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Seasons Greetings Darling Readers! I’ve dressed my sideboard for the holidays and part of my Christmas gift to you is sharing what tips and tricks I can. Apart from the feasting my favourite part of the holiday season is making time at home more festive. The side board is a fine place to fill the home with fabulous Christmas cheer as we gather around the dinner table evening after evening entertaining friends and family. This is the place where we eat and make merry and so it rightfully deserves that extra attention.

For years now I’ve been spellbound by the rustic, vintage look, I love its easy, informal approach to design ideas so when decorating I always look to nature for inspiration by bringing some of the outdoors, indoors and of course I spend a lot of time in vintage markets and fairs. A few days ago I went up to the mountains to pick whatever foliage I could and incorporated everything I found into this holiday design. I didn’t go looking for foliage with a particular idea in mind, by picking what appealed to me and later coming home with a basket full of gifts from Nature, the ideas came pouring in.

In my basket I collected cypress branches, pine cones, thyme, black berries, rose hips, dry branches, cypress cones, and pine greens. Upon arriving home I realised that the pine branches which I took off a fallen tree, are quite flexible and just by bending the branches in a circular motion and securing them with craft wire I managed to develop the base of a wreath. Ultimately I did not use a typical metal wreath ring to give it shape, it’s all spontaneous and wild-like which appeals to me. I bulked it up with cypress stems and to that I added thyme sprigs, pine cones, rose hips, cypress cones, star anise and black berries that are now drying but still has charm giving the wreath a natural aesthetic which is what I was aiming for. Help from a glue gun and some craft wire keeps it all in place and then to add a bit of lustre I incorporated only a few Christmas baubles from last years collection and a handmade bow! The traditional natural wreaths are made by use of a wreath ring and even though I used no ring here I think that any strong round circular frame will do if you can’t get your hands on a ring or flexible branches. All you have to do is add bunches of foliage around the frame and tighten to keep it firm with craft wire. Hanging it up is fairly easy, attach a length  of string at the top of the wreath or if you prefer a centralised bow at the top, you may use the bow ribbon as a medium to hang your wreath.

When it comes to Christmas trees, I do love a big green tree but there’s something equally enchanting about adding baubles to dry branches to set an unrefined decor mood. To the branches I’ve added a few shiny baubles but mostly hand made ones some of which I purchased at a Christmas craft fair made with burlap fabric to accentuate the unsophisticated style of the tree. Other baubles I made by hand by simply covering polystyrene balls with plain old fabric and petite bows made from satin ribbon which looks like a bauble parcel. I attached a few pine cones to the branches and placed it all in a fat jar with a small opening to hold the tree in place. I find that mixing unpolished handmade decorations with shiny glass baubles makes a complimentary contrast that works!

The only thing I spent money on here was the handmade burlap baubles and hearts on the tree, everything else I either made or already had. I think that the best advice to decorating for the holidays is to use what you already have in unique ways. I whipped out all the glass jars I had and filled them with different elements and tied the look together by giving each jar a similar bow in the colour scheme I chose. By doing this, various different objects can come together yet still match. When it comes to filling the jars, again use what you have. Here I’ve filled a jar with pine cones, repeatedly focusing on the countrified  element. I’ve also used cinnamon sticks, nothing smells of Christmas like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and even star anise so if you have those make use of them and fill up those jars. Dried citrus slices is one of my favourite things to put in jars so you could do that too. I’ve always said that Christmas napkins have the best patterns and why let those joyful designs stay hidden in the linen cupboard, I’ve rolled them up and placed them in a jar. And of course one can’t have a Christmas sideboard without at least one jar of sweets that’s always appreciated by guests.

If you’re like me and like collecting jam jars then you might want to put those to use by decorating them with crocheted binding, satin ribbon and old newspaper cuttings and just about anything else you might have lying around. They make a fine holder for tea lights to add to your tablescape or simply place them around the home once they are lit for that extra holiday cheer. A sweet way to display odd vintage silverware that will enhance the shabby chic feel will be to place them in decorated jam jars like I’ve done here.

As for creative ways to showcase Christmas baubles other than placing them on the tree would be to place them in jars, glass bowls or in a cake dome like this. Here I’ve used vintage baubles that belonged to Enrico’s family, these baubles were hand painted and made in a beautiful way. However the multicolours didn’t appeal to me so I ran a few of them under water and the paint came off, revealing a glistening silver underneath.

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By using a piece of wood that I had lying around from a shelf that I recently made and by giving it a light paint and a bit of decoupage with a Christmas serviette, I managed to create what I’d like to call Christmas Art which could be placed on a shelf, mantel, beside a fire place or under the Christmas tree. Choose colours that compliment your theme and don’t mind if your decoupage is not perfect. It’s a piece of art and it’s flawed aspects rewards it with character . You could make these and give them to friends and family, instead of Christmas cards, as personalised way to say Merry Christmas.

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This next tree is made from tree bark that’s been wired around a metal frame in the shape of a Christmas tree. Of course there is a bit of technique involved in bending the tree bark and this was done by a professional lumberjack but the decorations for this couldn’t be simpler. I’ve used old food magazines to cut out Christmas trees, gift bags made from red linen and a sash to embrace the tree from top to bottom. Just these, I found to be more than sufficient – it’s bucolic and honest and it doesn’t need to be overly embellished. I’ve restricted myself from using shiny, glitzy baubles here.

As my centrepiece I’ve used a chirpy Christmas colander that was a gift to me from Enrico from two years ago. I love this colander! It’s bright, cheerful and charming! We all have festive pieces of kitchenware lying about, and now is the time to bring them out and find unique ways to display them. I’ve filled this with deep red apples and added a few leaves for interest. If using apples you can polish them to add good lustre by rubbing them down with a drop of edible oil. Feel free to add grapes, pomegranates, plums, pears and all of Nature’s greatness into your centrepiece with a touch of flowers and foliage too.

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My final bit of advice is to add sentimental pieces such as an old candlestick like this or in my case it’s a wooden deer that my lovely niece Layla gave to Enrico on his visit to South Africa. It’s a piece she bought from an animal shelter and it’s presence reminds us of her and so I had to put him under the tree, popped a scarf on him and now he too is ready for a pastoral Christmas.

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And that’s it guys! I love the way this design turned out because it is everything I feel passionate about and that is the key to decorating. Decorate to capture your style so that you shine through in every detail. I hope you enjoyed this little DIY tutorial, stay posted for more Holiday recipes and my Christmas Special which will be on here too. See you again soon and till then, Dream, Design & Decorate!

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