Are you ready to get festive?
I’m not normally one to start throwing the tinsel and fairy lights around with abandon much before the start of December, but I think this year might just call for it!
I’ve already seen plenty of trees decked out in all their glory – both on my Instagram feed and IRL in the front windows of nearby houses as I’ve been out on my Government-mandated (not so daily) walks to combat the cabin fever-ness of lockdown 2.0. As we’re all settling for more nights in than we are usually used to at Christmas, I’d go so far as to say that we all need to fully embrace Christmas decorating indoors to wrap ourselves – and those we live with – in some much-needed merriment and seasonal cheer. That’s why I was so excited to work with Get Living again, as they challenged me to give one of their beautiful rental homes at Manchester’s Middlewood Locks a fully festive makeover, on a £250 budget.
As someone who has been renting for over a decade, I know how difficult it can be to truly put your own stamp on the home you live in. You’re often limited in what you can do decoration-wise, and if you live in a furnished city centre flat, often have some pretty uninspiring furniture to work around too. That’s why I’m such a fan of Get Living, the largest operator in the UK’s Build to Rent sector. Their stylish, fully furnished homes are just that – actually stylish – and come with broadband included as standard plus they are pet-friendly, which is usually a really tough ask when it comes to renting! New Maker Yards is Get Living’s Manchester development, offering more than 800 homes to rent within Middlewood Locks, a 25-acre canal side neighbourhood between Salford and Manchester city centre, within easy walking distance of Spinningfields. The first 275 homes for rent launched last year, and a further 600 are coming in Summer 2021.
You may remember that I styled a New Maker Yards balcony in the summer, so it was wonderful to style the interior this time, and get the chance to show you around inside..
When you’ve spent 24/7 in your own four walls this past year, it can feel a little depressing to think about spending the whole of the holiday season indoors in the same space still, which is why I think decorating your home is something to be fully embraced just now, to help break the monotony. It’s also why I think you should seek to bring a touch of festive cheer into every area of your home; even your bathroom can be pepped up with a seasonally scented diffuser and a quirky little festive hand towel by the sink..
For me though, Christmas decorating should start in the bedroom. If you think back on your best holiday memories from childhood, when it comes to the big day itself it’s all about waking up to a discover the delights that have been left in your stocking. My sister and I always kept these at the foot of our bed so we could awake bleary-eyed in the early hours, crawl down in our duvets to retrieve our haul, and sit up in bed – still cosy and warm – as we worked our way through the stash, munching on chocolate coins as we went. Rekindling some of that lost magic of Christmas morning – which always seems to fade a little every year as we age – is what Christmas 2020 should be all about.
The main bedroom in the New Maker Yards show apartment is furnished in a lovely array of soft taupes and greys, so I naturally decided to adopt a silver scheme in this room. There’s something about the shimmering twinkle of fresh snowfall that always makes me wistful for the fairytale of Christmas – because, let’s face it, we rarely get a snowy white Christmas in the UK anymore.
The first place I started: the bed itself. There’s a misconception that ‘Christmas bedding’ needs to be novelty and child-like, which I definitely disagree with. I prefer to think of ‘Seasonal bedding’ instead, as I don’t think you should invest in a duvet set that can only be used once during the year. This beautiful yet subtle soft cotton mix bedding set from Marks & Spencer features a reversible festive tree design in both white and grey, evoking the charm of a snowy winter wonderland scheme whilst still feeling calm, restful and conducive to sleep. I’ve paired it with a set of grey teddy fleece pillowcases to bring an extra layer of cosy tactility to the bed, to encourage plenty of lazy mornings spent in bed reading, playing board games, and munching through festive chocolates.
When it comes to festive decorating, there are a couple of really important consideration for all renters: a) will it damage the walls? (because that’s not worth the headache later on!) and b) where on earth will I store it come January? Keeping both these things in mind, everything I’ve sourced to style the flat is easy to pack down and store away in boxes that could easily slide under the bed, or be popped on the top shelf of a wardrobe once festivities are over. Anything affixed to the wall or window is easily removable – like these gorgeous Snowflake window stickers I found on eBay, which just peel right off. For something so affordable – I got 57 stickers for £2.99 – they make such an instant impact (although are notoriously difficult to photograph as part of the full scheme!). I then used CommandStrip hooks for hanging lightweight decorations from the walls and window frames, like the white paper snowflakes. They hold strongly, and remove cleanly using 3M stretch-release technology. (Nb. these will only work on smooth surfaces, do not use them on wallpapered walls).
All of the other furnishings you see above – the headboard, bedspread, jewel-like blue cushion and thick grey curtains – are part of the New Maker Yards Premium Collection decor scheme. When you rent with Get Living, you can choose an apartment decor style to suit your own taste, from contemporary bold colours of the Design Collection to the timeless luxury of the Premium Collection, or you can opt for the blank canvas of the Signature Collection so you can make the place entirely your own.
I’ve then accessorised the headboard with a silver foliage garland, and dressed the bedside table with a glass jar full of baubles, pooled with fairy lights. That’s another decorating misconception I’ve come across; that baubles and fairy lights need to be hung. Fairy lights are a renter’s best friend when it comes to creating a cosy, festive atmosphere in the home, but they don’t need to be strung around a tree to be effective. They are far more evocative pooled in unexpected spaces where an extra light source is purposeful, as well as pretty. This stylish light jar on the nightstand serves both as decoration and reading light – win win.
If you do want to hang lights and baubles though, but don’t want to damage your walls in the process, then creating an ‘alternative tree’ with a towel ladder – like the birch VILTO from IKEA – is a great option. The ladder can serve a purpose in the bathroom or bedroom long after the holidays are done and dusted, yet works perfectly as a decorative piece of furniture – and stocking hanger! – at Christmas. String it with lights, and hang baubles or a wreath; it truly is a versatile and lightweight piece that could work in any corner of the home.
Of course, as tempting as it is to spend all of winter hibernating in the bedroom, it’s time to tackle the rest of the apartment. Space is always at a premium when it comes to city centre living and oftentimes it is just not practical to have a full-sized Christmas tree, real or otherwise. Luckily though, there are plenty of options when it comes to alternative trees nowadays and my personal favourites are colourful paper trees which can be easily folded back down for storage year-after-year. Altrincham based Rose & Grey have a lovely selection of varying sizes and colours to choose from, and they look beautiful gathered together in pairs or a trio. They are also really lightweight and easy to move around your home as necessary, because city centre living is often about transforming your space for different functions and occasions at a moment’s notice.
Again, you’ll see my love of decorative baubles and lights pooled together to create a centrepiece – these beautiful shatterproof baubles in shades of red and brown are from Next – as well as gathered in unexpected places such as under the sofa to provide a useful light source. I don’t know about you but often the bright lights of a standard Christmas tree in the corner of a living room can play havoc with reflections on the television screen when you’re trying to enjoy a festive film night. Placing them underneath the sofa emits a lovely atmospheric light quality at a low level that avoids such pesky reflection.
Giant hanging foil decorations in an array of colourful metallic shades are probably one of my lasting memories from Christmas decorating in the 1980s. While I’m not about to embrace quite such a retro look and feel this year, these decorative hanging snowflake fans feel like a suitably contemporary update on a childhood tradition. It would also be a wonderful decoration to have a go at making yourself, especially with so much time to kill at home these days. Paper crafting is a wonderfully mindful activity; Cuckoo4 Design has a great DIY post here.
On the sofa you’ll see that I’ve switched out a couple of the usual Get Living apartment’s cushion covers for holiday themed ones. A pop of red velvet always screams Christmas to me, and I couldn’t resist the Happy Holidays printed cushion cover from H&M; a steal at £3.99, and very easy to pack away with the decorations once the season is done and dusted. Sometimes you don’t need to go all out to make an impact, just a couple of key nods to a scheme is all you need to spread cheer and merriment far and wide.
Since we’re all on heightened countdown to the 2020 holiday season, I think that making advent a focal part of your decor scheme will help amplify the anticipation of – and engagement in – festivities this year, however ‘different’ they may look from normal. I adore these DIY advent calendar houses from Party Pieces, which offer up a mindful crafting activity to begin with, as they arrive flat-packed to assemble yourself, and the chance to fill them with whatever seasonal delights take your fancy – whether you’re making them up for yourself or loved one. I love the idea of mix-and-matching with handfuls of sweets, small beauty items, tiny jewellery trinkets and sweet little love letters, so you never quite know what to expect when you open one up each day. What would you fill yours with?
There’s also no glue or tape required in the assembly of these little houses, so as long as you handle them with care when opening each morning, they can easily be folded back down and stashed away for use again year-after-year.
The best part of the holiday season though? The food!
I was so impressed by the kitchen when I first stepped into the New Maker Yards show home in the summer – so much better than anything I’ve ever had in a rental apartment before, which is why you’ve never seen my kitchen featured on the blog!
I have no issue sharing this lovely kitchen/dining space with you though. No matter what lockdown restrictions are lifted in your local area during December, we’ll all be dining more at home this holiday season than usual, so making sure your kitchen and dining areas are suitably attired is a must. The easiest way to buy into festivities is a statement tablecloth – something that can easily be washed after a big festive feast, and packed neatly away each year. This round cotton Holly & Ivy tablecloth from H&M gave me all the Christmas feels when I first saw it online, and at £17.99 is a quick and affordable update that packs a huge festive punch.
The kitchen is – of course – primarily a functional area of the home, so I’d recommend keeping decoration of the countertops quite sparing so as not to interfere with any festive food prep that needs to be done. The dining table also needs to be kept fairly clear for all the bowls and platters of festive fare you’ll be serving up, so I’ve kept things simple and created a beautiful centrepiece for the table, based upon candlelight and natural seasonal elements, such as green foliage, pine cones and red berries. The red and green colour palette picked out of the tablecloth contrasts beautifully with the grey tones of the New Makers Yard kitchen, to create a sophisticated and timeless festive feel; the perfect canvas for turkey with all the trimmings, roast hams, cheese boards, mince pies, mulled wine and all your other favourite seasonal treats. Festive food is probably the one area I always stick to longstanding traditions, so for me the accompanying decor should also hark back to seasonal classics.
How do you like to transform your home at Christmas?
Get Living want to see how YOU #SimplyGetFestive by sharing photographs of your own Christmas decorating on Instagram, using the #SimplyGetFestive hashtag. A lucky entrant will then be chosen to win a £100 Selfridges voucher to spend on themselves as a treat for the new year. Two runners-up will also each win a £50 Selfridges voucher.
How to enter:
- Follow @SimplyGetLiving on Instagram
- Upload a photo of your Christmas decorations this year to your Instagram feed, tag @SimplyGetLiving and use #SimplyGetFestive in the caption
- You can also share the competition post on your story for an extra entry
The competition is open now, and runs until Monday 21 December 2020. The winners will be announced by @SimplyGetLiving on Tuesday 22 December – see the full T&Cs on the @SimplyGetLiving Instagram page.
Good luck – I can’t wait to see your festive styling!
This post is in partnership with Get Living, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. All styling by Kate Baxter, photography © Luis Leiva.