Decorating for Christmas: Farrow & Ball's Colour Consultant shares how to get set for the season ahead

Decorating for Christmas? Joa Studholme shares how to enhance your home with colour

Decorating for Christmas
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Things are going to look a little different this year, so decorating for Christmas is going to take on extra significance, however you get to celebrate this holiday season.

Our entertaining spaces might be seeing fewer faces, but they can still be inviting, intimate backdrops for treasured memories.

In anticipation of those small but perfectly formed celebrations, Farrow & Ball Colour Curator Joa Studholme shares her favourite tips for enhancing your home with colour:

“These troubled times have made us look differently at the way we live, and as we adapt to the idea of spending more time at home, we crave some colour that will enrich our homes and our lives” says Joa. 

As the holidays approach, Farrow & Ball's Colour Curator advocates using colour to treat yourself and your spaces, creating special sanctuaries in which to spend the festive season. 

“These are not huge things,” she says; “it is all about enhancing what you already have and making your entertaining spaces bring a smile to your face, as well as to those in your bubble.”

USE OF STRONG COLOUR

Dining rooms take on special status over the holiday season. Although many have been used as home offices during lockdown, over the festive period the glow of candles and festive light can reset the ambiance. 

This is best created by using a stronger colour that throws the walls into shadow and leaves your table in the spotlight. The richer the wall colour the better – luxurious Preference Red or India Yellow are the perfect traditional colours for a dining room, and can be given a modern twist when combined with rich Tanner’s Brown on the woodwork. 

This can also be achieved by simply painting your woodwork darker than your existing wall colour. Railings, Studio Green and Broccoli Brown all work brilliantly to create this look. Or use an uplifting colour like Cook’s Blue or Breakfast Room Green for a fresher but still nourishing look.

Decorating for Christmas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

ZONING

Colour can appear to visually alter the proportions of a room, changing its size and shape. Lighter colours are often best suited to big rooms because they maximise the space and won’t feel overpowering. 

In contrast, darker tones will enhance small areas and make them feel more intimate, so can be used to zone areas for entertaining while you will be drawn to the lighter areas to work in. One wall – or a corner – of rich colour, like Deep Reddish Brown or De Nimes, will create an area that feels opulent and will draw your eye away from the mundane. 

Set your festive table in this area to create an illusion of intimacy within a big space. And nothing can be more luxurious than using wallpaper to create an intimate moment in a room. Indulge yourself with a metallic wallpapers, such as Lotus or Enigma. With their fabulous reflective qualities, they create a zone that is there to make you feel special.

Decorating for Christmas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

GLOSS CEILINGS

If you want to change the character of your room without changing the colour, think no further than painting the ceiling in a high-gloss finish. This will bounce any available light around the room during daylight hours and create the perfect foil for twinkling candles at night. ere is something comforting about this look, but it also has the perfect unexpected modern twist. 

If you use the same colour on the ceiling as you have on the walls, your ceiling height will appear to go up as you can’t read where the walls end and the ceiling begins, and you create a truly magical entertaining space. 

If you prefer to use a lighter colour on the ceiling, understated tones like Old White and Jitney are best suited to create a nostalgic feel, while the cleaner tones of Great White and Pavilion Blue will create a brighter, more graphic space. 

Whatever your palette, try pairing your Full Gloss ceiling with easy- to-clean Modern Emulsion on walls, for a luxurious- looking room that’s ready for all eventualities.

Decorating for Christmas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

SMALL AREAS

Small areas like the interior of a food or drinks cupboard are crying out for some festive colour, however wary of bold tones you may be. Don’t forget: you can always shut the doors on these spaces if you need an oasis of calm during the working day, while they will bring joy to you and your guests when you use them for entertaining. Be bold – choose strong tones like Rangwali, Book Room Red or Stone Blue that can’t fail to make you smile and will result in vibrant, happy spaces. 

If you have glazed cupboards in your kitchen, these too can benefit from the addition of strong colour on their inside, perhaps echoing the colour of a kitchen island. And if you have any left over wallpaper, it adds an extra chic twist to any cupboard or the back of a kitchen dresser. Try the Ocelot wallpaper or super sophisticated Pelt in the back of glasses cabinets for a glamorous festive feel.

Decorating for Christmas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES

If a whole room is more than you can manage before the holiday season, start small and consider other elements in your entertaining spaces that might benefit from some new enriching colour. The quickest and easiest of jobs is to paint a 6cm border directly onto the wall around mirrors and pictures. In a festive colour like Calke Green or Radicchio, this will add importance and size for huge impact. 

You can easily upcycle flea market finds or refresh existing furniture with the use of paint. Chairs painted in Modern Eggshell in the same colour as the walls creates a really sophisticated look and throws all the attention onto your festive table, but if you want a more relaxed feel, paint them in mismatched colours that can be used throughout your home during the rest of the year. 

Strong colours are much easier to live with when they are used below the eyeline, so introduce something really adventurous on the legs of your table to ground the room and give you a feeling of security.

Decorating for Christmas

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

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Jacky Parker

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.