Do you have designs on the perfect festive interior?
PENRITH designer Maureen Whitemore is more than qualified to give tips on how to transform your home for the festive season, having worked in the interiors trade for nearly 50 years.
During her lifelong career she has produced books and videos, done television work and lectured all over the world — including in the US, South Africa and around Europe — on interior design.
“I’m not a fan of themes and colours at Christmas. Christmas is about memories — happy and sad, and about having a lovely time and being together,” she said.
“For me the tree has to be real — it’s got to be part of Christmas going and buying a tree from Strawberry Hill. For me that’s when Christmas starts.
“It starts with the buying of a tree, then it’s about putting out all the older decorations and having a laugh about ‘Why did we buy this?’ and ‘Who made that?’. When it all comes together it’s magical, like one big memory.”
Maureen, aged 67, is the owner of Lowther Street-based Whitemore and Thwaytes interior designers. She lives in a beautiful Victorian house next to her showroom with her husband David Luckhurst, and has five grown-up children.
“Over the years, Christmas interiors have become much more disposable. People are willing to re-do houses each year. To me, if you just buy everything cheap, off the peg, it looks cheap. If you can buy a few beautiful items each year you build up something that really shows the quality,” she said.
“Each year I try to add to it. There’s some lovely shops around and a lot of the charity and craft shops in Penrith have some beautiful things.
I don’t do a colour theme. It’s not garish or lavish, it’s just nice.”
She feels the interior should work with the era of a house, and she works with the Victorian period of her home. However, she admits that if she lived in a modern-build she would be tempted to go “ultra modern” with her Christmas interiors.
Visitors to her home over the festive period will see it beautifully decorated with lots of candles and exquisite wooden pieces and decorations. She also transforms the hallway with foliage and twinkling lights weaved up along the staircase bannister, creating a show-stopping feature.
“Nature and foliage have always played a big part of Christmas interiors. You can have some very small leaves and some silver baubles and a candles and it could be minimalist. Eucalyptus is also nice and creates a lovely soft green and beautiful smell as well,” she said.
“For me, I like to make it warm and cosy and smells are important in that as well. Cinnamon and spices are my favourite.”
Advising readers on how they can create that homely, cosy Christmas feel in their own homes, Maureen says lighting is important. Lamps that create a gentle glow and which, when placed at different heights, can transform a room.
Cushions and lampshades can be changed for the festive period, with more on-season patterns and colours. Throws also help introduce more texture and give an inviting feel.
“If you are trying to avoid traditional, avoid red. It is a very specific colour, so, for a more modern feel, go with neutrals, but always keep in a bit of green.” she said.
“A lovely trend we have at the minute is for antique brass and coppers and I find them timeless. They give a slightly vintage feel and I think that can work well at Christmas.
“The colour trends for this year I also think work well for Christmas — they are lovely mid-greens, a lively yellow called citrine and a coppery orange.”
With a host of ideas to help create the perfect festive home retreat, Maureen also has one very important rule — “No coloured lights. They must be clear. I like a twinkle, but not a flash.”
Summing up her design style, not just at Christmas but all year round, Maureen said she follows a famous William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”