You seemed to enjoy our last virtual wander round John Lewis & Partners in May so when I was thinking about my Christmas posts, there seemed no better place to spend a day. It has to be said that they really have become the kings of Christmas in the UK. Some of my friends now say that they refuse to even think about Christmas until the TV ad comes out – they see it as the official launch of the season and of course it finally aired yesterday.
As always, in the interests of clarity, I want to say that this post is in collaboration with John Lewis & Partners and they invited me to to spend a day in Oxford Street to enjoy their execution of Christmas in all its glory. As you can imagine there was a lot to see so this is a long post. You may want to prepare provisions for the journey… a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits would do nicely.
Imagine that we’re wandering round the store together, chatting as we go… I appreciate that you can’t get a word in but Mr MC would say that is true to life. So here we go, shopping with Nikki. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…
Now I’m an extremely difficult person to impress when it comes to retail Christmas Halls. When I was at Selfridges, my office was next door to the team who planned ours and I used to pop in daily from January onwards just to see the latest magic that they’d come up with. So it was almost with a sense of trepidation that I approached this one which is on the third floor of John Lewis & Partners – but my goodness they’ve excelled themselves.
Shopping for decorations can be, quite literally, a headache as you find yourself besieged by a bazaar of flashing, glittering colour. So often I find myself abandoning a basket full of mismatching baubles because I’ve bounced from one display to another, picking things up randomly along the way. Not at John Lewis & Partners though – they’ve planned a careful customer journey so that you can navigate easily through the schemes, identifying your favourite within minutes. They’ve majored on colour-led themes this year: emerald, ruby, amber, gold, jet, sapphire and moonstone. Each one is visually dramatic, I can’t show you them all or we’d be here all day but have a wander round with me while I show you what caught my eye.
This is my absolute favourite. I first saw it on a blazing hot day in June and even then it took my breath away. It isn’t often that trends for home align with fashion, they usually come a season later but this, of course, is synchronising perfectly with the green that we’re seeing dominating the clothing scene.
Each section in store begins with a themed tree so this is emerald.
The John Lewis & Partners approach is to cover most of the tree in single coloured baubles that you can buy in packs of four or twenty You can see them here on the display fixture to the left, you then add feature baubles for interest. This way, if you fancy a complete change of scheme, you can keep the cost down. The emerald scheme makes me think of the jungle and the feature baubles are quite exotic. They include peacocks, hummingbirds, dragonflies and tropical leaves.
These are my favourites, they came home with me and made the youngest jump yesterday because I’d put them on the mantelpiece in the room where he has his console, ready for the tree. The detail on the glass is so intricate and I’m hoping that if they survive cats, dogs and lumbering teens, they’ll pass down through the generations. And with that I’m starting to sound like my grandma; I still have the tipsy fairy that she gave me when I was little saying, “you’ll have this long after I’m gone!”
And of course there are room decorations that complement the theme too such as this toucan snowglobe
Moving on, this theme would have been my mum’s favourite. I was ten when she declared that we wouldn’t be going to the woods to cut down a tree any more because it made too much mess – we were going to be modern (it was 1977). She made a trip to Binns (the department store in Blackpool that was the height of sophistication in our world then) and bought an artificial white tree with blue baubles. When I look back at the yellowing photographs now, I have to admire her eye – particularly as my dad was ‘persuaded’ to redecorate the room to match. (And I know that as Mr MC reads this, proverbial pennies will drop…).
So here’s sapphire in its frosty whites and blues
The feature baubles have a magical ‘under the sea’ theme that would have delighted the eldest when he was little.
This would have been the middle son’s choice – in his mind it would be Star Wars on a Christmas tree. It’s obviously been popular because stock is already showing as low online but there was plenty in store when we were there.
I know lots you have teenage sons who will show at least a flicker of enthusiasm for these baubles. These are the ones that caught my eye but there are others in the space theme.
Now here’s one for anyone who’s loved the rainbow trend that has been lifting everyone’s spirits this year – a full rainbow tree. You’ll be pleased to see that it’s even dressed in proper ROYGBIV order – you can rely on John Lewis & Partners to do things properly!
They’ve made it easy to dress – you can buy rainbow multi-packs in different sizes…
… add a few glittery ones for sparkle…
… or choose your own from this stunning rainbow wall…
…which extends to tinsel too.
A technicoloured dream-tree can be yours! Just remember that you’ll need more of the blues and violets for the bottom than you will of the reds and oranges for the top.
And this struck me as a very easy and effective way to decorate a tree – multi-coloured berry lights and crackers. It would look lovely in a porch if you have one – you could welcome guests with a cracker and a kiss. You’d have to buy a few spares though…depending on how hospitable you are!
These are the crackers they’ve used, The 12 Days of Christmas, each one illustrated according to the ditty (which will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day… sorry about that).
We liked these crackers too, isn’t it funny how you can instantly allocate each one to somebody you know?
Before we leave the baubles behind, I’m just going to whiz through a few more favourites with you:
From the amber theme which is all about woodland. There was a tree for each of my boys and this would have been the youngest’s choice:
From the gold theme:
By this point, Mr MC was ready for a break. He doesn’t share my boundless enthusiasm for Christmas decorations. As you may remember from our Easter trip, “but where would we store them” is his repeated refrain when buying… well anything really! So as we headed up to the roof garden, I couldn’t help thinking how nice one of these reindeer would look on the patio. Altogether now “but where would we store it?!” This time I suppose he has a point.
Time for a break
Isn’t this fab? John Lewis & Partners have their very own roof garden. Now the rooftops of Oxford Street have romantic significance for Mr MC and me. You see when we were at Selfridges, the secret shortcut from my office to his was across the roof. It was off limits to the public and in our early days we used to meet up there for secret assignations.
So we were already off to a good start up here when we discovered that they serve hot gingerbread gin (for me) and freshly baked pies (for you know who). Happy Days! There’s even a little ice rink but we were happy with our victuals.
Are you feeling refreshed? Then we’ll move on.
Customised Quality Street Tins
How’s this for a great gift? A customised tin of Quality Street with only the flavours you like – you can pick and mix what goes into it. And doesn’t that start a debate? Mr MC is currently sitting at his desk spluttering because I’ve just shown him the website entry from the John Lewis & Partners buyer saying that in his house, only Toffee Pennies are left over. In our house Toffee Pennies have to allocated amongst Mr MC and the boys by me because no-one else can be trusted. I, on the other hand, am very fortunate because I’m the only one who likes the orange chocolate crunch. However we all usually take great delight in throwing the strawberry delights on the fire when we reach the end of the tin – did you know they make the flames turn blue for a moment?
Anyway, if you go to the Oxford Street, Trafford Centre or Glasgow stores, you can even have your tins personalised. This is how it works. You pick up a tin and complete a form saying what you’d like printed on the lid and which flavours you’d like inside.
We were given a Garnett Street tin last Christmas by our son’s then girlfriend. I still have it but let’s just say I’m not sure how I feel about it now. It didn’t make sense to get another Garnett one though so I had to think of something up to nine letters. While it was being printed, a man with superfast hands filled it according to our ticked off list (avoiding those nasty strawberry delights)…
… and ta dah, here it is… we had a few moments in the sofa department so that we could open the tin and have a Christmas Day run-through!
You can only get these tins in store – all of the details are here.
Food and Wine Gifts
Now that we were in the mood for gift buying (well at least one of us was), it was time to go to the dedicated gift department so let me show you a few of the things I found. In the food and drinks section:
lovely crackers to go with the emerald theme. These are filled with chocolates so they’d make a great hostess gift.
How about gin baubles on the tree rather than chocolates… or both?
Or you may just prefer a whole bottle of gin and let’s face it, lavender and echinacea or rose apothecary almost sound medicinal!
There was a very comprehensive offering of champagne and an ice bucket that looks to be just the right size for my kind of Christmas Day.
There was gingerbread, marzipan and marshmallow galore… but no fudge… ahem John Lewis & Partners… just saying!
If you don’t have a sweet tooth, how about gourmet pork scratchings? There’s an advent calendar too.
Now as you know, we really enjoy playing games. Other than putting food on the table, we find it’s the best way to lure the boys out of their bedrooms for a while. John Lewis & Partnrs have outdone themselves on the games front this year, I’ve never seen such a good selection of games that were new to me. Here are a few of them:
Nostalgia for the parents…
Pot luck – you might get a charade or a song, a dare or a joke…
This looks like the perfect one for our family – something for everyone’s different skillsets…
Anything with a hint of ninja has Mr MC’s interest
And anything to do with words has mine
By this point we were running out of time because I knew we still needed to look at Partywear so it was a quick visit to the Lower Ground Floor to see the home accessories. The first thing we spotted was this – as if Quality Street isn’t enough there’s also a gin pick ‘n’ mix!:
Gin lovers’ cups will run over this Christmas
We found sprout plates to match the crackers…
Lovely chunky martini glasses
Stunning peacock gin glasses
And gold dipped champagne flutes
I finished by stocking up on these – cocktail flavoured gums – another great hostess gift
So that was a big shopping session. I’d been asking Mr MC to point out anything he might like along the way and as always he was insistent that there was nothing he needed. Only one thing made his eyes light up…
… and he insisted it would be gone before we’d need to worry about where to keep it! Even so, I think he probably deserves a little more than that after all his hard work behind the camera this year. Gifts for men… coming soon!
If you’ve made it to the end – well done – you are a truly dedicated reader, I thank you and I’m holding out a virtual tin of Midlifechic branded Quality Street to you! I hope I’ve given you some good ideas – and helped you to get ahead of the crowds. Avanti my friends… here’s the ad to get you in the mood.
Disclosure: “Everything Christmas at John Lewis & Partners” is a collaboration however all thoughts, words and images are my own.
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