Home for the holidays: Noël à la française

Soak up the French Christmas town and market atmosphere as you browse this blog and the Chez Pluie website, which offer a wide range of holiday gifts and ideas on how to give your home a special festive French and restorative makeover this year.

Visit the website's cheering Gifts collection for inspiration on thoughtful presents and while you're there, treat yourself! For your friends who love all things French, see Chez Pluie's recommended gifts for Francophiles

The modern mailbox can serve equally as well as the chimney: Chez Pluie offers a streamlined shipping service. We send beautifully wrapped gifts directly to the recipient, or to you if you prefer to hand the present in person. 

Yuletide trimmings help add to the celebratory anticipation of welcoming family and friends into your home at Christmas. Read on for festive home and tablescape decorating tips and creative decorating activities that can involve the whole family -- see #7 and #8 for a special French surprise!

1. Decorating idea: French Christmas glow

Bring winter cheer to your neighbors and guests as they walk up to the front door by warming the exterior of your home with lanterns, pillows, throws, and lights.

Above is an antique candle lantern with a lovely chocolate brown patina which is in stock at Chez Pluie at the moment. It can be carried or hung by the handle on the top. Breaking the winter chill with its warm glow, it would look delightful lit near a threshold outside.

Cozy inside! The above pair of illuminated lanterns bring some warmth to this airy and calm interior.

A large French vintage lantern (pictured above) is currently available at Chez Pluie. It has a beautiful weathered snow white patina.

2. Decorating idea: the salon

This minimal, shabby-chic living room brings a touch of Noël with beautiful green foliage draped over the large window. The quintessential French rustic three-legged cutting block is used as a side table and made festive with an enamel water pitcher Christmas tree.

Chez Pluie has a wide range of pitchers in this style. Above is a fantastic example in enamel.

Every French-style farmhouse needs a rustic wooden stand or stool! The one above was used traditionally for cutting wood and currently is in stock at Chez Pluie. They can be repurposed and used as charming side tables or stools.

Recreate this look with items from Chez Pluie! There is always a large range of paintings available to browse on our website.

Draped across the mantelpiece pictured above are conifer leaves, ranunculus, and Christmas amaryllis. Recreate this stunning floral arrangement using unique vessels from Chez Pluie. The lives of beautiful bulbs such as paperwhites and amaryllis can be extended by leaving them intact and growing them in a small pot concealed in a jardinière bowl.

At the moment, there is a pair of exquisite blown glass hurricane lamps in stock that will brighten up a mantelpiece or tablescape.

Use natural focal points in your home, such as mantelpieces, to decorate for the festive season. Mirrors look especially great, reflecting light from holiday candles and other decorations. Chez Pluie always has a fantastic range of mirrors to choose from, so we invite you to browse the full range of mirrors.

3. Decorating idea: Christmas trees, the more, the merrier!

Christmas greening of both interiors and exteriors can be achieved using planted Medici urns, planters, baskets, and rustic fruit boxes. Leave bare for a full green effect, or adorn the sprigs with tinsel and decorations!

Beautiful antique urns are practical alternatives to the traditional Christmas tree stand. Authentic urns, like the one from Castelnaudary (pictured above), are heavy and sturdy and can adapt to holiday-themed use with ease.

The forest greens and earthy browns in the interior (pictured above) are so calming, festive, fresh, and restorative at the same time.

Above is an elegant decorative urns from Chez Pluie that could be used as the base for a small Christmas tree.

Chez Pluie always has an extensive range of Medici urns (like the pair pictured above) available online.

4. Decorating idea: a French Christmas tablescape

Spectacular table arrangements can be achieved by selecting table décor in a color you love or one of the festive colors and arranging to chic effect. Antique candlesticks, crystal stemware, and interesting vases or preserving jars are some ways to make your Christmas table feel special and comforting.  

The luminous table setting at La Fleur Bleue in Provence (pictured above) mixes vintage and modern elements - characterful chairs are tucked under the table while an alluring variety of clear and colored-glass vessels adorn the tabletop. Evidently, choosing glass as the main design theme can make a stylish, enchanting, and, depending on your taste, minimalist tablescape.

Play with adding apothecary and old preserving jars, as well as carafes, to your table settings this holiday season. Explore Chez Pluie's glassware collection here.

Introducing seasonal evergreens, pine cones, and other organic material to a table setting can infuse the air with the familiar scents of the holidays. While the low-key presence of wooden place settings pictured above helps to promote a mood of comfort and ease.

Shop this glorious look! Chez Pluie stocks beautiful antique and vintage candlesticks that can make fabulous traditional centerpieces for tablescapes. Available now is an antique mercury glass candlestick that could help recreate the table setting photographed above.

Enchanting tea and coffee sets, plates, incredible glassware, and special serving utensils and vessels can all be found online at Chez Pluie.

Bright and patterned objects and fabrics can make a tablescape fun and festive and shift the formal tone of the gros super into a more light-hearted affair. Consider introducing highly decorative pieces, such as colored glass drinking vessels, vases, and busy tablecloths, to craft this sensibility.

Vases to treasure and that will offer daily pleasure are always available online at Chez Pluie. Explore the current collection of vases.

Green, red, blue, or plain white plates can help set the tone of different meal times over the holidays. Currently in stock is a fabulous set of green fish-themed plates made in Vallauris, a town famous for its ceramics (and where Picasso worked with pottery) that would enliven a holiday tablescape!

Among the other dinner sets available now is a beautiful antique ironstone dessert service and German Meissen-Oignon blue dinner service, as well as a fabulous asparagus service from Vallauris that would bring some color and interest to a festive dining table.

Discover Chez Pluie's vintage and antique stemware. New sets are always being added. There are two sets of wine glasses (a set of six and a set of eleven) from Alsace with brilliant emerald green stems that would look so great on a French-style tablescape this holiday season and are currently available!

5. Decorating idea: A Christmas bedroom

During the holiday season, feature objects you love that have some festive hues. Their coloring can allude to the special times of the year through careful arrangement. The beautiful interior above is one of the stylish bedrooms in which guests of the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé can luxuriate. The chateau is located in the famous Loire Valley, a happy jaunt from Paris.

A vintage lamp with gold glass base, such as the one currently in stock at Chez Pluie, placed near an object or material colored green, red, or white, can help bring a touch of Christmas to the bedrooms and guestrooms.

Chez Pluie has an assortment of stools of varying heights that are convenient for use as a catchall in a bedroom or guestroom for newspapers, breakfast trays, clothes, or feet. The above stool is 17" high and has a lovely cross-stitch pattern fit for resting pieds royaux from the nineteenth century.

Lovingly and beautifully worn, this wooden ornament would look fantastic displayed year-round, but over festive periods could be used to set the tone for holiday-themed displays. It could look great in a bookcase or on a mantelpiece.

Add Christmas touches to bedrooms with decorations and lighting around mirrors, headboards, fireplaces, and windows.

While on the theme of multipurpose, crockery such as side plates or platters is a practical and economical way to fill a wall, as well as fulfill their traditional use on the kitchen or dining table.

6. Creative decorating: Everyday objects and sculpture made festive

Jazz up or rearrange existing domestic décor with some Christmas colors and decorations, et voilà! Scroll for some visual cues!

Encountering a pair of breathtaking wall sconces in a hallway, such as the 18th-century wall applique display brackets pictured above, can lift the beholder's spirits. Set up, so they form a focal point, celestial sculptures such as these naturally come into their own around the holidays.

Soft, warm, and reassuring textures such as velvet are most appreciated cooler weather. Gather comfy furniture around the fireplace and give Santa somewhere to rest his cold, weary feet by placing thoughtfully a red velvet stool near the fire.

Introduce patterns of interest in your décor design - perhaps it's a color theme, star shape, inspiration from upholstery fabric, or wallpaper that weaves throughout the interior. Experiment with unique and unusual objects juxtaposed with elements of a different quality -- unite wood with glass, for example. As demonstrated in the inspirational photos throughout the blog, vases, such as this tall green florist's vase, or any treasured vessel, can make a marvelous impact.

 A 1940s red tole chandelier, need I say more?

Make a statement with these rare decorative plate stands whose festivity can be emphasized around the holidays.

Quintessential French décor, such classic olive pots, lend themselves gracefully to the esprit de noël.

7. Creative decorating: Festive fun with preserving jars

Demijohns resemble Christmas baubles in shape and are really easy to work with to transform into Christmas décor.
Secure the base of a candle to the top of a demijohn bottle to make an unusual candleholder.

Demijohns can be a creative alternative to a Christmas tree in an apartment or modestly-sized home, and fun decorated with a strand of fairy lights.

Level the inside base of a preserving jar with pebbles and securely position a candle, et voilà, a hurricane lamp! These look fabulous lined up on steps. 

8. Creative decorating: Make a crèche de Noël

Enlist the help of young family members to set up a French-style nativity scene, or crèche de Noël. Magical pieces can be selected at French Christmas markets.

Sometimes Chez Pluie unearths very old and precious religious items, occasionally from churches. At the moment, there is a pair of exquisite wooden statues depicting the Virgin Mary and Saint John available. They would bring a tender or spiritual element to a home year-round, but naturally feature in a crèche de Noël also.

Nativity scenes can be formed over a lifetime. It's OK to start small! And even to stay small – a simple arrangement will ring true. The younger generation might search their toy box for a baby, animals, or something to use as a little bed that they might be willing to include. Model trees and shrubs can be found in the architectural sections of craft shops and can help set the rural scene, while hay can evoke a lowly cattle shed.

If you are able to visit France for Christmas at some point, be sure to visit the amazing nativity scenes at the various churches around the country, and for some breathtaking artistic displays, don't miss the famous crèche de Noël at Église de la Madeleine in Paris. While you are on holidays in France, select a special crèche ornament to include in the following year's nativity scene. Over time, you will not only build up a beautiful display but a group of memories as well – much like collecting treasured ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Shop French decorative objects for more ideas on how to recreate a nativity scene. If you are craving something in particular, engage the fabulous Finders Service at Chez Pluie. Susannah and Hugh Cameron will be only too happy to help.

Dreaming of a French Christmas? Read our blog "Christmas in France" to transport you there.

Thank you for reading. Salutations des saisons from Chez Pluie.

Image sources: Vibeke Design, Elle Decor, Veranda Magazine, Pinterest, Reddit, European Best Destinations, La Valise a Fleur, Whisper of Vintage, Better Homes & Gardens, One Kind Design, Look Me Luck Photos, Bless'er House, Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Clem Around the Corner, Amy Chalmers Maison Decor, Dreamy Whites, Cote Maison, Hello-Hello, Tudoorna, Southern Living, Everyday Living, On Sutton Place, Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, Elle Decor, www.francetvinfo.fr, Quintessence, and Chez Pluie.

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Frequently asked questions

1) What is the traditional French way of decorating the house for Christmas?

Decorating the mantelpiece with forest greens and placing golden baubles and interspersing with pine cones; dressing a Christmas tree with tinsel, ornaments, and lights; creating a beautiful crèche; displaying reliquaries or other Christmas-themed sculptures in the house or on the window ledges, are ways the traditional French home is decorated for Noël. Fill lovely rustic vases and antique ceramic urns with fresh evergreen sprigs and position on tables and benches throughout the residence to evoke a French festive sensibility. For outside, traditional French homes often will have a Christmas wreath mounted on the front door. Courtyards and gardens will be illuminated with candles and lanterns and lovely evergreens or festively-colored elements will adorn chic garden sculptures. 

2) My yuletide tablescape needs some updating. What are some ideas I can incorporate for Christmas 2021?

This year, take some inspiration from traditional French tablescapes. Either commit to a neutral color palette with pops of one or two colors - this is very French. Choose for example a natural fibre for the placemats, an evergreen runner, and candlesticks. Consider using a variety of colored and clear glassware on the tabletop. Or if you are feeling like a more busy and lively aesthetic, try a patterned tablecloth, mix and match crockery, and cloth napkins – perhaps with a touch of embroidery. Place Christmas bonbonniere at each table-setting. Fill transparent glass jars with candy canes and other holiday treats.

3) What are some traditional French desserts at Christmas?

Bûche de Noël or Yule log, is ubiquitious with Noël and importantly it most likely originated in France before spreading to many European countries and the rest of the world. Shaped and decorated with chocolate icing and icing sugar to resemble a log of wood dusted in snow, the Yule log is a sponge cake layered with chocolate butter cream. You can go wild decorating it: think red berries, real holly, or use marzipan to mimic forest growth!

The Les Treize Desserts de Noël also is a very traditional French dessert, associated with Provence. Although the items vary village to village and family to family, below is an example of the 13 desserts of Christmas (the first four are a mix of dried fruit and nuts and linked to the monastic orders):

1. Raisins (Dominicans)

2. Walnuts or hazelnuts (Augustinians)

3. Dried figs (Franciscans)

4. Almonds (Carmelites)

5. Tangerines (yes, fresh fruit! If you don't have Tangerines, apples or another fresh fruit will do)

6. Biscotins (biscuits) from Aix

7. Two kinds of nougat (often from Montelimar, a town famous for its nougat)

  • Nougat noir au miel (black nougat with honey, a hard candy made with honey and almonds)
  • Nougat blanc (white nougat, a soft candy made with sugar, eggs, pistachios, honey, and almonds)

8. Pain d'epices (or spiced bread)

9. Fried bugnes (or angel wings)

10. Oreillettes(light thin waffles)

11. Calissons d'Aix (a marzipan-like candy made from almond paste and candied melon)

12. Casse-dents of Allauch (biscuit)

13. Cumin and fennel seed biscuits

4) For the friend who has everything, how can I find a present they will love?!

- For your green-thumbed friends consider a weathered planter or cachepot

- Candlesticks could make a special present for someone who loves meditative spaces and they can be used year-round

- Cheer wine appreciators with a champagne bucket, stemware, or bar accessory

- A classic set of linen tea towels or an old pot for displaying utensils on the counter will enrapture the home chef and help achieve mise en place in the kitchen

- For a colleague or loved one, a decorative piece such as a world globe, map, or small bronze sculpture could update the home or work office for the New Year


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Christmas in France: Île-de-France, Alsace, Aquitaine, Rhone Alps, the Riviera, and Corsica

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