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IN PICS | 10 of the best styling ideas for a nature-inspired Christmas

Here are 10 simple, clever ideas for DIY wreaths, upcycled 'trees', dreamy tablescapes, handmade gift wrap and more

05 December 2021 - 00:02 By ROBYN ALEXANDER/BUREAUX.CO.ZA
An all-white Christmas table setting.
An all-white Christmas table setting.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

1) BEYOND THE PALE

Create a sense of drama and occasion with a centrepiece that conjures up romantic notions of overgrown gardens and forest thickets dusted in snow. The ideal foundation is a soft washed linen tablecloth, and a choice of handmade tableware and drinking vessels to add tactility and organic charm. Plus, if the design of your chairs allows for it, tie individual posies onto their backs as simple take-home gifts for your guests.

TIP: To make a centrepiece like this one, place scrubby evergreens and woody herbs into a linear arrangement the same length as your table, and loosely secure with raffia or jewellery wire to keep it contained yet informal. Enhance with a light spray of white paint and a dusting of gold powder paint. Finally, tuck Christmas baubles and gold-painted seed pods among the leaves and twigs.

Layered and textured gift wrapping with natural elements.
Layered and textured gift wrapping with natural elements.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

2) PLANT BASED

Approach an all-natural festive decor scheme like a fashion designer: place the focus on layering and texture within a restricted palette of chalk, grey, charcoal and bone. Centre the look on tactile, all-natural elements — including simple textured papers, twine, raffia and woody herb sprigs — for a romantic and  organic feel. Add as many candles as you can lay your hands on, as there is simply nothing better for enhancing the celebratory mood.

TIP: Wrap gifts in brown Kraft paper and plain white newsprint that has been crinkled into tight balls, then flattened out again to mimic the appearance of crushed linen. Complete this charmingly rustic look with loosely wrapped twine, plus an assortment of herb sprigs and seed pods spray painted in gold.

A door garland provides a contemporary alternative to the classic wreath.
A door garland provides a contemporary alternative to the classic wreath.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux
A rustic festive table setting with natural linens and greenery.
A rustic festive table setting with natural linens and greenery.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

3) SO WELCOME

For centuries evergreen wreaths have symbolised both the hope of rebirth and a spiritual belief in everlasting life. They are also often placed on the front door, serving to welcome guests to your home at Christmas. This year, why not eschew the regular circular shape for a more rustic decoration? A door garland feels more contemporary, while still imparting the natural feel so essential to this form of seasonal adornment.

TIP: Our garland was made using indigenous evergreens and a dried flower spray painted in antique gold. Use black leather cord and gold craft wire to hold the casual composition together while also imparting shine and a touch of contrast to the natural shades and textures.

4) RUSTIC APPEAL

Anchored by an oversized linen cloth, this ethereal table setting is a study in serene, cool greens, greys and whites, punctuated by textured black elements and  flashes of gold. The whimsical garland on the wall was crafted from local flora lashed together with twine and gold craft wire. An idea we love, no matter the style of your celebratory table, is placing a small wrapped gift at each setting to emphasise the festive nature of the gathering.

TIP: There is no big centrepiece here: rather, clear glass bottles of varying sizes have been filled with water, some used to hold candles and others to display evergreen sprigs. Black crockery and recycled glass drinking glasses add textural appeal, as do the rough-edged linen napkins, which have been tied with twine.

An all-white Christmas tree with black and wooden accents creates a more modern look.
An all-white Christmas tree with black and wooden accents creates a more modern look.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

5) WHITE HEAT

This pared-back, textural and non-traditional aesthetic for Christmas will form the backdrop of a contemporary celebration. Painting foliage and dead branches white makes for a bold, graphic effect, and anchors the striking black, white and natural palette used for all the decorations and gift-wrapping. As our stylist says: “There is so much readily available in our homes and gardens to incorporate into our decorating.” It just takes a bit of imagination, and some thoughtful editing.

TIP: This small thorny tree had recently died in our stylist’s garden so she simply mounted it on an old wire stand and painted the entire piece pure white. The delightful hand-carved wooden birds from Africa Nova on the tree make it feel more like an art installation than mere decoration.

Gifts in graphic black and white patterns combined with natural accents.
Gifts in graphic black and white patterns combined with natural accents.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

6) MONOCHROME MAGIC

Christmas decor does not need to be colourful to feel festive and celebratory. This striking monochrome palette has been fashioned for gift-wrapping by incorporating cool local crafts with organic elements. For a similar eco-friendly nod to the Japanese practice of furoshiki — wrapping presents in textiles rather than paper — check your craft cupboard for offcuts and scraps as this is a great way to make use of them.

TIP: Looking almost too good to open, these gifts have been wrapped in a mix of simple brown Kraft paper, graphic store-bought wrapping papers, and traditional shweshwe and African wax cloth fabrics, then finished with contrasting ribbons and raffia.

The perfect "tree" for smaller spaces inside or out.
The perfect "tree" for smaller spaces inside or out.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux
These handmade eco-friendly stockings are a fun change from traditional ones.
These handmade eco-friendly stockings are a fun change from traditional ones.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

7) BRANCH OUT

Combining eco-friendly appeal with  handmade charm, this Christmas “tree” is ideal for petite homes and apartments, creating strong visual appeal in smaller spaces. Hung on just about any wall — indoors or out — it can function as a gifting centrepiece (with piles of tempting presents at its foot) or, in larger spaces, as an additional piece of decoration within a wider festive scheme.

TIP: Create a similar “tree” by collecting twigs of varying lengths, paying attention to keeping their girth as uniform as possible. Lay out on the floor in a Christmas tree-shaped formation and join the twigs together using thin florist or jeweller’s wire. Hang with traditional baubles interspersed with petite posies of wild flora and fragrant woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme, tied together with raffia and string.

8) PICTURE PERFECT

Replace traditional Christmas stockings with simple linen pieces in refined neutrals for a modern and muted aesthetic. Depending on how many stockings are needed, vary the colours by a shade or two, from white to cream to dove grey, to create subtle visual interest. And on the mantelpiece, replace a standard formal arrangement of flowers in a vase with a posy of foraged heath, placed off centre as an eye-catching accent.

TIP: Only the most basic sewing skills are required to make your own linen stockings, either by hand or machine. If you need one, it’s easy to find a pattern via Pinterest. Pin sprigs of flora onto each stocking and introduce a dash of shine in the form of gold Christmas baubles. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

A trio of wreaths makes for a more modern feel in any room.
A trio of wreaths makes for a more modern feel in any room.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

9) MULTIPLE BENEFITS

A classic Christmas wreath becomes instantly modern when spray painted white and hung in a charming trio. Plus, the rule that wreaths should be confined to front doors is very last year. Instead, hang them in multiples anywhere you please from hallways to living spaces or even bedrooms, using thick ribbons or roughly cut lengths of linen to add yet another textural dimension to the display.

TIP: Craft a wreath from bendy twigs (willow or birch work well) using secateurs to cut lengths, scissors for trimming and natural twine for binding into shape. Spray paint garlands white and allow to dry. Optional extras include strands of jewellery wire for a hint of shine, or even a mini string of battery-operated fairy lights.

Repurposed glass bottles filled with greenery serve as candle holders.
Repurposed glass bottles filled with greenery serve as candle holders.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux, Warren Heath/Bureaux

10) INTO THE LIGHT

Consider every area of your home, from hallway tables to window sills, as potential places to add festive touches. Remember that your own informal, obviously homemade displays are invariably the most appealing elements of your Christmas decor — as well as usually being both budget — and eco-friendly to boot. As our stylist says: “Christmas calls for luxury, but there’s no right or wrong interpretation of what that means. It can be faded and evocative or full-on and festive, as long as what you see makes you happy.”

TIP: This irresistibly pretty and scene-setting display is  easy to achieve: simply fill various wine and cordial bottles with water and evergreen leaf springs, then use them to hold white taper candles. Use boiled or distilled water, as it will take longer to go cloudy. 

Production by Shelley Street


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