Along with her husband Rusell Pinch, Oona Bannon runs London design studio Pinch, which is known for stunningly simple furniture of the sort that’s only achieved through painstaking craftsmanship. Cabinets, tables, chairs and sideboards in high-quality hardwoods and gorgeous upholstery make up a collection that – we think – also gives away the couple’s exceptional eye for colour. Their design skills are rooted in detail so we suspected their Christmas would be too. Oona talked us through how it comes together on the big day…
“Childhood Christmases were usually at my Granny’s house near Broadstairs, with an early start after midnight mass. It was always a sleepy day. My aunt and Italian uncle and cousins would always be over from Italy, and granny’s strictest rule was no lunch or presents until after the Queen’s speech. My Italian uncle would cook an independent Christmas lunch involving boiled stuffed pig’s trotter, Cotechino, as he couldn’t countenance turkey, and Granny wouldn’t compromise to a foreigner, so it was a battle of challenging meat dishes and passive aggressive manouevres in the kitchen. Eventually the Baileys would come out and everyone would thaw a little. Its hard anyway to take foes seriously when sporting colourful paper hats. What the Bailey’s didn’t soften, the trifle would – Granny’s version was extremely comforting, with cream and custard stealing the show with a just a hint of tart fruits beneath to tease.
Now, we still don’t focus only on turkey for lunch, but a lot on the double cream and a good selection of condiments. Actually there’s very little I inherited from those days, apart from veering towards over rather than under catering – one thing I love is choosing which leftover to pile into, rather than feeling obliged to finish off yesterday’s one dish.
This year we will be in our barn near the west coast of France – as well as ourselves and two daughters, we will have Russell’s parents and my dad. So the older generation not long into, or approaching their seventies, will feel very au courant with the selection of popular beat combos they will be exposed to. Though thinking about it, it would be preferable for our kids to learn the full Rolling Stones back catalogue as each side of the family had a very strong bond with rock n’roll. That could get me through.
Unlike where we live in London, in France it’s a massive double height space, so we can go wild with the size of the tree, and we decorate it with mostly frosted fairly lights and a scattering of handmade robin red breast decorations. Because the house has no central heating and just two very powerful log burners, it takes a while to get the 30cms stone walls to warm up. So the naked flame is very important to trick the body into feeling warmth, candles live on every surface and we scatter Mystical fire sachets in the burners so the flames burn through blue, purple, orange, red and green.
We’ll be observing the French tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve, bought that morning at the market, which is also a tradition in my husband’s family – so we will eat oysters, prawn cocktails, and baked fish early that evening, and on Christmas Day around 3pm we will each have a roasted Poussin from a Margot Henderson recipe, with baked ham, roasted fennel and Jansson’s Temptation on the side, followed by Mary Berry’s chocolate roulade. Cheese will be a star attraction as we slip into the evening with dates, celery and walnuts from our field as companions to the Comte, Tentation, Roqueforte and Brebis.
Our barn is one vast room so there is no hiding when cooking! Prep will be everything, and simplicity will rule as the food markets and produce are so incredible in France. Meals will involve lots of pots and platters brought to the table for everyone to dig in. Thankfully Russell and I team up quite well, so I never feel like I’m drowning alone in the kitchen.
Our dinner table is 2.4m long so there is plenty of room for everyone. We have a Gotland sheepskin on each chair to keep off the chill, and for our Christmas meals we will enjoy a rare outing for the white Irish linen tablecloth, and make use of the old school Alessi silver platters we received for our wedding present. We spend a lot of time in France, and frequent many a broconte (car boot sale) during the summer months, so I have a hive of classic French dining and serve ware, including the tall silver oyster platter that looks so Belle Epoque, and a lot of Robert Picault pottery for our sauce boats and condiment pots. Crackers? Hard not to, but the price and disposability of them is terrible – I am still looking for a good solution, so it’s off to the Liberty Christmas shop this week.
This year we are thinking of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve – controversial! Mostly for the children, so that they can spread out the unwrapping of presents over two days, but also for the grown ups – so that Christmas Day can be enjoyed for having nothing to do but eat, stroll, snooze and be merry, without the build up and inevitable anti-climax post present opening.
When it comes to presents my dad is a bit of a renegade. One Christmas he thought it would be funny to fill my stocking with edible coal. Trouble was, I was only nine and didn’t see the funny side for a long long time. We’ll see what treasures he provides this year!
I have a well populated wish list which includes a Paolozzi print, a Parson’s Terrier, a Christopher Kane sequin dress, and a pair of Nak Armstrong moonstone and sapphire earrings. These things are never going to happen! Then I have a reality list that reads a pair of red elastic Blundstone boots, a Shiatsu treatment, Eileen Grey, her work and her world by Jennifer Goff and a pair of suede pumps by Gianvito Rossi. I’d also like one of the Another Country x Cereal prints. Cough cough Paul.