Francis Sultana, Designer

in search of ideas for stylish christmas decoration, emily
senior takes inspiration from interior decorator and designer
francis sultana’s home

one of the first things that strikes you about the chic
decorations in the designer francis sultana’s drawing room is the
familiarity of the textured gold plinth on which the tree has been
balanced. ‘it’s actually a table by fredrikson stallard,’ he says. ‘i just covered
it with cellophane and padded the base of the tree with moss.
christmas is a perfect time to look at what you already have in
your house and find new ways to bring it to the party.’

there is a sense of playfulness about francis’s style – be it as
designer, art consultant or artistic director of david
gill galleries – which is evident in the decoration of his
london flat; a place where modern pieces by zaha hadid,
mattia bonetti and richard
prince nestle comfortably against the building’s intricate
georgian plasterwork.

this same light touch is equally successful in his approach to
christmas. ‘i like decorations to be elaborate, but with an
artistic focus,’ he explains. ‘i grew up in malta with a
romanticised vision that everything about an english christmas was
spawned from the mind of oliver messel – glittering snowy landscapes
and decked halls. i still buy in to elements of that, even though
my flat is quite modern. i wanted a look that was festive but
tailored.’

the tree

‘your tree should be proportional to the size of your room, yet
also significant and impactful. the fredrikson
stallard table used as a plinth adds height, while the moss
round the base of the tree disguises the unattractive pot in which
it is planted.’

the mantlepiece

‘i made these arrangements myself very simply using moss and
twigs from the chelsea gardener, but if you live in the
country i recommend gathering your own decorations in the
hedgerows. bare winter branches have a delicate look that is more
modern than evergreen plants such as holly.’

the decorations

‘at my mother’s house in malta, the decorations on the tree
chart 50 years of family history. in comparison, my collection is
still in its infancy, but every year i add to it with a new box of
ornaments from fortnum & mason. my preference is
always embellished eggs – there’s something refined and russian
about them that really appeals to me. when i was a boy my
mother would give us loose beads to string our own garlands for the
tree, or would use her necklaces as decorations. the strings
of swarovski
crystals i’ve used here are a slightly more grown-up take on that.
i have a lot of chrome furniture in the room, so for the
decorations i opted for tonal bronze and gold. i really love the
festive contrast of the metallics.’

‘on the tree i use real candles, which give an unparalleled
ambience but aren’t always practical. try a combination of electric
lights placed discreetly on the inner parts of the branches and
real flames on the outer; that way you have the best of both
worlds. scent is also important for me. cire trudon
makes an incredibly evocative scent called “carmélite”, which has a
church-like smell that reminds me of singing in choir when i was a
boy.’

the dining room

‘the dining room is my theatre. christmas dinner should be
playful and i like using props. indoor fireworks make a decadent
replacement for crackers – i bought some glorious hermès ones, made
for the company’s one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary – or try
laying your table with a runner of brown paper that your guests can
decorate and write messages on.’

the centrepiece

‘for the centrepiece i painted some twigs red with a flock
spray, and fixed them with blu-tack to a bed of moss scattered with
ornamental eggs and crystals – a continuation of the theme from the
sitting room. black candles and the sculpture in the middle by andré dubreuil add a masculine, geometric edge.
the overall effect is like gazing through an enchanted forest.’

the tableware

‘the things i have chosen for the table are ornate, but when you
look closely you see that they are actually extremely modern. from
a distance this crockery looks like traditional patterned china,
but it’s a set by the artist cindy sherman – a send-up of originals
commissioned by madame de pompadour in 1756. the napkin rings are
by the costume jeweller kenneth jay
lane.’

francis sultana: francissultana.com

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