No one is sure what their Christmas will look like this year. But for Anna Newton, founder of The Anna Edit, things are even more up in the air while she waits to move into her new home.
As her near-half a million followers and subscribers will know, Anna and her husband Mark are living with her parents while they wait to complete. If all goes to plan with the move, Anna tells us, the couple should be in their own place by Christmas.
In the meantime, we challenged Anna to design her perfect Christmas with John Lewis & Partners, from scratch, in a totally empty house. Essentially, it’s a practice run for the real thing.
Anna and Lily Pebbles – her best friend and co-host of their ever popular At Home With podcast – often discuss how their choices for home styling are led more by classic pieces than trends.
That shines through bright and clear in this challenge, as Anna selects her favourite John Lewis tableware pieces from their AW20 range to recreate moments from a classic Newton family Christmas – homemade sausage roll breakfast included. "It’s the ‘I woke up like this’ version of table styling," explains Anna. "It’s not glittery but you still need a bit of shimmer. It is Christmas – you can’t have plain, you need a bit of sparkle in there."
Of the stylish, modern tableware options in the range, Anna has gone for the understated Christmas pieces that she could see herself putting to use for the rest of the year, too: like the chic gold update on classic cutlery. "It’s very simple, timeless – the stuff you’ll have for Christmas for the next 10 years," she says.
And then, of course, there’s a foil-filled bauble: a showstopper of a tree ornament because "it’s not sparkly, it’s almost like a Christmassy take on leopard print." Anna and leopard print – more on that later.
Anna has a small family and her only sister is in New Zealand, so Christmas is an intimate and laid-back affair with close relatives gathering around the (Anna-styled) table for the languid Christmas lunch. The tablescape is as much of a talking point before the food arrives as when everyone is tucking in, and that’s celebrated in this John Lewis challenge with carefully crafted place settings. Crackers are replaced with a single foliage stem for an Insta-worthy finish.
Without any little people around, the Newton family relish the opportunity to have a totally indulgent, grown-up Christmas. "We’re all in our late 20s and early 30s and no one has kids, so it’s very much food, games and cocktails," explains Anna. "I think there’s probably a lot of people who fall into this category – you’re old enough that you have your own place but no one has kids yet."
They still play plenty of games come the evening though, with Anna and her entire family having to be careful things don’t get too heated. "Everyone in my family is so competitive. And actually, reflects Anna, "we often have to place everyone and keep certain people apart so it’s fair!"
The grown-up theme runs into Anna’s whole aesthetic – a white marble serving board is another of her John Lewis pieces, a simple piece that will fit with her own minimalist style whether brought out for breakfast or the cheese course. Equally, a slate mezze set, perched on a side table with nibbles for visiting friends and family.
Followers of her various social media accounts will know Anna likes to dress in monotones as well as style with them – with a very healthy dose of the aforementioned leopard print – a relaxed, playful vibe that is easy to relate to.
Anna dates this strong sense of style to an early age, when she first realised her family weren’t quite decorating the tree how she wanted. "We all used to do it, then one year – I must have been 11 – I was like, you know what, we’re not doing the homemade pasta decorations anymore. Take me to a shop, we’re going to do this properly," Anna laughs. "My parents must have thought, Who is this precocious child!"
To this day, nothing is left to chance; fastidious in everything she does, Anna’s Christmas will be planned to perfection. She even knows where the tree is going to go. "I think for some people, decorating the Christmas tree is a real bonding thing," reflects Anna. "But I like it to be a lone activity, for myself. I am very much a perfectionist, if someone is coming for Christmas I want it to look like a catalogue!"
Moving into a bigger space presents some challenges though, with more rooms to fill and more space to style. "I think we’ll focus on making the front room really cosy, it’s already got a wood burner in it. We’ll probably have a Christmas tree in there but be quite low key everywhere else."
And then there’s the table and serveware. "When we moved into the old flat we just bought what we needed, but we dropped a lot of the older stuff that we didn’t love off at charity shops, and I can’t wait to start from scratch," explains Anna, who also chose jewel-green ribbed glasses for the John Lewis challenge, perhaps a pre-emptive move to building her own selection of homeware. "The goal for me is to increase my serveware collection, I don’t want to be serving Christmas dinner in roasting tins. It’s like, this is 30, I don’t want chipped plates anymore."
On Christmas Day you’ll find Anna keeping everyone’s drink topped up with a killer cocktail. "We always have menus but everyone goes off-piste," she laughs. Last year’s sell-out favourite was a Snowball – so popular that they ran out of the key creamy liqueur ingredient. "It’s my dad’s favourite drink, it’s so '80s – everyone else was having G&Ts and my dad started a trend with this bright yellow drink!"
Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without some family traditions. And while Anna’s mum politely suggested that they might be too old for stockings when her sisters were in their 20s and not living at home, they still make sure there’s plenty of opportunity for sock gifting with the help of a Secret Santa.
This year, things may be a little different though. Anna leans forward conspiratorially so her mum can’t hear from the other room. "I’m under strict instructions this year to buy no gifts but she can’t stop me, I love buying gifts! I think I’ll just get her a little something." Now that’s the spirit.
Listen to Anna and Lily Pebbles discuss the Christmas challenge on their John Lewis & Partners episode of the At Home With podcast.
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