Festive door

December Newsletter

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This week is the monthly newsletter; of course, we have a festive version for you. Lisa has done a great job, I hope you enjoy reading it.

I’ve been getting all festive by trying mince pies from every shop. I can report that Iceland makes the best based on price vs quality algorithm. I have been enjoying them with some cognac and whiskey. Sadly for a family member, I have opened his Christmas whiskey for him. It was just too tempting on Tuesday evening.

Thank you for either being a client or reading this each week or both. Have a great Christmas.

All the best

Carl's signature

This month’s newsletter is a sleigh ride of yuletide cheer and unashamed indulgence of festive schmaltz (Carl look away now). We have some suggestions of rather wonderful places to spend Christmas, if not this year, then some food for thought for 2024.

And speaking of food, we have a recipe for the ultimate Christmas pudding – for people who prefer cheesecake – and a serving of festive tipples from our regular contributor, Lucy, at Wines by the Sea. You have to read to the end to find out who has won a bottle of wine in the festive photo competition.

We have our top five favourite Christmas traditions from around the world and a roundup of where to see Christmas lights. Finally, find out if Ken and Dina have a roof over their heads this Christmas as their house extension enters the final chapter.

First off, we kickstart December with a feature on interior designer Emma Kelsall.

Emma Kelsall Interiors

“It starts with a feeling.”

This month, I met with Emma Kelsall, a local interior designer who believes strongly in your home as your sanctuary; somewhere you can be yourself. Read online.

“I start by asking people how they want to feel in their house. How should the ambience be in a particular room? How do they want the space to work? How we feel when we’re at home is often overlooked but for me, that’s the starting point.”

This resonates strongly with me because it’s the same approach taken by Carl, who asks clients the same questions about how they want their home to feel and how it should work for them.

Emma also believes in your home reflecting your personality, and part of her service is based on helping clients achieve a beautiful home that reflects their individuality and personal style.

“It might be helping someone become a little bolder with a colour they really like but are afraid to use. Or discovering that they love luxurious fabrics or have a penchant for a particular pattern and showing them how it could be used in a room. I try and get to the essence of the person and together we make their home a place they want to be in.”

Of course, there’s more to designing a room or a space than adding some colour or choosing new curtain fabric. Emma’s talent lies not just in creativity but in helping clients visualise how their space could look. She provides sketches, mood boards, hand-drawn or 3D images and proposes layouts that make the space work.

“Some people simply can’t picture how something might look when it’s finished, and I help bring that image to life so that they can see the possibilities. It helps people make good choices, especially when the options can be overwhelming,” she says.

Being overwhelmed with choice, finding it difficult to visualise layouts and understand how a room will work on a practical level, chimes with me. As someone reasonably competent at styling their own home and is certainly not colour-shy, I’ve never considered using an interior designer, but I begin to appreciate the value of someone like Emma to help me realise my vision.

I asked her how she would go about helping someone – a fictional character obviously – design an open plan kitchen/dining/living room, following some interior remodelling work, or after a small extension has changed the whole space.

She says: “Once I’d seen the space, I would want to know what they wanted from it. Then I might offer them a full kitchen design service, including a floor plan and options on designs for practicalities and flow with the other areas. I’ll have ideas on flooring and wall coverings, how to light the room and I can suggest colour themes, fabrics and soft furnishing if required.”

The idea of having professional help from someone with flair and skill is starting to sound very attractive! I wonder what Emma’s own home looks like and discover that, like me, she has a Victorian house in Southsea. She confesses that period homes are hugely appealing to her as a designer.

“They have so much character to start with so you can really play around with that and build on it. Although modern houses can also be brilliant blank canvases and I find people can struggle more when they have to start from scratch.”

Emma’s designs include a French holiday cottage which she loved working on, a boutique hotel and a colour plan for a house in Southsea. The homes of two of her recent clients currently have builders working on them, so she tells me she has to be patient before seeing her interior designs realised.

Emma specialises in residential interior design and has a first-class Honours Degree in Interior Design from De Montfort University. Find out more about Emma and her design services at emmakelsallinteriors.com

Christmas getaways – a festive roundup of places you didn’t know you wanted to go.

Best for… a traditional Christmas: Salzburg, Austria

Why go? It doesn’t get more festive than this. Salzburg is a chocolate-box city, home of Mozart, Glühwein and Christmas markets. Meander the Old Town streets or join a city walking tour, dive into vaulted beer cellars and try Balkan beef sausages from the kiosk that has been there since 1950. Take in a Christmas concert at the Mirabell Palace, the home of Mozart himself. Stay until New Year’s Eve and join the throngs of people who celebrate ‘Sylvester’ on the 31st of December.

What about Christmas Day? Stay at the five-star Hotel Sacher and eat, what else but Sachertorte, or dine at St Peter, the oldest restaurant in Europe.

Best for… a white Christmas: Finnish Lapland

Why go? Located in the Arctic Circle, this is where Santa Claus spends his other 364 days. There’s also snow – a lot of snow – making it the ultimate winter playground for kids aged six to 86. Take a husky-sled ride, hire a snowmobile and feed some reindeer.

The long polar nights (some over 20 hours!) present a perfect opportunity to stay up late with a cup of hot chocolate to admire the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights dancing above your head from your igloo with a view.

What about Christmas Day? Stay in a log cabin or an Arctic treehouse and wait for Christmas morning. Santa’s ‘official hometown’ is Rovaniemi, so you might catch the man himself coming home after a long night. Or check the webcam and see if you can spot a flash of red suit.

Best for… an alternative Christmas: Miami, USA

Why go? A balmy 25 degrees in December and miles of white-sand beach set against a backdrop of Art Deco architecture. Grab a rum and a cigar in Little Havana, tour the Art Deco district with a cocktail and do some people-watching on the famous Miami beach.

What about Christmas Day? Celebrate Noche Buena at one of Miami’s best Cuban restaurants, eat lobster in your shorts at the Lobster Shack or opt for a drag brunch at The Palace, a Miami beach staple for over three decades.

Best for… no Christmas Turkey: the Galapagos Islands

Why go? Swap tinsel and turkeys for turtles and blue-footed boobies. The ultimate antidote to Christmas where humans are mere paparazzi to the islands’ inhabitants. Book a sustainable tour and tread lightly in this fragile ecosystem as you swim, snorkel and hike amongst the wildlife.

What about Christmas Day? You’re in the Galapagos! Watching giant tortoises and marine iguanas is infinitely more entertaining than playing charades with Uncle Derek.

Our five favourite Christmas traditions from around the world

1. In Iceland, families exchange books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the evening cosied up by a fire as they read aloud and eat sweet treats.

2. In Finland, they celebrate Christmas Eve with the centuries-old tradition of taking a sauna.

3. In Venezuela, people have been roller skating to Mass on Christmas Eve for decades.

4. If a 13-meter-high goat doesn’t sound absolutely terrifying, then head for Sweden, where the tradition of the Christmas Goat is thought to originate from the Norse god, Thor, who would ride across the sky in his goat-drawn chariot.

5. Speaking of goats, check out Santa’s evil twin Krampus – half man half goat, who comes for Austrians who didn’t make it onto the nice list and features in the Tyrolean Krampus processions.

Côtes du Rhône Blanc: this classic southern Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne is a well-rounded white wine, great with seafood starters with enough structure to hold up with turkey and all the trimmings. A small amount of this blend has been oak-aged, but it doesn’t overpower, and there’s a subtle floral aroma and herbaceous notes with a smooth texture and a fresh finish.

Südtiroler Blauburgunder Pinot Nero: this wine is a delicious lighter-style red from northern Italy, close to the Austrian border, with blackberry notes, a lovely full flavour, a long finish and a decent amount of complexity. It works equally well with both red and white meats so it’s a good choice for whatever you’re choosing for your Christmas dinner.

Noval 10-year Tawny Port: this aged port has the classic aromas of dried fruits and is rich and smooth in the mouth and a great match with the classic Christmas pud. Perfect to linger over after dinner or to sip with a slice of Christmas cake or on its own whilst watching your favourite Christmas film by the fire.

All wines are available at Wines by the Sea, Albert Rd, Southsea but be quick! 

Ken & Dina’s extension – before and after

Ken and Dina are painting. They’ve been painting all day and, after our phone call, Ken will carry on painting. He is on a mission and, while not especially enjoying it, he’s glad to be doing it at all. Over the last six months, walls have come down and new ones have gone up. Windows have been fitted. Unforeseen problems have arisen, delayed the build and been fixed. Insulation has been laid. Flooring has been poured. Electrics have been installed and walls have been plastered.

He might not be putting up a Christmas tree but he’s a happy man. Painting is the easy part. Read the full update here.

Let there be light

Finally, I’m a sucker for Christmas light displays, and I found these twinkly options to revel in some old-fashioned festive sparkle:

– Get your glow on at RHS Wisley in Surrey.

– Step through the wardrobe and into the world of CS Lewis at Longleat, Wiltshire.

– Twinkle at Kew Gardens and their lesser-known sister site at Wakehurst, West Sussex.

– Head for the capital and simply wander the streets stopping for a hot chocolate or a hot toddy.

Christmas photo competition

Photo of christmas tree and child

We asked you to show us your baubles and you delivered. Carl stroked his beard a lot and sipped a large whiskey while he decided on a winner, who I’m delighted to announce is David Bird. The winning photo is above and you can see all the entries here

David, a gift voucher for  is winging its way to you as we speak.

That’s almost it other than to sign off with another selection of links we think might interest you.

Email me your newsletter suggestions at lisa@carlarchitect.co.uk.


This week’s links

If architects designed gingerbread houses would they include Ikea furniture?

A selection of alternative Christmas trees.

Have you always wanted to stay in an Ice Hotel?

For something cosier, these English hotels have got Christmas all wrapped up.

Seven best places to witness the winter solstice.

The ultimate Christmas pudding for cheesecake fans – do NOT look at the calories.

We’re going all retro with Nigella’s snowball recipe.

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