Welcome back to Chateaux Drake, my friends! Grab your holiday beverage of choice (I recommend eggnog, hot cocoa, or mulled wine), cozy on up, and enjoy our Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition. Maybe I shouldn’t say this because it’ll jinx it, but if all goes according to plan, this will be our last Christmas in our first home, so while things might look kind of similar to last year, they’ll likely be pretty different in 2019!
Like last year, we’ve only decorated our downstairs. My family has never been one to decorate every room in the house, instead sticking to the main shared spaces, like the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Although, I think when we were younger, my parents let us have little trees on our bedside table. Who knows, I could be making that up. What about you, do you decorate the bedrooms as well? I’ve been seeing lots of home Instagrammers who have added garlands to their beds and little trees to their bedside tables, which I quite like, but isn’t happening for us this year.
My two favourite places for Christmas decor in the States are Target and Michaels. Both places have some really great stuff at reasonable prices and I’ve snagged a bunch of it on sale after Christmas. Because I had so much Christmas decor before I moved, I haven’t had the need to buy a ton of stuff in the UK which means I don’t really have a go-to spot yet. However, I’ve picked up a few things at stores like IKEA, Tiger, TK Maxx, and HEMA, as well as at our grocery store, Sainsbury’s. I feel like my Christmas tastes are in a constant battle of the red, white and green combo with knit textures and fair aisle designs versus the simple and elegant white and gold with metallic tones and lots of deer. Luckily, the two work fairly well together.
This year, our Christmas decor starts outside! I mentioned that we made three wreaths to hang up this year, something we wanted to do last year but never got around to. We hung the biggest one on the front door on December 3rd. (It was previously hanging on our kitchen door that opens to the living room. The plan was to put it up on the 1st, but we forgot and weren’t home much that weekend.) Here’s hoping it will last the whole month on our door and not get stolen.
Luke made the wreath itself by twisting together some flexible twigs we collected in the park one weekend in November. Because it’s so big, he secured it with twin in three spots around the wreath, but it’s pretty sturdy on its own. We added the fresh pine, tying each piece to the wreath, tucked in some fresh holly, and filled it out with these pine cone ornaments we got from the craft store. They already had a string attached, so we just cut it and tied it around the wreath. I made a bow from IKEA ribbon to add to the top and Luke suggested we hang it from the ribbon as well, but it’s also on a hook in case the ribbon comes unglued. In total, it cost £2 for 6 pine cones and 95p for the whole roll of ribbon, so not a bad deal at all!
Last year I talked about how we had just started using our dining room thanks to finally putting some curtains up. (I also mentioned I wanted some lace curtains to hang on the bottom windows, but we never got them.) We’ve used the room a bit more this year, thanks to being able to entertain more frequently and no longer having a table in the kitchen.
I decided to put our Willow Tree Nativity set in the same spot as last year, this time on a bed of fresh pine and pine cones left over from our wreath forages. My mom got us the Willow Tree Prayer Angel last year for Christmas, along with a candle stick to serve as her stand. I would love to add the Three Wise Men, more shepherds, and more animals to our set in the future. Willow Tree is definitely an investment, but I think they’re gorgeous figures and they remind me of my favourite Christmas book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.
For the sideboard under the front window, we got a mini tree from IKEA this year. It fit nicely into a pot we had for one of our bigger plants before it outgrew it. I added a short string of copper lights and made a bow out of some old Christmas ribbon I got from Target a few years ago.
The sideboard is also a great place to display our small Santa collection. My mom has the most amazing collection of Santas, adding a new one every year. She has wood Santas, metal Santas, paper mache Santas. She has rustic Santas, classic Santas, skinny Santas, even a bobblehead Santa. She’s got a drunk Santa, a pope Santa, a skiing Santa, an American Santa, a flying Santa. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve always loved her Santa collection and it was my favourite thing to set up when we got our Christmas decor out. Last year, while she was visiting us in the autumn, she bought us our first Santa from a Christmas shop in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I found this year’s Santa at TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago. The tradition at my mom’s house is that Santa brings the Santa every year and places the new one among the others on Christmas Eve. We’ll definitely take on that tradition in a couple of years—or maybe even next year—but I just couldn’t bear not having any Santas out last year or only one this year. Forgive me, Mom!
I finished the sideboard with one of our “Christmas Buddies”, Gary Frick Jr., some antlers, and some pillar candles from IKEA surrounded by a garland I got from the dollar spot at Target. I also added the hanging mitten tree from Target to our games shelf. And I finally got some faux poinsettias from IKEA to fit in my J O Y mugs from Anthropologie! I’ve been wanting to do that for years!
On our table, I have the birch tealight holders that I got from Etsy for me and my sisters a few years ago, some holiday placemats that I snagged on offer at Target, and a festive salt and pepper shaker. I mentioned at Thanksgiving that we added some boards to our tabletop to expand our table, which makes four place mats and a centrepiece fit nicely, but it also means we have to have a tablecloth down as well to hide the fact that it’s just boards.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. The ultimate compliment I can receive on my house is that it’s warm and cozy. And that’s definitely the goal for my living room, not just at Christmastime (or in the autumn), but all year round! I love the addition of the Christmas tree with its twinkling lights and the fact that it means rearranging the room ever so slightly. The lamp by the couch and the pile of cozy blankets next to the tree just make it feel exactly that: warm and cozy!
We usually have a white tray on the bench, but I switched it out for the green tray that I previously used for our hot cocoa station to make it a little more festive. I also switched out the Hello Fall candle from Bath & Body Works for the Flannel candle from Bath & Body Works. (They seriously need to start shipping to the UK because I’m always so hesitant to burn them lest they run out!) I also added the little red truck and tree that I got for $3 from Target and a knitted bauble garland, also from Target.
We got our tree from IKEA again this year because they’re all the perfect size for our house and they’re all £25 and come with a £20 voucher to use in the new year. (We remembered to use our’s last year on the very last day it was valid!) Last year we picked up some mixed metallic baubles from IKEA to fill in the holes on our tree and after Christmas, we grabbed the shiny and matte copper baubles from Sainsbury’s in a post-Christmas sale. Like my mom does with the Santas every year, we also got an ornament every year, so I have a decent collection combined with some ornaments from my dad’s house as well. Luke and I have started doing it as well, so he now has two! We decided to only put up my generic ones rather than adding the ones that are obviously mine or from my younger years when I was really into Disney and turtles. We put our tree in a red bucket from IKEA, which is what Luke’s family would always do. I’ve only ever had a tree stand and a tree skirt, but I like this way too and it’s certainly easier than trying to screw all those bolts in evenly!
Our mantle is different than I’ve done in the past. While I’ve still used the same items (the trees, the birds: Percy Chadburn and Julian Hawthorne, the deer head silhouettes I made), I went for an asymmetrical look instead of my usual symmetry. I also wanted to make a garland with the rest of the greenery we had for our wreaths, but I ended up just laying it on the mantle with the eucalyptus from Thanksgiving and trying to hide the ends. Luke also found these pine cones under a tree at our work. When he first showed me one, it was completely closed and so heavy, but since we’ve brought them home, they’ve started to open up from the bottom. To balance out all the green, I added a Christmas Spice candle from Sainsbury’s that smells heavenly!
We hung Luke’s wreath with holly leaves, dried lemon and orange, and cinnamon sticks from the mirror. He made the wreath itself like the one on our front door, but because it’s smaller it’s just holding itself together. We dried the citrus in the oven at 75°C for about 4 hours (check on them every hour or so). The house smelled amazing while they were drying out!
I finished off the mantle with our stockings (I think from Target) and a little garland I made with some of the smaller gold baubles I got from the Target dollar spot years ago. I also replaced our melted and unlightable pillar candles in the fire place with some fresh ones I used for our Thanksgiving table just to clean it up a bit. Well, that and so we could light a “fire” in December.
My mom sent us two classic Christmas books last year, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and The Polar Express. I wasn’t quite sure where to put them, so for now they’re on top of a crate. She seriously came through for us last year thanks to Amazon. Those books bring back ALL the childhood memories. I remember reading Jonathan Toomey with my mom for so many years (okay, even still) and The Polar Express at my dad’s house growing up. And it’s completely okay to be a child again on Christmas, if you ask me!
This year, I also got some festive cushion covers from H&M Home to switch out for the holidays. (And I’m still looking for the ultimate cozy throw. I’m thinking faux fur. Or a gorgeous plaid. Okay, maybe both!)
I kept it simple in the kitchen. I’ve been seeing a lot of Instagrammers add little touches of Christmas to their kitchen counters, but we just have so little counter space that it’s all so precious! Hopefully in our next home we’ll have more surface space in the kitchen. It would certainly come in handy this time of year.
I added the little candles we got from Sainbury’s last year to our window sill, along with the menu chalkboard that will forever have the four main food groups from Elf on it because it doesn’t wipe off. I also put up the two garlands I normally have on the mantle above our kitchen window along with a string of lights. I love seeing the glow from the living room when the overhead lights are off.
Over on the bar, I set up a hot cocoa station on a three tiered stand I got off eBay. Let me tell you, I’m OBSESSED! The last seven (or so) years I’ve done the same thing and kept it pretty standard with cocoa, mallows, and candy canes. This year I obviously went above and way beyond.
On the bottom tier, you’ll find some festive mugs I snagged from TK Maxx for £4 each, two different kinds of candy canes (but both peppermint flavour), Bailey’s, cinnamon sticks, jumbo marshmallows, and some caramels.
On the middle tier, we’ve got mini marshmallows, Amaretto (you gotta try it in your next cup of hot cocoa!), festive jelly beans, some chunks of chocolate, and the main event: hot cocoa mix.
On the top tier, you’ll find some festive paper straws, a little tin of peppermint hot cocoa, peppermint sticks, cayenne pepper (maybe that’s your thing!) and little mitten shakers that have cinnamon and nutmeg in them.
I got almost all of the jars from IKEA. The KORKEN jars are perfect! I got the 1 litre and the 0.5 litre, but the 1 litre proved to be too tall for the stand. I also got a pack of the mini KORKEN jars, a couple of the VARDAGEN jars that are 0.3 litres each. Tiger also had some great jars and the washed herbs and spices jars from Sainsbury’s were great too. Luke found the corked bottles for the liquor from Amazon. They came in a three pack in a couple of different size options. I also wrapped another string of copper lights around the bottom of each tier to make it twinkle a bit.
And to finish off the kitchen, I added our final Christmas Buddy, Melvin Crowley, and another Sainsbury’s candle to the bar! I also picked up some festive tea towels at TK Maxx that came with a Santa pot holder. We normally don’t have pot holders out and the tea towel on the oven is usually the most functional, but it’s Christmas and it’s time for festivity over functionality. (I’m mostly kidding about that.)
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