A Red Dickensian Christmas


It’s time to mention the dreaded C word again, a time we all love but perhaps also, if we are honest with ourselves, we also love to hate as the buildup can be quite exhausting for our emotions and our wallets.

So – before everyone gets frayed around the edges with the shopping, wrapping and sorting out who does what on the last few days and who spends what time with who in this year’s very strange array of bubbles – how about a wee spot of decorating and arranging the spaces a little differently to accommodate guests not able to hug and cuddle as usual?

I’ve always been a fan of the Dickensian look, where more is more, particularly at Christmas when one sees characters taking long walks in the snow, covered with copious long woollen coats, big scarves, strange hats and inadequate footwear, arriving at their destination and steaming in the heat of the open fire amid the smells of cinnamon, oranges and roasting food. As an aside, it’s strange that the one Dickens novel did so much to enliven the rather sedate Christmas of the Victorian era, when so much of his work was highlighting the poverty of the days with homeless families, hungry children, squalid living spaces, or unsafe working conditions. But he can definitely take quite a lot of the credit.

Fast forwarding a century or two, when we can swap the madrigals for a bit of Michael Buble and have those heady smells easily sprayed from a bottle, it’s still possible to conjure up the feel of the past with a few clever decorative moves. Homes and Antiques have run an article about just this in their December magazine, and this pic just about sums it up for me, I can almost taste that mulled wine sliding gently down to a warming belly and yes, I’m sure that’s Elvis in the background, singing sweetly of the travesty of missing me this Christmas. The walls here are painted in ‘Pugin Red’ eggshell from the Dulux Heritage collection, the decorations are simple greenery – not a scrap of tinsel to be seen – a warm blanket and cushions for comfort by the fireside and here we are back in Victorian England. Of course in summer, minus the decorations and red accessories, instead a huge vase of pale blooms in the fireplace, pale candles and pale cushions the room will move perfectly with the seasons.

Here’s a snippet from a corner of my sitting room, using my favourite Pure & Original rich chalky paint in Old Red. It’s a perfect winter room, with fire and plenty of squashy, somewhat battered sofas and in summer I take down the heavy curtains and put up simple neutral unlined linen ones and the room takes on a whole new feel. I think perhaps this year I have a good starting point for a red Dickensian Christmas!

Mind The Gap have created a wonderful warm Christmassy picture this year by adding lots of red to their marketing, along with satin ribbons in jewel tones, brass candlesticks and warm and welcoming patterned papers like this one, Folk Szekely, taking inspiration from a Hungarian folk pattern of big flowers, roots and birds from folklore, set against a dark background.

NB : All their wallpapers are available from me, please email for further details as I don’t have pictures of them all on my website.

Again from H&A, here is a quick fix bedroom idea, throw on some extra cushions, a warm red throw, a smattering of lace and lots of greenery and away you go. If the room is for guests, what nicer touch than a few wrapped presents waiting for their Christmas wake up with their morning tea, or even laced with brandy as my Dad used to do, but not for the fainthearted as it can create a rather wobbly start to the day.

This was one of my hotel bedrooms – Stanwell House in Lymington, long sold – always very popular in any season. I used a deep crimson chalky paint on the walls and a lush, antique crimson silk for the bedspread.

Here is another idea from the H&A article, mixing greenery from the garden with plenty of scarlet blooms. Next to it is an old Christmas display at my house, all faux flowers and most definitely favouring the gothic approach.

Jane McIntyre is an interior designer based in Hampshire offering a full interior design service. Please contact here for further information.

Photos : Home & Antiques, Mind The Gap and Jane McIntyre