A guest blog post by Lisa Hibberd, Associate Editor, Your Home magazine
Create a warm festive welcome
First impressions count, so make sure that you consider the outside of your home as well as the inside. You may not have the space or budget for a large outdoor tree, but even a small version will add character and bring a smile to guests' faces as they near your door. If you'd rather not have an outdoor tree, even a simple wreath or garland over your door will be enough to make a statement. Pre-decorated wreaths can be pricey, so I like to buy a plain fresh spruce one and decorate it myself with ribbons, cones, berries and other bits and pieces that I've collected throughout the year.
Clear the clutter
Having a good tidy up will not only make your home look a million dollars, but it's quite a therapeutic process and should leave you feeling refreshed and revived, ready to deal with both the joy and occasional stresses that the festive season brings. You may need to invest in a couple of extra storage solutions to take care of items which don't have a suitable home. I recently picked up a second-hand wooden coat rack for just a few pounds, and revamped it with a coat of spray paint – perfect for adding a splash of colour to your hallway and keeping clutter at bay.
Clean until it sparkles
Once your home is free of unnecessary clutter, spend some time giving it a deep clean, focusing especially on areas which may be overlooked during your regular cleaning routine. Skirting boards, radiators and dado rails can gather dust remarkably quickly, as can shelves and the tops of furniture such as wardrobes and kitchen cabinets. Although it's tempting to think that just because you can't see it, it doesn't matter, these areas can harbour dust mites and this is especially problematic for allergy sufferers.
Spruce up your spare room
If you'll have friends and staying during the festive season, now is the time to get the guest room sorted, to avoid any last-minute panic. Ensure that you have plenty of clean bed linen ready, and if you have a white set that has lost its sparkle, why not machine dye it a different colour for a fresh new look? Leave a bundle of freshly-laundered towels on the bed, and, if you really want to go the extra mile, a set of mini toiletries to make guests feel at right at home.
There's nothing nicer than handmade items to give your home that personalised touch. Set aside an afternoon to knock up a couple of new cushions or a pretty table runner – you should be able to find some gorgeous fabrics for under £10 per metre. And, if you're feeling really festive, try your hand at some Christmas crafts or home-made gifts.
Try an alternative tree
If you begrudge the hassle and expense of having a real tree every Christmas, why not invest in an alternative design that will stand the test of time and can be brought out year after year? From simplistic cutout designs to rustic, wooden slatted wall-hangings, think outside the box and create a festive display to be proud of. Alternatively, take a set of fairy lights and fix them into a tree shape on your wall, using self-adhesive hooks which can be removed afterwards without leaving any damage – a particularly good idea for rented homes.
Outdoor tree: Dobbies
Handmade tree: Image and project taken from Your Home's Christmas Made Easy magazine 2015. Photo by Lizzie Orme.
Living Room: Topps Tiles Regional Reflections Ashington
Wooden tree: Cox & Cox
Mistletoe garland: Next