What guests will and wont notice in your house this Christmas

The secret to entertaining is to expend time and effort on touches guests will notice and forget about those they won’t, says Arabella Youens.

Preparing to receive a large number of friends and family through your door this Christmas? There’s no need to make an already stressful time worse by slaving over endless touches which they wont even notice. Below is our rough guide on what to spend your valuable time on and what to outsource to supermarkets or forget altogether – you deserve a Christmas break too.

Things guests will notice

Flowers in their room

There’s no need to go over the top here, a small gathering is ideal. Pick seasonally – avoid showy hot-house blooms.

New soap in the bathroom

We don’t mean those bars swiped from hotel rooms. Kew Gardens does a range of vegetable soaps in delicious scents that are the perfect size. Throw in some Wiberg’s Pine Bath Essence for extra country-house nostalgia.

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Magazines by the bed

Make sure they are recently published – with the exception of Country Life, which obviously doesn’t have a sell-by date.

An iPhone/Samsung charger to use in their room

It’ll limit the number of phones lying about attached to cables on kitchen surfaces.

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‘Guest bedrooms are a great place to exercise some creative spirit. Because they aren’t in use every day, no one will tire of adventurous colours, wallpapers or patterns,’ says Henriette von Stockhausen, co-founder of VSP Interiors. Her other tips include a soft tension mattress, a fluffy duvet and a usb charging port to avoid adapters for overseas guests. ‘I’m a great believer in flowers by the bed,’ she adds. ‘Use whatever you can find in the garden; if it’s deep winter, choose a few twigs and berries. Another crucial element is a carafe of water.’ · · · ? VSP Interiors @vsp_interiors #vspinteriors #decoratingguestrooms #guestroom #guest #decorating #interiordesign #countrylifeinteriors #interior

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Electric blankets or (non-vintage) hot-water bottles

There’s nothing more comforting than climbing into a ready-warmed bed. Don’t forget to put them on/in before bedtime.

Cocktails before supper

Stock up on gin, vodka and – to be trendy – tequila. Set out lemons and limes and plenty of good-quality tonic and soda (for calorie counters).

Their Christmas card

Remember to place it centre stage (see below for how not to arrange cards).

Really good lighting

It’s a truth, universally acknowledged, that everyone looks better under 20 watts. As a substitute, use plenty of low-level lighting and candles, although don’t forget to blow them all out when you go to bed.

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‘The wrong lighting can ruin a beautiful room in a second’ says Charlotte Crosland. In this week’s Country Life, the interior designer shared with us some of her secrets for good lighting. She recommends planning lighting right at the start of the project, ensuring there’s plenty of wiring to lend flexibility to moving fittings around. For a sitting room, she recommends a pendant light in the centre of the room to avoid recessed ceiling spots, and some sockets in the floor for lamps on side tables, close to seating for reading. For more tips, pick up a copy of this week’s Country Life. · · · ?by Radu Palicica @charlottecrosland #countrylifeinteriors #charlottecrosland #interiordesign #beautifulhomes #countryinteriors #countrylifestyle #countrylife

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Clean silver

Whether you own a little or a lot, it will add instant charm and civility to the table.

Pudding wine

Lend a flourish to the final course. Alternatively, crack open another bottle of prosecco.

Things they won’t notice

An extravagant balustrade garland

They can look gorgeous, but are another element to have to keep an eye on and are too tempting for young children to play with, which invites disaster.

Over-the-top floral centrepieces

Although striking, they can wilt, get in the way or, at worst, set off an allergic reaction.

Christmas decorations at The Vyne, Hampshire.

Christmas cards organised by theme or colour

The easiest way to hang Christmas cards is to slide their backs in between books.

Sparkling-clean windows

The days are so short at this time of year, no one is likely to spend too much time gazing out of the window.

A chocolate soufflé or a homemade Christmas pudding

Outsource these elements to the supermarkets or a local deli.

The absence of starters

Either skip this course or take the easy street option and serve foie gras with good-quality brioche. Or blinis with smoked salmon.

Your best classed-growth claret

At least, not after the third glass.

Expensive brandy on the Christmas pudding

It’s going up in flames, anyway. Opt for Lidl’s best.

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Perfect lighting: What to do, and what not to do to get it right

Interior designer Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors shares her secrets for getting the right lighting.