Christmas at The Watch House

Reading time 13 minutes

Motivated by the prospect of an OK-style, ‘At Home with Mr Christmas’ photoshoot this week, I have been decorating every corner of The Watch House in readiness for the festivities. This is the first year that the house has been properly habitable since the extension into Polegate Cottage and I have enjoyed getting into those rooms that were half completed last December. A year ago the carpets were just being laid and the dining room served as a box store. I was still putting curtain poles up on Christmas Eve, in readiness for my guests. In contrast, this year I have the luxury of painted walls and blinds at the windows. The aroma of fresh cut MDF has been replaced by the citrusy scent of Fraser fir. Now when I walk through the front door I get a pleasant reminder of how much I have achieved over the last 12 months. Not all in the happiest of circumstances, but it’s kept me from wallowing and given me a rewarding focus.

The first room beyond the front door is known as the morning room because it’s bright and sunny at the start of the day. The walls are painted straw yellow and the space is dominated by two Mr Bright chairs. Eight years after designing them I still maintain they are the most comfortable armchair known to man. They give me a little cuddle every time I sit in them (I’m enjoying one right now), yet they allow enough free arm movement to read a paper or magazine. Children find Mr Bright magnetic, as do biscuit crumbs and grains of sand, which find their way into the deep buttoning in disturbing quantities. Children generally come straight through the front door and start scrambling over the chairs like they are bouncy castles. Unfortunately yellow velvet is not very forgiving when it comes to grime, so I flinch just a little when that happens.

The morning room has never had a Christmas tree before, but since it’s the first room my guests see, and because I had a nice slim tree at my disposal, I thought it would be welcoming to add one. I still have three sets of incandescent fairy lights from the days pre LED, one of which has gently flickering bulbs. I treasure this set and will be very sad when the last of the spare bulbs is used up and cannot be replaced. The decorations – broadly gold, yellow, or midnight blue in colour – are an eclectic mix of things I just happen to like. There’s a lion’s head, a piece of glass honeycomb being tended by bees, a fantail goldfish, pineapples, and some fringed Indian key rings I found in our local gift shop. Colour is a brilliant way of harmonising a whole bunch of things that don’t really belong together.

Next comes the dining room, which also has a tree for the first time. Space has been created in a corner where a bookshelf has recently been removed, although it will be tight when we come to use the table on Christmas Day. I put the tree up in November, just to get it done, and hence used an artificial one so that it would still look good six weeks later. Decorated with silver, sapphire and crystal decorations inspired by St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, I am chuffed to bits with the result. The colour combination complements my collection of blue and white china, and there’s so much sparkle that the whole room lights up when I flick the power switch. On the opposite wall I have a lit wreath made from wire threaded with acrylic crystals, and over the narrow mantle shelf I have bunched and draped several crystal garlands, onto which I have clipped a collection of Joanna Buchanan ornaments, each inspired by an item of vintage jewellery. The quality of the faux gems so good that that they sparkle even in low light. My favourites are the opals.

My house always filled with fresh flowers and plants, but I can’t resist adding an extra layer at Christmas time. In the library there are yellow orchids, but I’ve chosen little white cyclamen in antiqued-glass pots for the dining room. These were snapped up for £5 a pop at Tesco. Even as a buyer it amazes me that plants can be offered at such low prices. Had I grown these cyclamen myself, I would not have parted with them for that kind of money.

I’ve always harboured ambitions of decorating the kitchen, hanging a heavy garland across the chimney breast, but the time has never materialised. I also don’t relish the thought of glitter, moss and other detritus falling into my food. However, this year the stairs got a subtle dressing. I’ve attached a couple of garlands to the base of the bannisters using cable ties (so easy) and prettied them up a little using lime-green baubles. Having found nowhere to put my Christmas cards, I have discovered that they tuck between the garland and bannisters very neatly, and there they will stay until twelfth night.

In the snug, where I watch TV (restricted to Strictly, Poldark and Gardener’s World these days), I have decorated another slender tree with red, blue and white decorations. They have a loosely nautical theme and include a dolphin, several lighthouses, felt storks and mice, which is where the nautical theme starts to fall down: it’s Christmas, so I can do as I please. I picked up a very pretty paper mistletoe garland in The Netherlands which has helped to pull this little spire of silliness together.

In the garden room I’ve upheld a strict green and antique-brass theme. I’ve strung up three sets of my favourite vine lights, which are tiny, micro-LED lights clustered on long green stems, arranged along a string. The matte-green wire blends in with foliage brilliantly and the bulbs give out a soft, warm light that suggests something magical might be afoot. In places I’ve draped lengths of antique brass stars among the leaves and left it at that.

The panels of jade green insulation board at the end of the garden room block off an empty space which will one day be an additional bathroom. Unfortunately they don’t fit tightly so there’s an almighty draught blowing through which neither suits me nor the plants. I’ve disguised the panels with four identical moss wreaths, each of which is adorned with white birds and green glass pine cones. The wreaths fill the space and create a pleasant focal point. So that there’s some depth as the eye wanders through the greenery, I’ve suspended giant antique baubles and tin cocoa pods among my hanging plants, all at different heights. I like to think of the garden room as an indoor balcony; the kind of spot where the characters in a Noel Coward play would slink off to for a contretemps or thrilling tryst. I might do the latter myself after a few sherries.

I’ve been saving the best until last – the library. Hard to imagine that this time last year the walls were bare wood and plaster. Although I still don’t have a fire surround, and the chandeliers remain in their boxes in the garage, the library has more than the makings of a lovely room. It will come into its own on Christmas Eve, when the fire will roar and there will be games, gifts and G&Ts aplenty. Here I have my real tree, a seven foot Fraser fir, which smells like candied citrus peal. Having bought my first Fraser fir last year I would never go back to a Nordmann, which is coarse and scentless in comparison.

In choosing decorations for this tree I have not followed the decoration of the room, which would be my usual approach. I’ve nodded to the paintwork’s heathery tones with some gorgeous antique glass baubles in a mottled, purplish-bronze shade, but the rest are russet, chestnut, copper and burgundy. There’s a loose woodland-cum-wildlife-cum-farmyard theme, complete with foxes, chickens, pheasants, conkers, pine cones, baskets of eggs and flying ducks, but if the colours go, I shove the decoration on. Here’s how it came together:

For my niece Martha I am hiding a fairy decoration in each room of the house. We’ll have some fun seeking them out later. I’m going to enjoy the next half an hour of peace and quiet before she and my sister arrive, as there will be no rest once they do.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tour of the Watch House and that you’re all ready to celebrate in style. I wish you and your families the Merriest of Christmases. TFG.

Categories: Art and Design, Christmas, fragrance, Musings, Photography, Uncategorized

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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29 comments On "Christmas at The Watch House"

  1. It all looks fabulous. Beautiful and yet liveable in. Thank you for sharing the photos. May we know in which publication the Watch House will feature?

    And happy Christmas btw. Ceri

    1. Thank you Ceri. I don’t know which publication yet, as JL have been organising it all, but i do know the photographer said the house was worthy of World of Interiors! I doubt it, but I was flattered nevertheless. I can promise you that, apart from all the stairs, it’s a very comfortable, cosy home. Felicitations, Dan

  2. Snap, I have the fox bauble too! Such good taste! Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year. Thank you for your blogs which are always interesting and full of humour.

    Hugs Carol Fox

    1. Thank you Carol. If anyone was going to have that decoration, it was going to be you. Highly appropriate. Happy Christmas to you and yours. I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of blogging in the New Year. Dan

  3. Thank you so much for your wonderful blogs during 2017, something I always look forward too and congratulations to your splendidly decorated home! A feast for the eye and I’m sure father Xmas, once he’s made his way down your chimney into your lovely library 📚 🎅🏼
    Many blessings for a bright Xmas

  4. Thank you for such heart warming blog with a tour of your lovely house which took me back to my childhood: My beloved mom would decorate the tree while we were fast a sleep during a weekend night; in the morning we would get up to a dream like living room with not only a christmas tree beautifully decorated but with tens of nicely wrapped presents underneath it with red, green, gold ribbons and matching papers with scenes of Santa, snow man, deer, etc., also small name cards with short messages attached on each box of present. Of course baubles were all real glass of late 1950’s. Although we are muslims by birth I grew up with a christmas tree. 2017 being an exhausting, frustrating year for me, it is the first year I did not do any decoration. Yours cheered me up, made me smile as if it was my house I was; once again thank you for making me smile while sharing your house.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018!

    1. So happy you enjoyed the tour (rather rushed I’m sad to say) and sorry that this year has been so trying for you. I know the feeling well, and you have my sympathy. I hope 2018 presents a new beginning and brings you happiness.

      Thank you for sharing your treasured childhood memories of Christmas which are, after all, the most important ones. I still prefer glass baubles and have hundreds of them. There is nothing to compare with their lustre and delicacy. I sincerely wish you a very Happy Christmas Ceylan. Dan

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, words and photos Dan. Your house looks so beautiful and cosy, decorated with Christmas ornaments and trees. I hope you find some quality private time just for yourself and the one / ones you love . Relax, take your time and enjoy life 🙂 A very merry and happy Christmas to you .

    1. Thank you Paul. Martha (my niece) is now sound asleep so we are enjoying a glass of wine before dinner. The house feels festive and cosy. Frankly I’d quite like to bolt the door and not leave until the end of April. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  6. Merry Christmas, and here’s hoping Martha found every one of those ornaments. 🙂 Your house looks beyond lovely with your flair for decorating, endless supply of gorgeous decorations, and beautiful rooms to display them in. It takes a person with skills to decorate a green insulated wall and have it look quite lovely. Take a bow. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy. The green wall was one of my tougher commissions this year 😉 Martha was in the door and had found the golden fairy within 15 seconds, the rest took about a minute. So much for that ‘activity’ and my discreet placement of the fairies. Must try harder next time Uncle Dan!!

  7. Such a lovely post to end the year, after following each stage of your decorating. And thank you for your blog posts all year, I have suffered debilitating back pain all year and they always make me pause and unwind to read and enjoy them – reading them is the same as sinking into your Mr Bright chairs. Merry Christmas to you and yours X

    1. Thank you Adele, and Best Wishes to you and your family too. I am sorry to hear you’ve been suffering this year and hope that 2018 brings some relief from the discomfort. In the meantime it’s heartwarming to hear that you’ve enjoyed the blog this year. Knowing that makes it all worthwhile.

  8. Another inspiring blog, this time with festive pictures of your wonderful home! It looks as though much love as well as hard work has gone into it. You must be very proud! (Love your yellow armchairs!) I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year x

    1. Thank you Mary Ann. I love those chairs. When I can afford it, I’m going to get two more made in tweed and heather velvet for the library. They are the only chairs I’ve ever owned that I am actually happy to sit in! Thank you for the good wishes. I wish the the same for you. Dan

  9. Another beautiful ‘gift’ to your followers Dan. Your posts are uplifting, inspiring and absolutely, the word of the moment, ‘authentic ‘. Thank you for sharing so much joy and giving us something to look forward to when opening the email! Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones from Oz ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Thank Helen, and to you. The weather is typically Christmassy here – dull, dreary and mild. Somehow it always seems to end up like this – neither one thing nor the other. At least it’s not raining. I am sure you’ll be basking in warm sunshine and enjoying a barbecue lunch next to your poor decapitated aggies 😉 Mine did not enjoy the cold last week and have lots of yellowing leaves which I am dying to pull off, except I am now officially on holiday from gardening, so on call for emergencies only 😉

  10. Well, as you say Dan, the year has not all been in the happiest of circumstances, but goodness me, I think you drew the long straw!! Who could want for anything more than the lovely Watch House? Long may it continue to wrap its arms around you and nurture you.

    Wishing you peace and happiness at this festive time, and much joy with little Martha x.

    1. Thanks Jill. I would not want to live anywhere else right now, that’s for sure. Just enjoying a nice cup of tea and getting myself mentally prepared for the day ahead. Need a good walk to blow away the cobwebs. Happy Christmas!

  11. Dear Dan,
    the actual reading of this blog post will have to wait (check the time I write/ wrote this comment and you’ll know why, especially since for us Christmas Eve is the big day…) but those pictures are amazing. I look forward to learning about everything in detail. Enjoy all your hard work, your house certainly looks stunning! Just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you’ll have plenty of people around you who can top up a happy tipple or two! Warmest wishes (or is that phrase odd? Then just “warm wishes” 🙂 ) X

    1. All good wishes welcome here Stefanie! Thank you. And I send the warmest of wishes back to you and your family too.

      Martha and my sister are here. Neither slept well so it’s all a bit fraught here this morning. How early can I start on those tipples? 😉 At least I don’t have to get used to waking up early, as I’m normally awake before Martha.

      Happy Christmas, and enjoy the post when you have time to read it. X

  12. Thank you Dan for sharing the views of your house with us! it really is coming together beautifully and is looking particularly festive. I always enjoy your posts! Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 from a hot (and worryingly dry) Cape Town!

  13. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and personable humor. It’s always a joy to see what you’re up to.
    Merry Christmas!

  14. Happy Christmas, Dan. I hope you have a lovely time. Your house looks beautiful (gorgeous decorations; love that felt stork!). Sam x

  15. Glorious Christmas photos together with a wonderful blog – it’s not that I was surprised but how do you do it, Dan!! Enjoy the rest and peace that the next few days should bring! All good wishes to you and yours. May 2018 be kind and generous to you.🎄

  16. Just looking at your lovely pics on Instagram Dan (I’m not on Insta so unable to comment on there) but the picture of your ‘Christmas morning lived in lounge’ made me laugh out loud. I have a little grandson who is a whirlwind and leaves my lounge in much the same state but hence forth I think it should officially be known as ‘having been Martha’d’.

    Aren’t we lucky to have such little bundles of joy in our lives? and it gives us something to smile about when they’ve gone home.

    Enjoy the mess whilst you can Dan, its soon cleared up and all too soon she’ll be grown and flown.

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