Joanna Thornhill

How the Style Experts Do Christmas

At this time of year magazines are awash with red table cloths, reindeer baubles and glitter. But our experience of decorating at home for Christmas is much less about trends and more focused on family tradition, the homemade and the familiar. Looking for some inspiration that reflects the kind of Christmas we really have, we asked three interiors insiders – stylist and author Joanna Thornhill, designer Lisa Levis and Head of Creative for Farrow & Ball Charlie Cosby – how they decorate in their own homes at Christmas.

Joanna Thornhill

Joanna Thornhill’s Christmas tree

“Christmas is not the time for sophisticated decor!” – Joanna Thornhill, stylist and author

“As a stylist, every year I work on countless Christmas shoots, so when it comes to my own Christmas I prefer to go somewhat eclectic and not worry too much about curating a themed look. I’ve got a number of vintage baubles from my own childhood (stolen from my Mum – sorry, Mum) which are filled with memories and are absolute favourites of mine. I tend to mix it up with a few modern baubles in geometric or unusual designs and there’s always a real mixture of colours, from traditional tones to brights and the odd bit of neon. I also like to string beads of garlands around the tree. As it’s the one Christmas tree I get to do my way, I like to go pretty OTT with it – to me, Christmas is not the time for sophisticated decor!

Joanna Thornhill

Joanna’s Christmas wreath and pine cones ready for spray painting

I enjoy bringing natural elements into the home at Christmas – my garden is full of ivy, so I usually festoon my living room fireplace with some, and last year I wrapped some around a circle of thick wire to make a simple door wreath (along with various other bits from the garden, including some dried hydrangea heads). I plan to make this an annual tradition, as this will be our third Christmas in our own home. I also go for a country walk before the big day and collect twigs, acorns and pine cones, which I then spray paint, usually in white or a metallic hue, and use them to decorate with alongside the shop-bought stuff. I just have one main tree, so I like to dot smaller elements throughout my house, and stand the twigs in a vase with tiny baubles on them and display the acorns and pine cones in little bowls.”

“Nat King Cole will be playing in the background for most of December” – Lisa Levis, designer

Hague Blue

“I love the look, smell and colour of eucalyptus at Christmas time and shall be streaming it all over our fireplace this December. Dotted with some very old and worn antique glass baubles from my childhood, and a collection of colourful printed paper origami decorations in a palette of beautiful dusty blues and carrot orange, its starts to look very festive. Mr Robin comes out every year – I made him at playschool so he is VERY old but still going – and this year we are starting to collect some great decorations for the tree for our daughter who will be enjoying her first Christmas.

Calke Green

When we don’t have the log fire going, which is not often, we have a wonderful earthy scented candle burning. I love the natural woody fragrance it gives, reminding me of roasting chestnuts and taking them out in our pockets for a family walk in the woods in our wellies. Nat King Cole will be playing in the background for most of December and we absolutely love to have a panettone on the go (a slice for breakfast with coffee is DELICIOUS) and most essentially we will have a large ham and an abundance of sprouts ready to saute with smoky bacon bits and sherry. My absolute favourite food.”

“I’m making comedy cracker prizes out of pipe cleaners!” – Charlie Crosby, Head of Creative, Farrow & Ball

Great White

“I always have a real tree with the baubles I’ve stolen from my grandma, parents and auntie’s houses. Last year I made oversized wallpaper paper chains for the dining room and hung them from each corner to my pendant light in the middle of the room. I always get some foliage too, but it changes every year. I’m in New York at the moment and have been inspired to create a wallpaper garland mimicking all my favourite Christmas leaf shapes (I might get distracted by mince pies before I actually make that though). In terms of colour, Christmas is often blues and whites for me, but I’m obsessed with green this year and have bought about 40 bits of cabbage crockery to have a magical leafy looking table for entertaining. At Christmas I always have something creative going on – at work my team are giving a masterclass in making Christmas decorations out of wallpaper. At home I’m making comedy cracker prizes out of pipe cleaners!”

Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist