A Perfect Christmas

IT is the one time of year when we really want our homes to look picture perfect.

With family and friends dropping round over the festive period to share in the magic of the season, creating the ideal Christmas feel is up there on the priority list with a tasty turkey and marvellous mulled wine.

So how should we do it?

From top tips on tree decorating, to ensuring the Christmas Day dinner table is laid out to perfection, here is your guide.

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"Let's start with the key to Christmas decorations - the tree," says Elaine Webster, the Scottish visual manager for House of Fraser, who is based at Jenners.

"The biggest mistake a lot of people make with artificial trees is to not open out the branches wide enough. Make sure you tease them out into a starfish shape as this will make it fuller and easier to decorate.

"If you have a real tree, you must make sure you water it enough and spray the branches regularly. A good tip is to also spray the branches with hairspray to make the needles hold for as long as possible."

The next step is to add lights, allowing 30 bulbs per 30cm of branch for maximum impact. "Some people do not use enough lights," says Elaine. "This can really spoil the look of your tree."

Next, add your decorations, starting at the top of the tree and working down to an even spiral.

"Begin placing baubles between ribbon or beads, evenly around the tree. If you have larger baubles, always keep them to the bottom half and smaller baubles to the top. This is dressing "light to heavy" and balances out the tree. If you have different colours of baubles then distribute them evenly around the tree.

"Finally, fill in any gaps with berries or flowers. Some people use tinsel, but I prefer ribbons to create maximum effect."

With your tree dressed to perfection, now it is time to create a Christmas Day dining table with the "wow factor".

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"Use white linen for the table then choose another colour to compliment the surroundings of the room," Elaine explains.

"Create height with a centre piece and mix real foliage from the garden with artificial pieces. I find that using fake berries is much better than using real ones, which have a tendency to shrivel quite quickly. Also, do not be afraid to have lots of foliage in a centrepiece.

"Cascading down from this, take your glasses and ribbon each stem with a bow. Using the same colour of ribbon, place your cutlery fanned out on your plate and ribbon these in a bow with a small gift tag used as a name place.

"Crackers again should compliment your colour scheme and should sit horizontally across your cutlery. A top tip here is to save up perfume samples you often get given in department stores, open up the crackers and add them in as additional gifts. My guests always get a lovely surprise.

"Finally, chairs can be wrapped in white lining with a ribboned bow at the back."

The biggest "don't" of the season when it comes to table decorations is to mix lots of patterns - keep it simple to ensure greater impact.

And now it is time to add some extra festive touches around the rest of your home.

From advent calendars to fragranced candles, the odd sprig of mistletoe to festive figurines, no home should go without some special additions this season.

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"The must-have advent calendar this year is from Villeroy and Boch. It is ceramic and you add the decorations onto it each day, including angels, wreathes and reindeers," says Elaine. "I also love clip-on peony roses. The fab thing about these is they have an alligator clip for attachment, so you can also use them in your hair or on jackets, dresses and even handbags after Christmas."

So now you have it - the perfect Christmas home. Except for one extra special, magical touch...

"If you have children in your family, get them involved in all the Christmas decorating, particularly dressing the tree," Elaine says.

"Add pieces they may have made at school - after all, children are what the magic of Christmas is all about."