Keisha-Maria Cools-Lartigue, Interior Design Guest Blogger

Ahh Christmas! It is the sound of laughter ringing through the air, the smell of happiness from our kitchens, the nostalgia and glee we feel when a favourite carol kisses our ear; it is just as perfect as the world can get. Coupled with all that, if you are a good Jamaican you will know that Christmas is the time to ‘fix-up’ the house. Whilst, I have upgraded some of the traditions passed on to me (you won’t see me going out to buy doilies, those delicate white things are the building block of nightmares) I have still held on to a few to help smoothly navigate this ‘fix-up’ season. Here are 12 tips to keep you jolly as you deck out your halls.

  1. Start early & have a plan

I know you were expecting some Martha Stewart how to create a Christmas wreath from wine corks kind of tip.  But really and truly the best advice I can give you is the one I got from my mother and grandmother and that is to start early.  Starting your Christmas planning from October/November after sending the kids off to school in September, can mean you purchasing items at a better cost.  Take advantage of those deals, you can never know when you will score that perfect rug at the perfect price for you to display at Christmas.  By starting early, you can plan so that you are not overwhelmed.

  1. Purge

It is not always about buying new things. Take some time to take a step back and assess what you have.  The best rule in design (and in life really) is that less is more. Negative space is positive design; that corner table that has been catching everything since January can be made new again with just a simple clearing out of all the envelopes, magazines and keys. Suddenly, the mountain of randomly accumulated things is now a beautiful curated masterpiece price tag $0.

  1. Start small

Ok so let’s get into designing for Christmas – now Christmas is the time you want to add some sparkle to your life and if you are a HGTV fanatic like I am (my husband suspects I am having an affair with the Property Brothers) you will suddenly want to jump online and start buying everything.  Most of us just can’t realistically afford to get it all, so instead identify one area in your house you and your guests will spend the most time, and design the heck out of it. My suggestion would be the coffee table (yes we know you want a tree but we will get to that). Make sure to store your treasures neatly for next year and then the following Christmas you can spend your money on another set of things.

  1. Choose a colour scheme

So Christmas demands a variety of colours. You have the traditional red and green of course, and my favourite every shade of sparkle. For the adventure seeker, teal blue and a host of other colours think fuchsia are available.  Stay clear from trying to get every colour as your house will look like a unicorn threw up all the colours of the rainbow; instead stick with the Christmas neutrals gold, silver even bronze for your base and then add one colour (red and green will work) or if you are adventurous go for fuchsia.

  1. Let there be light!

Light is to Christmas as milk is to coffee (go Common Entrance!). It can be had without it, but then it is just simply boring.  So let’s put some milk in our coffee and ramp up those lights (JPS don’t even bother). There are various options for light apart from the good old ‘peppa light’.  Installing dimmers can give an ordinary room an extraordinary feel (just ensure you have the right light bulbs!). You can get an old fish bowl and place those old Christmas lights in there, and to satisfy the light police, outside you can even install solar Christmas lights around the trunk of your trees.

  1. Refresh with small things

Ok so you know that feeling you get when you have something new – the glee, the slight race in your heart, the feeling that all is right with the universe.  Couple that excitement with Christmas and that is a drug that will soon end up on the list of banned substances. So let’s exercise control for our purses sake and refresh that space with small things that will still have function throughout the year.  You can use some throws and pillows, get some brand new curtain, a sheet set whatever it is; look for the dingiest thing in your home and level up. If you remember the first tip you could buy these things early for a good price and ‘buss dem out’ for Christmas.

  1. Real vs faux tree

Ok the age-old debate real vs fake (guys I am talking trees here nothing else!), I must declare my hand, I am a real Christmas tree kind of girl. I love the smell of the evergreen tree. I love the experience of picking out the tree, haggling with the vendors in Constant Spring and driving home with the tree tied up on the car (praying that the police won’t stop me). And did I mention it is way cheaper than a fake tree, yes life is good at Christmas. Faux Trees last many Christmases, but are more expensive. You can look at shelling out upwards of J$15,000 (my real tree budget is J$5,000 to J$7,000). But the truth is it will serve you many seasons and is less maintenance (no shedding and watering).  Again, when decorating the tree, stick with the colour rules I mentioned earlier. If on a budget, make your own decoration! Wine cork sprayed with glitter, match boxes wrapped with present paper or you could do a tree with just lights one year and start adding your ornaments the next year.

  1. Use your friends

How to get your friends to help you to do things? Offer them wine and attach party to the end.  My friends have painted my house, decorated my tree, helped me clear my clutter under the guise of Paint Party (there is wine or rum so come and let’s paint together), tree lighting party (bring an ornament that represent you – this one I love as it helps you remember your most important people) and Refresh Party, where they get to have an input on the things I should keep, donate (careful of your friend who been eyeing your stuff all year here) or throw away (yes I know it has 15 holes but I love it).  Friends, free labour and Christmas is a match made in heaven and sanctified by the birthday boy himself.

  1. Leave something for Christmas

Ok I promised myself years ago I would never become my mother who to this day still has a bag of just in case hospital gowns she has never worn. ‘Saving- tings’ for Christmas brings a freshness to your design without you having to repurchase them each year.  Bonus points, you can buy more festive version of everyday items just to keep the fa lalalalala going.

  1. Tun you hand and mek fashion (Repurpose)

You can switch the lamps in your bedroom to your living room, change mats around, switch curtains the items are only limited by what you have.  Just this simple action will refresh a space and make it feel brand new. The only breaking you will be doing is a sweat, as your purse will thank you for the vacation you just gave it.

  1. Be true to you

Design is not about replicating what you see on TV, online or in a magazine, it is about being true to your personality and choosing items that reflect you.   If you hate it don’t buy it, this is a waste of your time as well as voluntary torture. If you hate red and green but want to decorate for Christmas, take your favorite colour bedazzle it and voila.  Even bandana fabric can be dazzled and used in a way that makes it feels ‘Christmasie’

  1. Have Fun

Finally have fun.  It is about you and what makes you feel happy!

May your Christmas be Jolly and may you eat and not get fat!

Keisha-Maria is a Kingstonian interior decorator whose aesthetics is best described as Caribbean Contemporary.  This Christmas you will find her begging all wine bars for their corks to fund her various Christmas décor plans.