to split it between shiny, ridiculous ornaments 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.”
When it comes to preparing for the holidays, 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 holiday preparation, the main event in the Wakefield household is suitably wholesome and relaxed. There are games around the dining table, Christmas movies and a gentle stroll before a feast of roast beef, Parmesan-baked parsnips and a good dessert.
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.” Though she spends the holidays at home in London, she always returns to the US to celebrate Thanksgiving, and its values of gratitude and family have had huge influence on her—and, in turn, how much she enjoys the opportunity to bring her loved ones together at Christmas. “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