Christmas decorator: 'It was unheard of in the UK'

By Sonia Kataria
BBC News, Leicester

image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionThe mother-of-two decorates business and homes, including those of celebrities

For Jilly Mattley, Christmas has always been a "truly magical" time.

As a mother-of-two, she said she was inspired by walks in the countryside with her children to deck their home with boughs of holly each festive season.

And, in 2007, she launched a Christmas company inspired by her interest - which has seen her design festive decor for the homes of celebrities, including former England footballer Frank Lampard and actor Jude Law.

All-out festive festooning of homes - as epitomised in films like Home Alone - has long been popular in the US, Mrs Mattley said.

But, when she began her business, "people in the UK didn't have a Christmas decorator - it was unheard of," she said.

"Now the role has become more widely-known and sought-after. I'm much busier."

image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionThe Christmas decorator said her inspiration comes from the natural world

She said she draws much of her inspiration from the natural world.

"I love harvesting and gathering natural materials," said Mrs Mattley, from Measham in Leicestershire.

As a mum, she would take her two children - Hollie and Emily - on walks in the countryside to collect acorns, conkers, pinecones and holly.

"We enjoyed making garlands, wreaths, and tree and fireplace decorations. Christmas time was truly magical."

She began her business at the age of 48 and now the 61-year-old has a team of around 20 helpers.

Tips for decorating your home

image copyrightJilly Mattley
  • Start with a beautiful Christmas tree as the focal point of your home.
  • If you're having a real tree, trim an inch off the trunk to enable it to take water. Keep it away from heat sources, like fires, radiators or under floor heating.
  • Plan your colour scheme to match, or contrast, your home.
  • You can collect materials such as willow, hydrangea and teasel (after they've finished flowering) and spray them in silver, bronze or gold for the tree.
  • Oranges can be dried at a very low temperature in the oven and threaded for hanging.
image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionThis home was decorated with a red berry theme

The style she cultivated in her own home is what, she said, appeals to many of her clients.

"The celebrities and sporting superstars including the Lampards were attracted to our natural designs and styles," she said.

She said many clients favoured a "contemporary version of tradition", including cinnamon, berries and glass baubles.

"I was really excited to decorate one home to look like a wintry forest of red berries," she said. Another display featured a giant synthetic oak tree.

image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionMrs Mattley's outdoor displays have included a giant synthetic oak tree

She said creating personalised decorations can be "challenging when a new idea comes along".

"This year, the most extravagant display had lots of challenges and we had to use heavy machinery to achieve their vision," she said.

image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionMachines are needed to install some "extravagant" displays

"It was a modern home and we had to come up with inventive solutions to secure and display the decorations," she said.

"The client wanted people to stop and be wowed and to bring joy to the area."

She added: "A lot of effort goes into Christmas for the few weeks that it is."

The designer said her daughters were "incredibly proud of what I've achieved".

image copyrightJilly Mattley
image captionMrs Mattley's commercial customers have included the luxury Belmond British Pullman train

But the work she does for her customers hasn't altered how she decorates her own home.

"Everyone thinks my home would be dressed from top to toe.

"My decorations haven't changed. We enjoy our family traditions, the way we have always decorated our home with a beautiful tree, fireplace garland and a wreath."

The company has also created displays for King's College Cambridge, London jewellery store Bentley and Skinner, the Hilton Hotel at London Bridge and the luxury Belmond British Pullman train.

image copyrightJilly Mattley

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