9 Nuggets Of Festive Glossip You Need To Know This Month

This month’s GLOSSIP is all you need to know about KITSCH FESTIVE DÉCOR … Crafting as Heaney did … Faking it in meetings … Avoiding gilding in THE WHITE HOUSE … and partying like a pro …

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1. How did you decorate your own home or office this year? Trend forecasters predicted three main influences. “Northern Climes” evokes a serene mood with artisanal touches inspired by remote landscapes; think birch branches, Scandi colour schemes and the scent of cypress. Pop art, vintage elements and the fun factor are part of the “Playful” trend. If neither suits your aesthetic or Instagram account try “Opulent Luxe” – a maximalist approach that combines plush textiles, metallics and heavy embellishment. Our decorating MO is usually more organic: some “Old Stuff” with some “New Stuff” and accents of “School Stuff”. At our recent reader event at The Dean, readers of THE GLOSS stocked up on Jo Malone London candles in elegantly wintery Orange Bitters.

2. This year, Claridge’s modishly minimal tree is designed by Sir Jony Ive of Apple and Marc Newson. Further afield, in Paris, the Raffles Le Royal Monceau’s Lightning Tree, full of lights and flashes, was designed by artist and architect Didier Faustino. Irish hotels are every bit as beautifully decorated (and often more tastefully) as hotels abroad. The scent of The Merrion’s fresh fir tree in the entrance hall mingles deliciously with the smell of the peat burning in the drawing room fireplaces (try Cloon Keen’s Noble Fir candle to replicate) while at the InterContinental in Ballsbridge, the annual forest of fresh Nordmann fir trees from grower Christy Kavanagh in the Wicklow mountains provides a heavenly backdrop for their Festive Afternoon Tea (until December 31; call 01 665 4000 to book). At The Merchant in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, the Great Room, all red velvet and gilt, needs almost no decorating at all – but huge wreaths, fresh garlands and a wood fire in the cocktail bar beside it, make it extra-welcoming this time of year. At The Westbury, Wilde Restaurant has been reimagined, with a smart bar, dark green buttoned velvet banquettes and one particularly intimate nook in which to have a good glossip. If you still haven’t decided where to spend Christmas or Twixmas, booking one of Sheen Falls’ super-quaint thatched cottages on the shores of Lough Roughty in Kenmare doesn’t mean loading up the car with provisions and stocking the fridge. Your decorated cottage comes fully prepared, complete with Christmas tree, and you can avail of Sheen Falls’ dining room, library and spa. 

3. The Rubicon Project – an advertising firm – estimates that the average spend per person on Christmas presents this year will be d862 – with millennials planning to increase their spending on last year. “Xmaxed” is their word for maxing out the credit card on shopping, apparently.  Meanwhile, although we all know sending cards is in a decline – the delight at receiving them still has impact. Seamus Heaney used to design his own each year. At the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy they are running a Christmas card printmaking session along with wreath-making workshops. An Post’s Christmas stamps this year are reminiscent of early Christian manuscripts and somehow spark a desire to pop them on an envelope.

4. Concentrating at work when you are preoccupied with the festive season can be a drudge. Pick up Sarah Cooper’s new book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By without Even Trying (Square Peg). Cooper worked at Yahoo before becoming a
manager at Google, both of which provided fodder for her book. Some of her tricks that guarantee success include; drawing a Venn diagram (regardless of the situation) and calling the centre the sweet spot, pacing the room, encouraging everyone to take a “step back”, stepping out for an important call and writing the word VISION on a white board … She also decodes meeting speak in this honest, helpful and humorous read.

5. It seems our appetite for Vogue and its various editors is insatiable. While Alexandra Shulman is having a moment and her Inside Vogue: A Diary of my 100th Year (Fig Tree) will no doubt be a stocking filler for fashionistas, the new documentary Franca: Chaos and Creation takes us behind the scenes of Italian editor in chief Franca Sozzani. It’s been directed by her son Francesco Carrozzini though that didn’t make the job any easier. “My mother treats me like she treats her photographers. When you don’t hear, you know it’s
great …”  We predict the next Voguette in line for a biopic will be the colourful
Anna Della Russo, though the editor of newly launched Vogue Arabia, Deena Abdulaziz, has arguably the most luxurious role in fashion. She commutes to work (from Kuwait to Dubai)
in a private jet.

6. Hygge is something we Irish have been doing for years (layering up, wearing extra socks and drinking steaming cups of tea by the fireside), so there’s no need to buy one of the countless books on the subject. Far better for the tablescape is Versace by Donatella Versace (Rizzoli) on the house’s 40-year history.

7. Talking of which, have you picked up Architectural Digest’s December issue featuring the Obama revamp of The White House? Their style is comfortable, contemporary and colourful, as designed by acclaimed Irish-American LA-based decorator Michael E Smith (he has been The White House decorator since 2008). Asked what he would envisage for the new president-elect, Smith reveals that Trump has said he would do little to change The White House. Says Smith, “I would seek to keep it classy and steer things away from the temptation for gilding.” Smith sees a throne chair by Carlo Bugatti and furniture by Warren Platner and Vladimir Kagan for Trump. “And I would fill Ettore Sottsass’ Shiva vase with jonquils, to remind him of Hillary Clinton.

8. While we are all a #pantsuitnation at present because of the weather (the hashtag was used during the elections and is a reference to Hillary’s sartorial style), when
we get our legs out for the inevitable LBD moment during the holidays, some fishnets would not go amiss. They’re more interesting than the usual opaque black tights and can add a tough, fashion-forward edge to your favourite ensembles.

9. Party perennial Dame Joan Collins writes about how to survive the season in her diary column for The Spectator (eat a boiled egg or hummus before you go out, turn up an hour after kick-off to avoid over-indulging and only RSVP to invitations sparingly) while Garech Browne and his Wicklow estate Luggala has been profiled in The Times as the consummate party palace. Luggala is also profiled in Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats by James Reginato (Rizzoli). Remember, amidst the seasonal stress, Alexandra Shulman has said “The amount spent on a party has nothing to do with how enjoyable it is. Some of the best parties I’ve been to were spontaneous bring-your-own affairs.” Thank goodness for that. Diana Vreeland meanwhile advocated, “The best time to leave a party is when it’s just beginning.” That is just about the silliest thing we have ever heard. Pass the mince pies. 

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our January issue, out Thursday, January 5.

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