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Five Good Things: what to do, visit, read and book this December

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – not least as there’s a whole world of treats to see you through

Five Good Things: what to do, visit, read and book this December

‘Long Live the Christmas Tree!’, Harewood House, until 2 January 2023

How radical can you be when it comes to decorating your tree? The answer, as a trip to Harewood House will reveal, is very. The Georgian stately home has kicked off its festive season with Long Live the Christmas Tree!, an exhibition of “traditionally unconventional” takes on the holiday staple, created by artists, designers, studios and makers invited to respond to the history and environment of this most handsome of houses.

Each of the 11 installations – many of them incorporating materials found on the estate – occupies its own room. There are flowers and wreaths, recycled bottles and bees. Meriel Hunt’s hive-like creation will, after the show, be moved outside to become a natural habitat for the endangered insect, while costume designer Hughbon Condor’s One Love is a glowing carnival of diversity, a joyous cultural mash-up of celebratory symbols and neon. Were you really expecting tinsel? For more details, visit Harewood House’s website.

Shown: Juli Bolaños-Durman, Stackings, 2022. Photography: Tom Arber

East London Cloth x Hanbury Press bookbinding workshop, 3 December

Stuck for gifts this year? A trip to East London Cloth’s new studio shop on Bethnal Green’s Vyner Street, which opened in October, is sure to help you tick off even the trickiest on your list. And even if you don’t fall for the traditionally monogrammed tablecloths or beautiful bed linen, now you’ve a one-off chance to take home a pocket notebook, handmade by you, thanks to a day class hosted in the studio and led by Kate Rochester, the artist/bookbinder behind Hanbury Press.

On 3 December, Kate – whose small independent company is known for its exquisite, limited editions of hand-printed and -bound titles – will introduce you the traditional tools and tricks of the trade. She’ll then teach you to fold and sew a quarter-bound cloth-covered book, making use of East London Cloth’s offcuts. It’ll surely make the perfect present ­– if you can bear to part with it…

The price for the class is £80, which includes Italian snacks, a glass of mulled wine and a piece of beautiful fabric. For more details and tickets, keep an eye on East London Cloth’s events page – and don’t forget to revisit our story on founder Gemma Moulton’s Hackney flat from earlier this year.

How to Grow Year-Round Flowers’, The Land Gardeners x Create Academy

Call us swots, but we love a lesson – especially when we’re discovering ways to make our homes and gardens even more wonderful. With that in mind, you’ll understand our excitement at the news of Create Academy’s new online course, presented by Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy (aka the Land Gardeners) on how to grow blooms every month of the year. As the nights draw in and the garden goes into colourless hibernation for the year, it couldn’t come at a more welcome time.

The designers, cut-flower obsessives and compulsive composters, whose shared passion for soil health and organic plants has seen them become stars in the sustainable-growing scene. Their five-hour step-by-step course sees them sharing tips on growing and gathering, storing seeds, garden design and much more, presenting from their farm in France and their London studio, as well as a clutch of their favourite gardens.

The course, which costs £127 for lifetime access, is available now. It’s fully subtitled and has no fixed start date or time, meaning you can follow it at your own pace and return to it whenever you like. Visit the Create Academy website to watch the trailer, explore the lesson plan and subscribe.

Interior Portraits’, by SJ Axelby

Ardent Almanac readers will remember our interview with SJ Axelby, whose paintings and drawings of interiors – created every day while shielding during the pandemic – were such a hit she created a whole creative community around them. Every week, she posts a photograph of a spectacular space as @roomportraitclub, inviting her 24,500 followers to make their own version.

The club has been such a hit that Pavilion has wisely asked her to put pen to paper for print. Her new book, Interior Portraits, is a collection of 90 rooms belonging to the great and the good of the fashion, art and interior design worlds.

Among the subjects are a few of Inigo’s favourites – Matilda Goad, Skye McAlpine, Sophie Conran and Alexandra Tolstoy, whose house you might recognise here – alongside other heroes, including Ashley Hicks and the late Robert Kime. Furthermore, the ever-sparky SJ has interviewed each owner, mining them for decorating tips, interior inspiration and, occasionally, their favourite cocktails. What’s not to like? Visit the Pavilion website for more details.

The Colourful Past’: Edward Bulmer and Philip Mould in conversation, V&A, 13 December

We at Inigo spend a lot of the day thinking about ways in which centuries-old homes – our greatest love – can suit modern life, while still respecting the architectural traditions we’re so fond of.

It’s a pastime we share with Edward Bulmer, whose mission in life is to make old houses work beautifully – and look beautiful while doing so. His natural-paint company specialises in breathable toxin-free plant-based products, making it the go-to for those working with listed buildings, while as an interior designer he’s refined an approach that suits historic homes as amiably as it does their busy occupants – think classic country-house style, natural materials and, of course, perfectly chosen palettes.

There could hardly be a better person, then, to discuss such matters – not least as Edward’s just written a book on the subject. The Colourful Past. Published by Rizzoli and illustrated with Paul Whitbread’s luminous photographs, it takes readers on a tour of Bulmer’s best projects. Before you read it, head behind the scenes at the V&A’s talk on 13 December, which will see Edward and Antiques Roadshow specialist Philip Mould discussing the past, present and future of the country house. Though it’s being held at the museum (you can purchase tickets here), you can also watch a livestream (book here). For more information on The Colourful Past, visit Rizzoli’s website.

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