Christmas comes early!
It’s great to be able to travel again. The world is not yet back to its normal ways (long from actually) but luckily with some creativity and perseverance it’s possible to go around the most important markets again for some festive seasonal inspiration. We did the grand tour through Holland, we will come back to this in a later blog because the Dutch Xmas experience always starts a bit later but the UK Xmas season starts early and this year it was extra special.
This is always the first stop. Department shops galore (think Liberty, John Lewis, M&S, Harrods and many more) were already in full gear when we arrived. Oxford Street is not the best place to be for shopping throughout the year but when Xmas comes it’s a great start. John Lewis displayed its elaborate decoration, this time in a retro colored look, using lots of acrylic and colored transparent baubles. The department was nicely divided in themes, they always do a nice job and this time even suggested what to buy to dress your tree John Lewis style. There was not really a super new exiting material or shape but fun shaped baubles like people or animals were plentily available and there were a lot of florals in the trees. Cute DIY sets with mini trees and selected baubles was a nice find.
Harrods proved to be a nice surprise. This famous (and fairly expensive) shop featured a great selection of handmade baubles decorated with folklore prints. Many were Russian or Scandinavian influenced (most likely to appeal to their large customer base from those parts of the world) and the source, designer and materials were often explained on a tag or card. H&M home was more moderate. This apparel brand has been expanding its home collection over the last couple of years, separating their home collections in separate shops of which some very spectacular ones are situated in London. They started selling honeycomb paper decorations a few years ago when this started to trend and still doing this, in similar colors so not very surprising here. The selection of baubles was less than previous years but more wool felt items this time. This handmade material proved to be very popular this season. Many brands have a decent selection of hangers made in a social project in Nepal or in a factory in China (the latter receiving less background info obviously). H&M seemed to go back to its roots with proper collections of table cloth and placemats in nice seasonal decorations. Candleholders, matching tableware and small decorations to properly set a table were plenty, it seems that the Swedish are focusing more on functional this season.
We will focus on design Xmas in a next blog with the likes of Harvey Nicols and the Conran shop and other A-list brands.
This time we decided to move a bit more North to visit York, a medieval city in Yorkshire, about 2.5 hrs by train from London’s Kings Cross station. The city is walled, full of ancient buildings and therefore the best backdrop for some traditional Xmas decoration. Trees and lights were already in full splendor on the market squares and shopping streets and the city was crammed with visitors (London streets were also filled with shoppers, seemingly trying to make up for lost shopping time). It took a while to understand what to look for because every other shop seems to be a souvenir one, but there are many charity and trust shops in the UK and even more in York it seems with nice and original decoration ideas (supporting a good cause while you go). Some nice old fashioned paper shops with proper wrapping paper were the next stop and of course one can’t leave a traditional British setting without enjoying a proper tea with scones. An impressive surprise could be found in Castle Howard. A Narnia Xmas was promised and exactly this we got! This beautiful castle decorates its halls every year using a new topic every year. Narnia proved to be a great inspiration with very impressive decorated rooms in an abundant classical floral style with the main tree (over 18m tall) completely snow covered and decked in hundreds of acrylic snowflakes and icicles. It’s true that trends ask for new colors and shapes every season but in this case it was a proper traditional Xmas and it was great.
Plenty more to tell from this inspiration trip so bear with us till the next time.