Now is the time to deck those halls. And to provide some interiors inspiration, or simply ignite the spirit of the season, The National's festive homes series takes you into some of the most fabulously decorated residences in the UAE.
This week, we take a peek into the Gregory home.
Sparkling reindeer stand guard at the front entrance, making for a warm and whimsical scene that perfectly sets the tone for what to expect within. The living area of the three-bedroom villa in Dubai's Jumeirah Park is dominated by a 2.7-metre tall Christmas tree covered in cheerful red bows. Vying for attention in the same space is a faux fireplace, twinkling white lights and a shelf for Nutcracker figurines.
“As you can see, Christmas is a big deal here,” says Lucy Gregory who lives with her husband, Ian, their three sons, Theo, 8, Rufus, 6, and Baxter, 4, and her mother, Lynda Rutherford. “Growing up, my mum made a big deal about the magic of Christmas. Decorating our tree was the highlight of my year.”
She admits she’s a little Christmas-obsessed. “I spend all year looking for and collecting items, not just in November and December. Christmas is never far from my mind.”
Traditionalist at heart
When it comes to festive decorations, Lucy knows exactly what she wants. “I like the traditional Victorian type of Christmas set-up, especially for the living room, but I try to keep lollipop or Grinch themes in other areas for the children. We usually do different colour schemes in each room, and switch up themes every year.”
This year, the living room is decorated in traditional shades of red and green, stockings are tacked on to the fireplace and a bright red shelf has been built to hold the family’s 20-plus Nutcracker figurines.
"Nutcracker dolls are the epitome of Christmas for me. I try not to go overboard, but if I see a special one I usually try and get it," says Lucy. She says she ordered a few from the UK this year.
Meanwhile, the kitchen is decked out in shades of red and white, while the dining room features silver and white hues – complete with a winter wonderland-themed tablescape. A majestic stag figurine, from Marina Home, takes pride of place on the dining table.
Candy cane land
While the interior is elegance personified, an unexpected theme awaits in the back garden, which is filled with giant candy canes. There are red and white lollipops, and inflatables including Santa Claus, a sleigh with reindeer and polar bears. "It's what I could only describe as a child's dream," says Lucy.
While the family's annual party was cancelled owing to Covid-19 regulations, there's one tradition they still intend on following. "We have our own snow-maker," says Lucy, "so for Christmas, we usually pop it into the garden and let the children run around in it for a bit."
A tree for every child
The back garden is also home to the family's largest tree yet - a 3.6-metre giant, lit with multicoloured lights – taking the number of firs in this villa to seven. Each child in the Gregory household has their very own Christmas tree to decorate – other than those at the entrance and in the living room.
“I obviously like everything to be gorgeous, but when it comes to the children’s trees, I take a step back,” says Lucy. “I give them access to all the decorations and watch as they go wild.”
The joy on their faces is what it is all about, she adds. “Everything I do, I do for family. The idea that they might carry on these traditions, pass it on to their own families someday, is special to me.”
A focus on what’s handmade
Gregory has lived in the UAE for 16 years, while her husband has been here for 20, so most of their decorations have been collected over time, with pieces added every year. New to the house this Christmas is a giant arch in the living room that the family bought second-hand and decorated themselves. There is a focus on handmade goods, a tradition started by Lucy's mother.
“Growing up, my mum had a floristry business, and so she started making wreaths and centrepieces, and we got more experimental from there,” says Lucy.
This year, the duo decided to combine their love for Christmas and handmade decor by launching Dalucy Design, which sells custom-made home displays and wreaths. “We want them to be heirlooms that can be passed through the generations,” says Lucy. “We posted about it on the social media and got more than 100 orders in a few days.”
With an eye for spotting bargains and a knack for creating her own Christmas decorations, Lucy says the cost of doing up their home isn’t exactly exorbitant. “This year, we wouldn’t have spent more than Dh1,000 on it all."
Creating handmade decor is a tradition she's now is trying to pass on to her children. “Every year, we make cookies, Christmas cards, tags for all the presents … it’s not just about creating things, but making memories as a family.”