Willow Crossley has very strong feelings about poinsettias. 'They make me so angry! Christmas is a difficult time, people sprinkle roses with glitter and things. That makes me really cross.' Now we've got that out of the way, we can look at what the celebrated florist and interior designer does love about Christmas (hint: pretty much everything else, especially bread sauce). We visited her in her Cotswold home, an old farmhouse with plants creeping in through the windows and covering every surface, to find out how she embraces winter and gets ready for the festive season.

Decking the Halls

'It’s the anticipation, that build up from December 1st. Even though I’m 100% not on holiday in December – it’s one of my busiest times of year – it’s got that energy around it that carries you along. Christmas is a whole month to me, it looks so pretty, we put fairy lights everywhere, and candles, baubles, wreaths and garlands, it’s quite full on. My husband Charlie is a Christmas elf and on December 1st the whole house is fully decorated. We did it very last minute when I was growing up so gradually I’m getting into more his way of thinking. I make so many wreaths and decorate other people’s houses for Christmas that, depending on my energy levels, starting on ours can be quite late in the day. The boys are now at that age where it means a lot to them, so I’m getting much more into it.

Decorating the tree with three boys… that’s been a shocker. The first few years I was like ‘get off!’ – I had all these gold starfish and acorns on lovely velvet ribbons and they were putting twelve baubles on one branch right near the bottom and come along with these playdough things that they made at school saying "mummy we made you this!" I thought about getting them their own tree but they weren't having that. Charlie and I would re-decorate when they’d gone to bed but the next day they’d be like ‘where are my baubles?’ so that’s a battle I’m choosing to let them have because they love it so much. I’m getting a bit more relaxed and my beautiful matching tree is a thing of the past. Actually the boys help me a lot with the decorating, Wolf - my eldest - loves playing in my studio and doing his own arrangements. They’ll make them for friends for Christmas presents. We include them in everything and make it very much a family thing.'

Entertaining

If we’re having lots of people over for lunch, Charlie and I are a really good team – he focusses on all the food which is completely always over the top, lots of delicious side dishes and starters and main courses and drinks, and I focus on the decorating. I’ll always have flowers on every surface, candles everywhere, huge baskets of paperwhites. If somewhere feels loved, it’s a nice place to be – it transmits, you know that love has gone into it and it’s for that person.

One of our favourite canapés is whole roast camembert. Charlie cuts the top out, bakes it whole with rosemary and garlic, then cuts it open and puts honey in the top. That with hot ciabatta, so good. Obviously on Christmas day we have turkey with everything with it. I’m obsessed with bread sauce, I have to have my own private bowl - no one else likes it, it’s great. The boys have about 400 sausages wrapped in bacon each, there’s a LOT of food, always. On Boxing Day we do leftovers, baked potatoes, red cabbage, cold ham and bread sauce again! My mother in law makes the best chocolate mousse in the world so that features a lot, champagne or prosecco with pomegranates in, delicious and so pretty, I love having that in little Moroccan tumblers with gold twinkly bits.

Flowers and Foliage

'What do flowers bring to an interior? Everything. They brings light, love, energy. If you’re dressing up a room, without flowers to me it’s completely dead. It’s not alive. The minute you bring them in, it comes to life again. Bringing in scent in the winter is really lovely. Paperwhites and hyacinths would be my favourites to do that with. I love doing grape hyacinths for the middle of my kitchen table. You can buy those in little plants, they’re affordable. You can be really creative with table settings, because often people don’t have a big staircase or a fireplace that warrants a garland. I would suggest buying lots of little plants for the table and you can weave in bits of foliage like trailing ivy because it lasts quite well and candles on a table. But everything at different heights - having undulating heights is really important to me. I did my brother’s wedding and we had lots of potted hellebores wrapped in moss, all at different heights, lots of candles, the glass is very important so lots of hurricane lanterns are quite pretty. That is really easy to do and people can choose what plants they want to do it with. You can wrap plants in fabrics that you like, if you wanted it to go with your tablecloth, or white baking parchment paper is quite pretty, you can wrap it in big ribbons or you can draw on baking parchment, draw pictures or colour it in. There’s so much you can do.

Ivy I will always forage. I grew up in Wales so I get a lot from there. Dried hydrangeas at Christmas are a failsafe as well. I use them for all my wreaths and garlands, you can use them over and over again. You pick them before the last frost, around October, and then they hold their colour and dry naturally. And that’s when you want them for your wreaths. Picking now all the dried parsley and seedheads, spray those or paint them or just keep them as they are and you’ll have a lovely wildness to your wreaths. I love that very loose, it’s quite nice to have them. I don’t really give it a lot of thought as to where it’s come from, I just pick them because I love them and I love being thrifty and not spending hundreds of pounds buying stuff that has been flown a hundred miles.'

Cosy Time

'Cosy is my favourite thing in the world. In my family growing up, 5 o clock means tea and cake – we call it 'cosy time'. Wherever we all are in the world at 5 ‘o’ clock, I know my brother and my parents will be having cosy time, which I’ve brought into my family. Our family traditions would be geraniums everywhere, cosy time, and at Christmas, carols – my mum would have carols on full blast from December 1st.'

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'There’s nothing worse than when you walk in somewhere and feel unwelcome. I want people to come in and feel that they’re at home. That’s really important. Lighting is so important, fairy lights are so twinkly and festive, we wrap them around staircases and put them all around the house. The sitting room is filled with fairy lights, lamps, low lighting, and lots of throws and blankets. We have a fire on from pretty much September.'

Favourite Foliage

'Berries. Rose hips, it feels very sudden this year, the hips have been out for a very long time. And then at Christmas I’m much more green and lots of foliage, which is actually quite hard a lot of the time, but I do a lot of berried ivy, there’s lots in the garden and I’ll try and use as many plants as I can. Lots of ivy, again very wild, fir cones. I spray nuts gold and I sprinkle them down a table. I do a lot with moss – I’ll make runners and I’m obsessed with lichen, I’ll make wreaths out of lichen-covered twigs, make wreaths with hellebore plants. A use lot of hellebores and white cyclamens at Christmas. I’m not a fan of holly.'

My Favourite Things

'I’m obsessed with clothes, but when I worked in fashion it was competitive and the opposite of nurturing. To me interiors is much more about comfort, I want it to be wholesome and nourishing. Our home is where I want to be able to walk in the door and get that relaxed feeling. The way I style and do interiors is very much about that. It’s never about trends, it’s about what I love - colour and pattern, stripes and lovely textures and old fabrics everywhere. It’s rarely neat although I’m very fussy about how it looks! Clutter to me is what makes it look gorgeous.'


Stripes, antiques, old fabrics, I’m a complete shopaholic – I get them from eBay, I used to live in France so I spent my whole time in brocantes. I would buy fabrics and had piles of them so I started covering notebooks – because if you only have a small amount all I could do was cover books. I'd also make big bags and sell them on the beach in St Tropez for hundreds of pounds. That’s how my whole business started, with antique fabrics. I like an old faded floral chintz, stripes, it has to be very natural so a shiny polyester or acrylic throw is never going to make me happy. I love a lot of basket and rattan, cottons and linens, the more natural the better.'

People always say "oh no I can’t possibly have this because it’s not very country", but I completely disagree with that. Half of this stuff I've had in London as well and just moved it here. I think if you love it, have it. I always try and bring the outside in, literally! Upstairs this house is so old, the vines have all grown inside, I have clematis crawling through my bedroom, wisteria on that side and I love that. This house is little cottages stuck together, some bits date back to the fifteenth century.

I’m really bad at practicality. I’ve just upholstered a sofa in pale blue and white, I mean, it couldn’t be more impractical if I tried. I try and be like ‘get off that sofa, you’re not eating on it’ but after about 24 hours it goes out the window. It’s a balance; yes I’m really particular about the way things look, but at the same time, we’ve got three boys, we live in the country, I’m a florist, I live in my wellies. We’ve got a chicken [called Victoria Peckham] and I found her halfway up the stairs this week, she poos everywhere – it’s very much a country house and I love that, I love embracing the wild. As long as it’s clean. A perfect house is soulless to me.’

Soho Farmhouse

Enjoy a winter escape in one of the cosy cabins at Soho Farmhouse, deep in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside.