Beach Cottage Coastal Christmas ~ 5 Tips for Christmas Beach Decor

Fri 2nd, Dec, 2011

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G’day lovely Beach Cottage gals – ready to get a little sparkly & Christmassy for a Coastal Christmas from this old cottage?…wanna know my 5 tips for Christmas Beach Decor??….oooh yeah I am so ready.

(issuing a serious Beach Cottage Ramble Alert today, you might just wanna scroll on through the pictures ;-) )


So this year I am mainly doing sparkly lights on everything that doesn’t move and red ribbon tied around anything that is left over.

(**edited to add, apologies for a few spacing issues on this post too…looking into it x)

My first piece to attack was this dresser…I wanted it to look twinkly and pretty after dark and it does…not so easy to show you that in the photos though, but mark my words it’s Christmas Grotto Heaven in here once the sun has gone down.


When I was doing this hutch dressing, Bing was playing and it was feeling very Christmassy in here, it got me to thinking about a coastal Christmas here in Australia (you can find more of my Christmas Beach Decor here  on the deck, if you missed it) and how now the warm summer weather and bright sunny hot days and Christmas decs in the sun makes me feel like Christmas… I think, if I were to be honest, this is the first year I have not somehow in the back of my mind thought that it felt all wrong…though I certainly do still miss the cold weather, the getting dark at 4pm, the coming home from school to the Christmas tree on a cold afternoon, the sitting next to the fire beside the tree watching Christmas on the BBC…yes I definitely miss that.

As I was doing this my mind started to wander, as it does and I started thinking about those days before I had Honeymoon Baby, before I met Mr Beach Cottage and when I, really, had a totally different life, not just in country and climate and culture but in that then I was a single girl.

Anyway doing this Christmas cottage decorating reminded me of a time way back then in London.  Yes you know where this is going, it’s an occupational hazard of this blog…my rambling on about days gone by when I worked in London…


It was the early days of December and I was that girl I have told you about, the one who worked in the PR company, in the West End of London, in a square with a black railed park in the middle (think Julia Roberts Notting Hill – the park, not me looking like her ;-) ) ….everyday I commuted on the train from our village in Kent up to the big smoke and to the converted terrace house on four floors with the big black front door and shiny brass plaque…surrounded by media types.

So, one day I was assigned to helping out a semi famous celebrity on a Christmas party/client event (in my lowly role as general dogsbody to those of a higher life form than me I would get these people to ‘look after’ often)…this person used to be an actress, but she had turned, somehow into a cook-cum-lifestyle-cum-general-miss-perfect and she was working with one of the clients of the company I worked for, which was one of the big champagne houses (yes I got a taste for very nice thank-you-very-much pink champagne in those days)…the brief was that this semi-famous Celebrity would be setting up the table and getting everything in her ‘lifestyle’ and then the clients would arrive and everything would be happy hunky dory wonderful.

I had met her a couple of times very briefly and as she flounced around warning bells had started ringing…some of these people were nice, most of them complete self-absorbed wannabe horrors.

On the day of the Christmas event, it was pouring with rain, and I was the one assigned to take all the equipment to the advertising agency and then on to where the event was taking place… 20111202-04-beach-cottage-dresser-christmas

I had arrived early, getting everything sorted and together…boxes were packed, champagne was loaded up, brief was typed up and ready, you name it I had done it… and a cab (you know those lovely black London taxis with the driver from the East End) arrived to pick me up…it was lashing down with rain  we packed everything in the taxi and arrived at the destination in good time…at the other end got everything out and took it upstairs to the function room.

There was a problem.  I was the only one there, along with one other young lowly assistant from another department, because semi-famous Celebrity had been held up in an ‘urgent meeting’ alongside the Account Executives who were meant to be here instructing the likes of lowly me in what to do…

There was a huge, and I mean huge table ready and empty with nothing on it, save for white linen tablecloth and piles of china & cutlery ready to be placed…. in the corner a big pile of chairs were stacked up.

Now, you may be wondering, why this all hadn’t been taken care of, but the more I got to know this world, the more I came to realise a few things, first of all everything was more often than not left to the last minute and not properly organised and secondly, budgets were always mega-tight behind the scenes…on the surface it was all pink champagne and truffles in designer suits and sunglasses but the reality was often people like me in the wings sorting things out…

So, myself and another girl, of similar lowly stature, wondered what to do, we knew time was short and knew that the client was arriving in a few hours time for this event…we could also see that we were far far from ready and we were kinda standing there surveying and looking…hesitant to do anything and hesitant to do nothing…

…and then, in flounced one of the PR company directors…he was shortish and tubbyish and baldish and so up-him-selfish…he wore Italian suits and big ties, and I hated his shiny, sweaty, clammy skin and the way he looked down his nose at us ….and as was usual he started throwing his arms around, asking us lowly people why everything wasn’t ready, JUST where was everybody?!  and what did we think we were doing?!

…so he told us to start getting the table ready, with, as I can remember, words along the lines of, God knows what this will look like with you two doing it..big sigh and more dramatic flouncing…

And so we did, and time ticked on…I remember the gold mottled chargers as if it were yesterday…I had packed them up on instruction from  semi-famous Celebrity, I didn’t think I would be the one in charge of getting it all right…


We worked our little socks off…the table was dressed in plain white, but this was far from the Director’s brief of how he wanted it to look…he had wooshed his hands around and said he wanted it like an opulent Tuscan Christmas with gold and green (where he threw the Tuscan in from I have no idea and more I just about knew where Tuscany was, let alone what it dressed its tables like)…and so we dug around in the boxes from semi-famous Celebrity and found various gold and green things…from what I remember there were gold baubles, fake gold fruit (shudder), fake fir garlands (the ones meant for fireplace mantels), those strands of gold metallic paper (double shudder) and fake holly & ivy (triple shudder) and big rolls of gold and green ribbon, it was sorta speckled.

We laid out the garlands so they went right down the centre of the table, and piled the gold baubles in and along the garland…then in between on the white we poked the fruit in…I was working with a girl whose name I forget but she was from the East End and hilarious, we were joking and messing as we got our heads down and got on with it, she said she didn’t have a ******* clue what a Tuscan Christmas was like, we were more used to Woolworths (a budget department store in England) and Christmas a la Hackney rather than what went on with our distant Tuscan neighbours.

This was a big long table and not a small job, after our toiling we stepped back to look at our handiwork.

It was ok.  No more. We thought old tubby, sweaty director would throw a pure gold hissy fit when he saw it…. and still no-one arrived…no super duper Celebrity-turned-lifestyle-stylist was to be seen.

Something was missing with the table.  It looked far from Tuscan, even though we had no idea quite what or where that really was.

We ummed and ahhed there was no sparkle, not enough foofing…and so I had the bright idea that we would extravagantly tie around the chairs the gold ribbon and tuck in the ivy so it kinda hung down the back of the chair, we thought this would make it look more ‘Tuscan’…..we got to work on that…the chairs were those dress chairs you find in big hotels with the piping and the high backs…we had absolutely no idea what we were doing but we were young and brave and stupid.

When that was finished again we stood back, still on our own, and it was better, more Tuscan with a Roman touch, haha, but it didn’t pop and bling, the light wasn’t right…we looked up and up above was a big chandelier type affair right over the centre, but alongside were those spotlight type lights…not the downlighters that you would get nowadays, but those ones that you could twist and move around…lots of them…


We decided in our 20 yr old wisdom that we needed to move these lights to get some sparkle going on, but the lights were high up and so we got a chair each, balanced them on top of the table and then we both perched dangerously up there and moved a light each…we could just reach standing on tiptoes and reaching up…occupational health and safety would about blow a gasket nowadays for doing something like that….

Oh and how those lights changed it all…we overlapped them so the ones on the right side of the ceiling pointed down to the left side of the table…and vice versa…and oh how it sung out…our strands of paper went from blah to divine, our gold fruit sparkled in Tuscan delight, our gaudy gold baubles danced and said Christmas.
It looked amazing!  As only fake gold can for a Tuscan Christmas.
Just as we were getting the chairs down and as time was ticking very much on and the clients were soon to be arriving, Miss Celebrity and the PR Account Executives arrived from their about-to-change-the-world meeting…and as my friend from the East End was getting her chair down off of the table, she missed her footing and the chair knocked one of the glasses, it didn’t break but Miss Celebrity leaned over to pick it up and put it back in it’s place….
Right at this moment old sweaty Director arrived, flinging open the door, all of a sudden in a big rush of panic and drama.  We all looked up…I was on the floor picking up stray bits of gold strand and holly and ivy, East End girl had the chair from the light swivelling in her hand and Celebrity was putting back the glass
“Ohh” he said
“Oh Dahhhhhhhling”
“Oh yes”
“Oh just divine!”
O*h we did it”
“Oh so divinely Tuscan Christmas”
“Oh Dahhhhling, I knew we could to it”
“Oh Dahhhhhling, this is just what we had in mind isn’t it?”
Myself and East End girl nearly choked.
Cough cough cough.
Divinely Tuscan.
You’re kidding me right?
What you had in mind?
Knew we could do it?
We looked at each other and then to my utter disbelief Miss Celebrity sucked it all up, oh she about shone in the limelight of our Tuscan Christmas Decorating…
“Dahling” she said
“‘It’s come together so beautifully as I knew it would”

And we stood there, looking at the fake gold baubles, the holly & ivy made from plastic, the horrid green garlands, the gold fruit and the wrapped up chairs as it all glistened and sparkled under the twisted lights.

“And Dahhhhling” he said

“How did you work that magic? ”

“Oh Dahhhling” she said

“I just knew it would all come down to the lights and wrapping up the chairs!”
And she continue to stand there and coo and ooh and ahhh and glow as he showered her with how utterly fabulous and amazing she was…
And that was the end of us, the girls who moved the lights on the table…we were dismissed and packed off to wherever, while the clients arrived, the champagne flowed and the lights glistened and never did sweaty, clammy Dahhhling Director or Miss Lifestyle Celebrity ever thank us or mention it again.
And as I did my own first bit of Coastal Christmas decorating on this old dresser, on the other side of the world from London, a million miles from that girl standing on the table in London, the sparkles, the lights and the glitter reminded me of that girl and that Christmas, in London and those days with fake gold fruit…

So if you are going a little more Coastal Christmas and a lot less Tuscan, here are my 5 Top Tips for Beach Decor & making it work, without spending a lot of money or doing too much standing on chairs



1. Keep it simple

Stick to a theme and don’t overdo it…this one is rather more cluttered than I normally go for, but that’s what I fancied for this hutch..I wanted vintage glass, white, old jam jars, a hint of blue, seashells, a few coastal things and sparkle…they all kinda amalgamate together nicely for a beach decor theme…with a touch of Nordic via the red…

2. Shop the house

Use your existing decor and fave things…you don’t need to buy special things for Christmas and the holidays, you can just make the things you already love get a more Christmas feeling


3. Sparkle it up 

Add lights and sparkle for that special Christmas glow…I like to just add lights and tealights to my furniture and old vintage things…I look out for lights in budget stores and nearly always buy white, white lights go with any look and tie-in beautifully with coastal style


4. Add shells & things you might find in a beach / nautical cottage

prop shells and starfish alongside your regular decor for a coastal Christmas take on your regular Christmas decorating…


5. Start with the basics & layer on up

I start with a basic layer, like you do when you get dressed…the first layer here were the glass, lanterns and lights, because that was the overall look I was hoping for…I wanted the glass & lights to reflect off each other and twinkle in the evening…then I added more things to get the beach decor feel…the big driftwood star propped up, together with Christmas baubles, crochet star…and then I slotted in here and there nautical & coastal things….




And that my little Beach Cottage cherry pies is that…

I do hope you stayed with me until the end?

No there is not a prize here at the end of this post like there sometimes is ;-)

But there will be at the Beach Cottage Christmas Party..

Oh and Saturday Club the first Christmas version is very much on this week, yeah yeah I know we are all manically busy, running around like headless chickens thinking about turkey, and yeah yeah I was gonna shelve it and then thought twice, hey isn’t this time of year supposed to be fun for forty-is-the-new-thirties too?

Now come on, it’s Christmas you know, how about you leave me a comment telling me your best Christmas memories of fake gold fruit & Holly & Ivy.

See you next time Beach Cottage lovelies


beach decor

p.s. there was snow here last year in our little Coastal Christmas beach cottage ;-)  and for beachy Christmas Crafing, I made an easy Coastal Wreath…there’s a How To here


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42 Responses to “Beach Cottage Coastal Christmas ~ 5 Tips for Christmas Beach Decor”

  1. kari says:

    One of my fav posts!!! I love hearing your old stories Sarah ♥

  2. This is one of my favorite posts too! Whenever I read one of your fabulous stories, I always try to picture you sitting across from me in my living room telling it straight to me!

    I love your lit-up hutch…I imagine the twinkliness at night is heavenly. xo


  3. Light, sparkly, happy – you’ve created a most wonderful coastal Christmas look and I love it! It’s always seemed incongruous to me when people in non-snowly climes decorate in snowy themes instead of embracing right where they are. You embrace so beautifully! You are such an amazing storyteller, too. I could totally picture the humor/panic/pomposity/self-congratulation of the various characters in your story. Wonderful!

  4. cassie says:

    sooo pretty! i really love the white with the pops of red… brilliant!

  5. terri hopler says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. HILARIOUS!

  6. Kirsty says:

    Oh how lovely! Coastal and Christmassy and divine! I can’t wait to get my Christmas on this weekend. I just loved hearing your London story too, so hilarious, I can just imagine being there, I don’t think I could of held in the laughter! :) x K

  7. I too, love your stories of London Sarah- it’s amazing how life pans out isn’t it….

    Where you are now is where you’re meant to be…and it ain’t half bad is it ;) !!

    Those lights along the dresser are so lovely in size…and the glow they must throw off…& the lights on the ladder are just simply pretty- i’m going to be tying my old ladder up now- i love this combination…

    Looking forward to Saturday….Rock on Bing!

    Melissa :)

  8. Janine says:

    Love it but could we see a night time photo x

    • sarah says:

      I will try Janine, not sure about my skills in the night time photography dept ha

      • Kirsty says:

        Sarah, my hubby showed me that the trick to night time photography is to put your camera on a tripod so it’s really still and have the shutter timer (sorry that might not be the technical term!) on for about 5 seconds so it absorbs all the light, I tried it and it works really well for lowlight or candlelight, I was quite impressed! Hope that helps some :)

  9. alison says:

    I love your stories Sarah. Keep them coming.

    Thanks for the reminders about decorating in layers and shopping our house.


  10. Marie says:

    What a great story, Sarah. I love your decorating tips and fully agree with them…it’s all about keeping it simple. We’d love to have you join our Coastal Christmas linky party going on this month – so many could benefit from your decorating tips.

  11. Rupa says:

    I love your stories ! I read the story first .. now will go back to the pretty pictures :O

    Beautiful !!

  12. I agree with everyone else! Your stories are always so much fun and interesting…..Dahling! lol!

    xoxo laurie

  13. Alice says:

    I loved it! Unfortunately my adult life has been quite boring so far so no exciting Christmas stories from me… I love the lights! I am thinking (for a few months now)of making a “chain” curtain to hang outside and hang my little lanterns(very similar to yours) outside with tealights for sundays christmas afternoon tea… I am looking forward to it…

  14. Nadine says:

    I just cannot BELIEVE how awful some people are! What a pair of . . . you-know-whats! I do love your rambles though, Sarah.

    Here’s a found-on-pinterest Christmas lights photography tip:

  15. Christie says:

    thank you for a great post. I also remember back when I was a “career” girl … jeez, worked with some lame fake social people. Much prefer being a housewife. The pay sucks, but I don’t have to deal with people I don’t like. At home, I’m the big boss ! ( As are you in your home.)
    Another note: I admire how you stick to your theme and keep it simple. I always like too many different kinds of things and muck it up. ;)
    This year, in November, I started thinking about how i wanted the house to look. What really felt Christmasy to me. For me, it is plaid. Red plaid and a Christmas tree. I got some lovely soft plaid flannel for pillows and a throw. I haven’t decorated yet. But, hopefully I can stay on track!
    ~ C

    • sarah says:

      I love red plaid, I am really regretting not getting the IKEA bedlinen….

      I prefer being a housewife too…mr bc says I could never work for anyone again, I am too much of a witch & nowadays would tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine…x

  16. krissie says:

    darling…. it all sounds so Ab Fab! loved the story!

    ps reminds me of my student days in fabby kensington~!

  17. Kat says:

    Oh Sarah, I do love your stories and the way you tell them. :)
    You make me laugh and I love your little insights into your old life and those of the celeb’s you were having to “deal with.”
    As a friend of mine says “everyone has a story” and I bet you have lots more to entertain us with! ;)
    Were you furious they took all the credit, or did you just take it in your usual stride?
    I truly love that driftwood star. Wish I could find one like that around here.
    You have inspired me to do a bit of decorating on my dresser. Just need to get a few more baubles and lights.
    Yay for Sat Club. I have missed it and am looking forward to joining in if I can fit it in tomorrow, amongst tree decorating, a quick shop with Miss 9, running Mr 7 to a party (and having to stay) and going out for dinner.
    Tis the crazy season huh? :)
    The thing I am looking forward to though is your post on your dresses you found. Is that coming soon? Please, pretty please?! :)

  18. Sharon says:

    I love your advice, especially about shopping the house for goodies. It’s such a great idea. The hutch looks great and I do love those lights you’ve used on it.

    I enjoyed your story – I didn’t really think it was a ramble, just a strong memory that you wanted to share. I could almost see you and East End Girl on the tables fixing the lights.

  19. Great tips Sarah, and I enjoyed your story. I have a few celebrity stories of my own from years back. Funny that some are so nice and others are quite full of themselves. I also had a boss that presented an idea of mine in a meeting as her own, after she’d told me earlier that it was a bad idea. I watched her take credit as her boss praised her. So glad that most people in the world are nicer than that!
    Beautiful photos as always!

  20. Tammi says:

    I so don’t have any exciting tales to share like you do Sarah, you really have lived an amazing life before and after :)

    Love the look of this hutch, those aqua coloured bottles are gorgeous as is the touch of red.


  21. Aimee says:

    Can I just say – when I open your blog I immediately feel like I’m on a mini-vacation on the coast of Australia. Just love your style and ideas! You really ought to write a book. Seriously. And I would totally buy it. I’m a long-time follower but just don’t take the time to comment. Thanks for your inspiration!

  22. Paula says:

    Your hutch looks beautiful. You really have an eye for it

  23. the freckled minx says:

    Sarah, I was so captivated with your story that I had to go right back to the top to look at your photos! It really is the simple things that please, uncomplicated people, uncomplicated decorating. Gold fruit – too funny!…….B:) x

  24. Rukmini says:

    You are a story teller Sarah. Ever thought of writing a book maybe? Such a wonderful story about those thankless sorts. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, thanks for the tips. I have been doing a bit since yesterday and since my room color is cream, I thought I’ll stick to the traditional red and white with touches of green. Should look good, maybe, umm..oh. :)

    Sarah, a question. The driftwood star. Did you make it? If you have, can I please get the link to the tutorial? I love it.


  25. Fleur says:

    Oh Darlinnnnggg
    Its so fabulous!
    Love the dresser xxx

  26. Teresa says:

    A really lovely post, thank you!

  27. Julie Johnson says:

    Obviously they didn’t know they were dealing with the queen of tablescaping! You always have such wonderful, funny stories about your life in London. I think you do a terrific job with all your decorating.

  28. Barefoot Liz says:

    See how far you’ve come? No obnoxiously gaudy gold anywhere to be found in your lovely decor. Unless, you’re hiding it from us because you secretly adore it. :D

  29. I love your ideas for Christmas decorating ideas was searching the net and I came across your wonderful blog, congratulations and Merry Christmas from Spain.

  30. kathy h. says:

    Great story. I am always blown away by people who have no problem soaking up compliments when they didn’t lift a hand. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE.??

  31. Tee hee – this story made me giggle! I can picture everything perfectly and have been to far too many ghastly PR events just like that. ‘Dahling, dahling’ ‘Mwah, mwah’, ‘Just goooooorgeous’. The only thing is I wish you could’ve illustrated your post with a picture of your Tuscan Christmas table instead – I would love to have seen it!!!

  32. Kristie Raymond says:

    I could almost see you and East End Girl on the tables fixing the lights. Thoroughly enjoyed it.