This antique-filled British home epitomises a warm and festive welcome.
At this 18th century Nottinghamshire farmhouse, the Christmas spirit warms you as soon as you step up to the handsome front door. A thick wreath, custom-made by a local florist, is laden with crisp apples and fragrant cinnamon, pine and dried oranges, all tied up with a snow-white ribbon. This old house, which has been added to and remodelled at various points over the years, is another world filled with secret staircases, moving walls and wardrobes that lead, Narnia-style, to hidden rooms. The owners, collectors of antiques, take the matter of Christmas very seriously, welcoming their family and friends to share in the cheer and goodwill of the season.
On entering the double-height main hall, one is greeted by the most convivial of sights: a two-and-a-half-metre real Christmas tree, bedecked in delicate ornaments of frosted glass and spun golden threads. Its heady scent fills the air, mingling with the aromas of cooking that waft through from the kitchen, instantly invoking a festive atmosphere. Peeping out from below its lower boughs is a stack of presents, carefully wrapped in gold and red, each one topped with a bow, ready for Christmas morning. Beside the tree, the wooden bannister of the swooping staircase has been wrapped in ivy, adding a verdant touch and bringing nature indoors. On the French chestnut table opposite stands a traditional advent wreath of white roses, eucalyptus leaves, pinecones and pussy willow. One of its four ivory pillar candles will be lit each Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas. Behind this, two lamps stand proudly, illuminating the dark winter afternoons, each one formed from antique Chinese vases in crisp blue and white. A cosy rug spread on the floor – a 20th century Kilim – completes the scene, its warm red tones complementing the festive décor.
Seasonal touches have been added throughout the house, emphasising the overall jovial air of hospitality. A warm fire burns in its cast-iron grate, the perfect spot for tea and iced Christmas biscuits or an after-dinner game of cards. A rustic nativity scene perches on a mid-century sideboard in front of a striking tapestry by Jean-Claude Bissery.
In the guest bedroom, crackers, a stocking and presents have been left out, their purple wrappings matching the buddleia-motif wallpaper. A scented candle on one side table, a miniature tree on the other and a cosy blanket draped on the arm of the Edwardian daybed all reference Christmas without becoming overbearing.
The house’s true pièce de résistance, however, is the wonderfully homely dining room. The large, round dining table is spread with a white, scalloped cloth and topped with a second in rich red featuring gold patterns, with matching cushions placed on the upholstered chairs. Most of the china is Luneville Old Strasbourg, while the glasses are etched Victorian glass. Tall, tapered candles lend their warm glow to the scene, surrounding a simple centrepiece of pinecones and rosy apples. The side tables are decorated with gold lamps, miniature-pinecone Christmas trees and a bowl of seasonal clementines. Witnessing this festive setting, one can practically hear the chatter of loved ones gathered around to eat, drink and be merry.
Photography: Andreas Von Eisiendel, courtesy of Corbis