Putting up Christmas decorations is pretty much my favourite seasonal activity. I love the planning, the reshaping my space, and getting to go hard on the sparkle. But decorating in a small space, especially one you rent rather than own, can pose some challenges, so I thought I’d share some of the workarounds I’ve found when doing my own decorating.

Play with scale

If your space is limited playing with scale can be a really fun way of tricking your eye into thinking you’ve got a bit more. Try using miniature versions of certain decorations. I used mini baubles on my tree last year and because it ended up having the proportions of a family tree, it made my room feel so much bigger and better decorated as a result. Or try having really big versions giant fairy lights or ornaments can add a touch of over the top fun.

Washi tape, Blu Tac, and Command Hooks are your friend

This comes as standard, but you want things you can take down again easily if you’re in a rented space. I mentioned the wonders of washi tape (way stronger than you think), blu tac, and command hooks (way easier to take down than you think) in my room design post because they’re great all year round, but they really come into their own when you want to decorate. Use them to stick up your lights, display cards, or give that decorative pine cone the attention it needs.

Fairy lights

Put fairy lights anywhere you can. They’re wonderful. Lighting can make such a big difference to how a room feels. They can give your room a lovely magical twinkle, which you can enjoy long after the 12 days are over. Pro tip: where you can avoid the battery powered ones, they never last that long (unless you have recommendations – share below!) and you can get the plus in ones super cheaply now.

Use what you’ve got

Knowing that I’m not going to be in this room forever, I’m always conscious of the amount I will have to pack up. Plus I only have limited storage space. If you’re in a similar situation it’s great to reuse anything you’ve already got. For example, I’ll be dressing up my other plants as well as a tree and using string I already have to hang bits and pieces. Making displays out of any cards you receive is a lovely way to do this too. If you’re on the hunt for DIYs, there are literally thousands on Pinterest or throw it in as a search term to Bloglovin or something similar. In the same line of thought, if you’re buying things trying and find bits you can use when it isn’t Christmas. My fairy lights (sorry to keep mentioning them) were bought for Christmas last year but I’ve used them all year, and my festive tea light holder gets turned around and used most weekends.

Think about your tree

A Christmas tree is a must for me. It’s the first thing I that comes to mind when I think of the season. It’s at the core of any Christmas decoration planning. It’s also quite hard fit into a smaller space. When it comes to trees you have 2 options, artificial or real. Artificial trees have the benefit of being cheap, reusable and available in pretty much any size you might need. But this year (like last year) I will be going for a real tree. Small trees are much easier to find than I thought, and if you get one in a planter you can rehouse it outside when the season is over, which was why I liked the idea – it means you don’t have to find somewhere to save a box filled with branches. You also get that lovely evergreen smell. But you do have to be careful to get one that won’t cover your room with needles – it’s worth the extra for the vacuuming hassle you save.

What are your Christmas decoration tips?

I know I’m a little late to the game. But I know that there are probably some of you out there who are still looking for gift inspiration, if not for Christmas then for new year birthdays. So without further ado, here are some of my picks for gifts for creative types.

THIS BOOK

So you all know I love Adam JK. Things Are What You Make of Them is his latest book and it’s incredible. It’s the pep talk we all need from time to time. It’s chock full of great advice and support. Each page is in full colour, and is perforated so you can save it for later or even share it. This is the gift you’re going to want to get two of, because there’s a good chance that as soon as you start reading you won’t be able to give it up.

THESE TRAVEL GUIDES

Travel is one of the best forms of inspiration, and while in the age of the smart phone you might not necessarily need a printed travel guide these ones are so gorgeous that your recipient is really going to want one.

SOME CLASSES

Give the gift of learning. Picking up new skills is essential, but it can easily be overlooked. So vouchers for classes work as a great reminder, and give someone the opportunity to expand their horizons and their practices.

A STATIONERY SUBSCRIPTION

So who doesn’t love stationery? Keep your loved one full stocked throughout the year with a stationery subscription. There are plenty of good ones out there. In particular, I like the Paper Gang by Oh Deer and Post by Katie Leamon. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

A PRINT, OR TWO, OR SEVEN

It makes sense that artists love art. Getting someone a print by a maker they love is a great way to show you care, and to give them something that they’ll look at and think of you every day. You can even support a good cause or two, by buying prints where the profits are given to charity or inspire social action like The Good Cause.

SOME COMPANY

The studio can be a lonely place. Get your friend a little company.

SOME PEACE AND QUIET

So one of the best things I’ve bought this year are a pair of noise cancelling headphones. If you’re feeling a little spendy, they’re an incredible gift. They’ve helped me focus and kept me on task and sane throughout so many hours of work this year.

Writing Christmas cards is one of my favourite parts of the season. I love letter writing at any time of year but the added bit of festivity and the added excuse to write to people I wouldn’t normally is something I relish.

I mentioned in my Christmas planning post that I’d be sharing a few of my thoughts on writing top-notch cards, and this is it. This is by no means a prescriptive guide, the best cards are the ones that you write from your heart but I (at least) think it’s always nice to have a bit of nosey into how other people do it.

DRAW UP YOUR LIST, AND KNOW YOUR TIMINGS

Before you do anything, you’ll want to work out how many cards you’re sending out and to where. The further away your cards are going the earlier you’ll need to have them written. I’d suggest checking your local postage times, Royal Mail last posting dates can be found here.

 

PICK YOUR CARDS

Obviously, you then need to pick your cards. I have a set that I’m very proud of in my shop, which have just the right level of sparkly in my opinion. But you should choose the cards that go with the kinds of wishes you want to send out into the world, are you going for something humorous, are you trying something traditional, or something minimal, or are you going for all-out glitter, sparkle, and sequins? Finding cards that you want to be your marker on someone’s mantelpiece can be tricky, but it’s so nice when you stumble across that set that’s just right. Just remember whatever you buy to make sure you buy enough to have a couple of spares because mistakes will happen (if you’re me).

PERSONAL, FORMAL UPDATE, OR A MIX OF BOTH?

Now to the format, where you have two main choices if you’re going for something other than the “Dear John, Merry Christmas, Love Jane xx”. The first is to write a personal note in each card, something specific and thought through that is more about your individual relationship. The second is to go formal with a pre-written or typed insert, one of my friend’s mums is particularly great at these. If you’ve got a lot of updates you want to share with grandparents this way can definitely speed things up. Or, you could merge the two and have your pre-formatted updates go into a personal card, which is what I’m potentially thinking of for this year.

PERSONAL

This is the route I normally go down. I like to use Christmas cards to reflect on my relationships and why I’m thankful to have the people I do in my life – I guess because we don’t have Thanksgiving here. Where possible I like to include a story we’ve shared over the year. I’m also partial to throwing in a Christmas cracker style joke in there too – because they’re great and you can never have too many in your life.

FORMAL UPDATE

As I said I receive a lot of great examples of these from mums – is there anything mums can’t do? These often come in the format of a typed up insert and can be designed as much as you like and even include photos. In terms of copy, think about including the big events that have happened over the past year. Have you changed jobs? Moved house? Taken up a new hobby? Got a pet? If not, what are you enjoying in your day to day? It can be a great chance to look back over the last 12 months.

DRESS UP YOUR ENVELOPES

I love a good finishing touch, and when it comes to letters that means adding something a little special to your envelopes – of course, make sure that your address and stamp are still clear and visible. You could adorn them with doodles, stickers, or add a few extra words. How about wrapping them in gift wrap so they’re like mini presents in and of themselves? Whatever you do, add something you wouldn’t normally and you’ll feel like you’re really sending something festive out into the world and who knows you might even make a postman’s day along the way.

 

I need no help getting into the festive mood. I’ve been planning and waiting for Christmas since mid-October when the evenings started to get darker and there was that first chill in the air. But I know not everyone has a two and a half month build-up period, and I know that not everyone is so Cindy Lou when the fairy lights start going up. So, these are my top Christmas spirit building tips to get you or your more Grinch feeling friends in the mood for sleigh bells and the pitter patter of reindeer feet on the roof.

WATCH A FESTIVE FILM

This is probably the most basic answer of all but by Jove does it work. Christmas movies are the best. I have far too many favourites to list here but as you’ve seen this post’s cover image you’ll know that White Christmas is up there, with Miracle on 34th Street vying for the top spot in my heart. There will be some you’ve seen so many times that you can have them on in the background and still know exactly what’s going on – I promise you know more words than you think you do! If you’re not feeling festive at all, start with the slightly less Christmassy Christmas movies like the first Die Hard or Harry Potter (why are those movies always on at this time of year? then work your way up.

PUT ON A CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST

There’s no denying there are some Christmas bangers, well maybes not bangers, jinglers might be more accurate. What I’m trying to say is that there are so many classic Christmas tunes that you’d be hard pushed not to find at least one that gets you in the mood. Last year I put together a list of my favourite Christmas albums, so if you’re not sure where to start head back to my 2016 list. Or, just hit play on one of Spotify’s many festive playlists, which is pretty much all of the music I’m going to have on til the end of the year.

BAKE SOME OF THESE GOODIES

Nothing yells Christmas than something sweet, and baked, and full of cinnamon. Baking always makes me feel like I’m a child again, especially when licking the spoon. So, I’d highly recommend donning your apron and heading to the kitchen to get into that elf mindset.

If you’re not a baker but still want the effect, I’m a big fan of Sainsbury’s Lebkuchen Stars and putting on a festive smelling candle like this spiced wonder to give the effect of baking without getting your hands sticky.

TAKE YOURSELF OUT ON A WINTERY WALK

For me, there is nothing better than going on a walk when it’s all crisp and cold outside. There’s just something so refreshing and calming about it, and taking that bit of time for yourself as an indulgence is a lovely way to get you ready to spend a few weeks reveling. I recently put together a post on a few of my favourite London walks. But if you’re looking for something to really get you in the Christmas spirit, why not try and head towards the nearest set of festive lights. That doesn’t mean you have to hit the high street (I know that personally I wouldn’t find that all too calming), instead, wait until it’s a bit darker then walk around the houses, there’s always someone who’s taken their decorations seriously. Plus, it’s a lovely chance to get a little bit nosey!

DECORATE (YOURSELF, YOUR HOME, YOUR OFFICE, YOUR DOG, YOUR STREET)!

Your surroundings can make such a big difference to your mood. So why not make your space or at least a little bit of it more festive? If you’re not feeling like going all out, adding some fairy lights or even just displaying and cards you’ve received nicely can hugely change up a room. I’ve also got a post coming up with some top tips for decorating a small or rented space, or at least how I’m planning on decorating mine if you need some inspiration.

One of the goals I set myself for the next year (of my life, rather than calendar) was to learn some new skills. There are a whole range of things I want to learn about from calligraphy to how to create animations digitally, but I’ve started with taking some time working on my design thinking skills. Along with a lovely group of colleagues I started Ideo’s human-centred design course.

The course is an introduction to design thinking essentially. It covers everything the theory of design thinking as well as leading you through a test project where you get to gain some hands-on experience of every stage of the design process from research to concepts to prototyping and actually making the thing. IDEO, a global design company who create positive impact through design, lead you through each step and give you tips and advice from their years of experience. It’s a completely free online course, that runs quite a few times throughout the year, so if you find anything in this post interesting at all I’d recommend it. It’s intended to be done as a group, so you might need to round up some friends too.

But what is human-centred design? According to Ideo it is a “process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. Human-centred design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out into the world”. I’ve done a whole post on design thinking more generally that goes into a bit more depth, but in a nutshell, that’s the crux of what you need to know.

The human-centred design process follows 3 stages, that Ideo call inspiration, ideation and implementation. Where I work we call them discovery, design and delivery, but they cover the same ideas, as explained in the diagram below.

The first stage in making people the centre of your design universe is to engage with them. This user research phase is the part of the process I’ve had the most experience with at work, so I thought I’d walk you through it a little bit and give you some ideas for how you can apply the techniques to your own life, even if you’re not running a big design project.

User research can come in many forms with the most basic you might think of being desk research and interviews. But there are so many other ways to find out how people really behave. Observing how people go about their day to day lives can give you real insight into their unfiltered actions. You can also create diaries and have people share their thoughts and feelings, or work with your users to build something really hands on to see how they think. As well as researching the direct users of whatever you’re working it can also be fruitful to look for people doing whatever you’re looking to change well already in different sectors – find a group shows great team work, or an education process that’s really effective, or a product that service that caters really well to people with a specific need.

Human-centred design can be used to help you create products, services, spaces and systems. Those four areas cover a whole range of things that are super interesting, even if you’re not doing this for work. Here are just three:

  1. Could you use human-centred design to make your home work better? If you kept a log or a map of how you/your family use your space, you might find out that some areas are working better than others, and that there are some pain points that might be easily fixed. I’ve done this in my room in my bit of kitchen space, and little things like rearranging my cupboard so the things I use the most are easiest to reach has made such a difference.
  2. Could you use these methods to improve your commute? One of the first tasks in the course is to research your team’s commutes and work out how they could be improved. This is something anyone could do, either on your own by mapping out your journey or by getting someone else’s perspective by having a friend interview and vice versa.
  3. Could you improve how you, and your team work by researching the way that people actually handle their day to day tasks? Is there a better way to fulfil their needs so that everyone is at their best?

I’m planning on turning this into a bit of a running series/theme, so I might go into a bit more depth on how to get useful information out of people interviews, as well as some thoughts on the other stages of the design process. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to read about though!