Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

In the northern hemisphere, Christmas should be the time for twinkling lights and tinsel, the smell of mulled wine and mince pies, and social gatherings with friends and family. For some, the idea of Christmas can be overwhelming, particularly in these uncertain Covid times, but there are things that we can do to boost our well-being through this period, and into the New Year.  Here are my top tips:

Concentrate on the main rooms

Concentrate on decorating the main rooms of the house, leaving some respite in the bedrooms where the Christmas madness can be escaped! Focus on the entrance hall, living room and dining room. And don’t forget a natural wreath on your front door to welcome any guests and awaken the Christmas spirit in your neighbours.

Go green

Using greenery is a wonderful way to add to the festive feeling in a sustainable way.  Deck your halls, mantelpieces and sideboards / consoles with branches of conifers, holly, ferns and ivy to create a wonderfully festive environment. This will ensure a connection with nature during these short days.  The greenery can then either be composted at the end of the festive season, or put on the fire to release a beautiful scent.

Add candles

Candles fill the house with a soft flickering glow, and help to chase out the darkness.  The dynamic light that candles produce has been proven to boost our well-being.  Place candles amongst the mantelpiece foliage; and on the Christmas table; and in any dark corners.

Fragrance Matters

Our sense of smell is the strongest of our senses and is able to influence brain activity, so use reed diffusers, incense burners or essential oils to create delicious smells wafting through the house.  Try these fragrances for different benefits:

  • Lemon promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties that are helpful when you’re feeling angry, anxious or run down. 
  • Rosemary is the perfect pick-me-up. In addition to improving memory retention, rosemary has stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches and mental fatigue.
  • The stimulating properties in cinnamon can help fight mental fatigue and improve concentration and focus.

Decorating a Christmas tree

There is nothing that says Christmas more than a decorated tree.  A real fir tree has that added Christmas smell, but even an arrangement of decorated sticks will create that Christmas feeling.  Whatever your tree, ensure you choose one that is in proportion to the size of the space and that it feels a part of it and not an incongruous add-on that is difficult to navigate around.

When decorating a tree, always start with the lights, and remember that you always need more lights than you think.  String the lights from the top down, alternating between pushing them in to the interior of the tree and back out to the branches.  Next, I like to add in tinsel as this fills in the tree, and catches the lights, giving added sparkle.

Then come the decorations.  This is my favourite part of Christmas as all of my decorations have been collected during my travels, and so are imbued with nostalgia and memories.  Having a collection of good quality decorations has the added benefit of being sustainable as these can be used time and again, and ensures that your tree tells a story.  Start with your largest decorations, and then fill in any gaps with the smallest, keeping the clear and frosted ornaments close to the lights to maximize your tree’s glow and glimmer.

Finally, cover the base of the tree and the stand in fur or a throw in colours to match your Christmas theme.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas!

Nicola's AvatarThis is where I share progress updates on projects, news from exciting shows that I have visited and insights into what inspires me.

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The time has come for me to sign off for 2013 for a much needed break. It has been an exciting and busy year, both personally and professionally, but now it is time to kick back and relax, to spend time with family and friends, to enjoy good food and wine, and to remember that Christmas is about so much more than Santa Claus and presents.


I thought I’d share with you all some images of my Christmas tree, which is scattered with happy memories from all my travels around the world – angels from Zimbabwe (one made from a now worthless bank note!), stars from Scotland and Cambodia, baubles from Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, ceramic birds from South Africa, a bright beaded parrot bought whilst on honeymoon is Costa Rica, beads from Kenya, and a Swedish Father Christmas!


So, let me finish by wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.

Whether you’re a client, a supplier or someone who has taken an interest in our consultancy, we’d like to thank you all for your involvement in our business this year.

Bring on 2014!

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!”
Charles Dickens

Images © Nicola Holden.

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