Now is the time to deck the 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.
Here, we take a peek into the whimsical but warm Watson home in Dubai’s Jumeirah Islands.
Cherry Watson has loved Christmas decorations since she was a little girl. When she was growing up in London, browsing through the baubles and garlands in stores with her mother was a time-honoured tradition during the holidays. When Watson turned 10, she took over the decoration of the family home's Christmas tree.
With years of tree-dressing experience under her belt, Watson also went on to dabble with the craft professionally. The Briton has a degree in fashion design and worked for Harrods as a stylist, during which time she dressed trees for its website and magazine. In 2018, Watson brought all of that festive expertise with her to Dubai.
She currently lives with husband, Ben, and their two dogs, Rosie and Poppy, in a five-bedroom villa in Jumeirah Islands. And with Christmas around the corner, she has decked the halls to the brim, with numerous themed Christmas trees, handmade ornaments, Nutcracker figurines and gingerbread men.
“I started setting up the decorations on November 20 and worked for two weeks straight to put everything up,” she says. “And I’m still adding bits and bobs.”
Trees of every type
Taking pride of place in the open-plan living room are two massive Christmas trees – a 2.5-metre specimen done up in blush pink and white, and a 3-metre tree in turquoise and gold. Leading to the kitchen is a bright candy-cane tree, ordered through Amazon, with some decorations handmade by Watson and others ordered from the US. A fourth 2.5-metre tree sits in the couple's bedroom upstairs and is decorated in their wedding colours – fuchsia and gold.
Christmas firs aside, Watson’s favourite is a colourful memory tree that sits on the dining table.
“The memory tree is something I’ve been doing with my mum since I was a child. We buy things to hang on the trees on each trip we take and we’ve collected baubles from all over the world – from the Maldives to the Caribbean islands. It even has things that I’ve made; there’s one from the seashells on the beach where I got engaged. So, for me, this is easily the most sentimental tree,” she says.
This year, Watson added another personalised tree to the roster. When she and Ben got married on February 14, close friends and family gave the couple baubles and other decorations that now hang on a small “wedding tree” that sits beside the memory tree.
“We were so lucky to have a wedding at all this year,” she says. “I wanted to remember that.”
There are also three miniature specimens scattered around, racking up the final count of trees in the household to a nifty nine.
Nutcracker figurines galore
Apart from foliage, Watson admits to having a soft spot for Nutcracker figurines, which she has collected over the years.
"We usually visit America right before the holidays. My husband's head office is in a small city near Washington, which has amazing Christmas shops from where I pick up Nutcracker figures. I love the ones from Kurt Adler, and my personal favourite is one themed on The Wizard of Oz, my favourite movie growing up.
“This year, in particular, I was on the lookout for pink Nutcracker dolls. Since we haven’t been able to travel, my parents are bringing some over,” she says.
Apart from these figurines, festive elements are homes in every nook and cranny, including a gingerbread-themed kitchen and a guest bathroom done up to resemble a forest. It may seem like a lot of work and money (the Nutcracker figurines themselves are worth about Dh5,000, while the tree and ornaments from Amazon cost another Dh5,000), but Watson insists it’s all worth it.
“It’s an investment. I’m going to be bringing out the same decorations next year and the next, and just keep adding to it. I’m lucky that the house is big enough to accommodate everything, and that I have a garage for storage.”
With her family coming over this month, she also knows her efforts will be appreciated.
“All my life, my mum has made the house amazing for me for Christmas, so this is just me returning the favour. Besides, since my husband and I haven’t been able to travel all year, it’s nice to celebrate at home and make it a bit extra.”