Christmas Decorations

Decoration first visited Josephine Ekstrom’s house back in September 2015. We loved her warm, elegant and understated style, so we decided to return at Christmas to see how she, her partner Rikard Wiren and their children – Emmie (12), Noah (11) and Lily (seven) – celebrate the festive season.

Christmas Decorations Photo Gallery

Situated in the small Swedish seaside town of Hoganas, the 200-square-metre property dates from the 1920s and is a light, spare and tranquil family home. On a cold, bright December day, the house retains its calm, minimal feel, but also encapsulates the joyful spirit of Christmas. White walls and pale limewashed floorboards reflect the winter light, while a wreath made by Josephine’s mother welcomes visitors at the door, and a Christmas tree takes pride of place in the living room. The scent of baking drifts through the house, while a roaring fire keeps things toasty. ‘I like to start decorating quite early,’ says Josephine. ‘We always have the tree up by the middle of December. There’s a tradition in Sweden that you chop down your own tree. It’s a nice way to mark the start of the season.’ Upstairs are four bedrooms and the family TV room, and on the ground floor, there are two interconnected living spaces – one with a huge fireplace that warms the whole floor, and a large kitchen with a dining area that is the hub of the season’s celebrations. ‘Cooking is an important part of a Swedish Christmas,’ says Josephine. ‘I bake cakes and biscuits, and the kids love to make gingerbread men. Sometimes a gingerbread house, too.’ Although this is a family home, its simple monochrome scheme, filled with designer pieces and vintage finds, has a grown-up elegance. As a stylist and the owner of interiors boutique Lily & Oscar, Josephine buys a lot of items at auction and travels to source original pieces in Copenhagen, Paris and Milan. Christmas decorations can sometimes look overly gaudy, but Josephine manages to retain her understated approach by using freshly cut flowers and foliage, plenty of candles and vintage baubles.

‘I don’t like a lot of decorations spread across the house.

I prefer to gather them together,’ she says. ‘I found the vintage baubles in a flea market – I like them because the colours are faded, so they’re not too bright.’

From chopping down fir trees and baking cookies to finding unusual gift wrap – ‘I often use the pages in catalogues or magazines,’ says Josephine – crafting is an integral part of the family’s approach to Christmas.

Even the candles that are liberally dotted around the house are handmade. ‘It’s one of our traditions that every year we go to a workshop in November and make our own,’ says Josephine. ‘They’re really important for creating a festive feel at home.’

For homeowner Josephine Ekstrom, the big day is all about family, fun and herring in mustard sauce…

In Sweden, we celebrate on Christmas Eve. The kids all hang their stockings by the fire the night before and frantically empty their contents first thing in the morning.

We usually go for a long walk a bit later, then, at 3pm, we take part in a Swedish tradition – watching Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on TV. The children aren’t really very into it – they have other programmes they prefer – so usually it’s just the grown-ups.

We’re hosting the family Christmas this year. There will be around 25 people coming for dinner, which I will serve at around 5pm. My mother-in-law is a great cook – she’ll bring herring in a mustard sauce, a traditional Swedish Christmas dish. We sit and eat for a long time, and then, at around 7pm, Father Christmas arrives with the presents. We have a neighbour with a big white beard who dresses up and brings the gifts over – the younger children absolutely love it.

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