Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat / Please put a penny in the old man’ hat...so goes the traditional nursery rhyme. The forum events general manager, Sven Crofton shares some of his festive décor philosophy - which is very much rooted in tradition but not stuck in the past.
Where are you going to be spending the festive season this year?
For me Christmas is first and foremost about family and friends. I’m fortunate to have a choice between Johannesburg or Cape Town, where my clan will be.
The festive season has become dominated by endless consumerism and spending ...what do you think of over-styled, extravagant hospitality?
Well I’m all for celebrating the season appropriately and I do think it is an opportunity create something really special. But I’m not of the view that one has to spend a fortune. I think the majority of the budget should be allocated to the best quality food and drinks … fabulous table settings, trees and interiors can be created with creativity and things from your home and cupboards. It is definitely not about hitting the shops and going mad!
Tell us about your fondest Christmas childhood memories.
We celebrated in a traditional way - this meant hauling out the Irish Linen, crystal, family silver and treasured accessories. Christmas was a big, annual event - but the focus was on appreciating the day - giving and receiving gifts - and enjoying the very best home cooked meal with all the trimmings. I don’t see any reason why these values should be changed. But I do think a bit of contemporary flair can be thrown in.
Is fair to say you like to “use what you have” and add a few unique touches?
For sure! Everyone has vases, crockery, candles and containers. I don’t think a theme is necessary . My advice is to keep it clean and simple - avoid using every item or ornament - and add in a touch of luxury with exquisite napery. A great tablecloth is the perfect foundation - it really adds a polished look and feel.
Give us an example of this approach.
Trawl your home and get together everything you think you would like to use. Then put half of that away! Choose a simple, modern colour palette - green and white is lovely, natural and most importantly very doable. Johannesburg has the most glorious gardens - just step outside and cut some garden roses, greenery or even a small branch from a tree. If I need to supplement the florals I like to use chinx, kolkol and fynbos. All of these mix very well with garden foliage. If you are lucky enough to have white hydrangeas in your garden, these will add a wow factor. That’s my my basic strategy.
How would you tackle a contemporary festive look?
Everyone has their own ideas when it comes to entertaining and there are a lot of factors to consider - location, numbers, time of day etc. Sometimes a more pared-back, modern look is the way to go. Maybe go for a runner rather than a full tablecloth. This works well - especially if you have a table you would like to show off. Don’t over-clutter! Try mixing elements and objet - but design an ombre look. This pulls things together without being “matchy matchy”.
Christmas is often all about children, how would you include them in the festivities?
Kids love getting involved and this is an opportunity to create your own family traditions. Crackers mean Christmas. Think about making your own crackers. Kids love crafting and this is a simple activity which the whole family can get involved with. Crackers are also great for adding a pop of colour to your table. Once again this doesn’t have to be a costly exercise - it is about the sharing and the fun. Not about the value of the trinkets inside the crackers.
Tell us about your menu.
The forum company is all about the best quality, local produce. And I use this approach when I put my menu together by sourcing ingredients from sustainable, ethical producers. My favourite part of the meal is the roast potatoes - made with duck fat. I love a good trifle! Trifle is only for Christmas. There is a certain extravagance about a traditional christmas pudding - especially if you add some drama and flambe. There are many up-to-date variations on christmas puddings - any of these work well too. Just make sure you have enough brandy butter.