Gillian Khaw Shares Her Musts for Christmas Styling - The Grace Tales

Gillian Khaw Shares Her Musts for Christmas Styling

As the festive season is now most certainly upon us, we have turned to the experts to share their tips for an expertly decorated home.

First up is Gillian Khaw of renowned Handelsmann & Khaw, who says, “This Christmas, I’ll be inspired by the Cotswolds store of Amanda Cutter Brooks and its charming, nostalgic, granny rural Englishness – think rattan placemats and pitchers of field flowers. I think it’s fun to step outside the pared back modern aesthetic that dictates most of our Australian homes.”

Here’s what she’s planning for Christmas … 


Lauren Santo Domingo’s Instagram is great inspiration for the glamorous ‘tablescape’ (yes, this is a word). An elaborate but not overly formal table setting speaks to a special occasion; it doesn’t hurt to elevate things given our Aussie Christmas is already so casual (the bbq, the thongs).  We like the layering of the dinner plate on the charger plate on the placement. Start your collection here

Brown paper packages

Buy an industrial sized roll of brown wrapping paper that is used for every gift occasion including Christmas. I buy rolls of grosgrain ribbon and little brown cardboard gift tags which the children decorate.


Homemade Christmas crackers are so much more special than receiving yet another set of nail clippers in a pre made cracker. Making them becomes an activity with the children, fill them with things people actually want to keep: stationery from Muji, travel size cosmetics from Aesop, miniature bottles of whisky! 


Nothing beats a real tree and the smell of the pine as you open the front door. If this isn’t possible, then burn the diptyque candle ‘feu de bois’ for the closest thing to a woody smell. 

Christmas cards

I prefer the traditional and preferably the pop-up variety. Try Museum shops like The Met. Or for beautifully engraved ones go to London’s Mount Street Printers. Letterpressed stationery shouldn’t just be for weddings!


A recent purchase was a bamboo handled set of cutlery which a. makes you feel like you’re on holiday and b. transforms the most boring meal into an event. 

Decorating the tree

Traditional, no tinsel. If you can’t get to a Bavarian Christmas market then Käthe Wohlfahrt will send their little wooden nutcracker decorations to Australia, and we also like the selection at Fortnum and Mason.


Do have fake presents a the base of the tree, because it looks naked without and those tree skirts are ugly. Wrap the ‘presents’ in brown paper or handmade marbleised Venetian wrapping paper from Il Papiro.

Flowers and wreaths

Susan Avery florist makes beautiful fresh door wreathes. Many people find big table arrangements annoying and the smell too cloying so try small vases on each table setting with just Christmas bush or a sprig of leaves. 

Tablecloths and napkins

We are liking hand blocked Indian tablecloths and mismatched napkins, Piggotts store in Woollahra has a nice range. Or if pattern is not your thing, we’re loving the ‘cedar’ colour linen napkins at Cultiver.


If you have an alternative to the plain white everyday set, Christmas is the time to use the ‘nice set’ or the ‘weird inherited set’. If you must go white, then the creamware from Frances Palmer Pottery or Astier de Villate is perfection.


Ditch the everyday and go for colourful Murano glass. We’re lusting over these ones from Laguna B at Moda Operandi but any coloured glass will do, there are definitely some great op shop finds.

Guest room

Christmas holidays means guests so make sure the spare bedroom is inviting with a fresh set of white sheets and a yellow cabana stripe beach towel from Eco Down Under and a bedside water carafe from Maison Balzac

Powder room

Don’t neglect to accessorise the room almost definitely visited by all your Christmas guests. Here, you can justify buying the pretty soaps from Santa Maria Novella or Claus Porto. Keep a stack of hand towels ready, we like the waffle ones from Muji.


It's all in the packaging

There’s something extra enticing about a gift identifiable by its beautiful wrapping… The outside is often more thrilling than the contents. Choose these gifts just for their wrapping: notebooks in the signature blue boxes from Smythson, marriage freres teas in a tin from Simon Johnson, chocolate ballerinas from Koko Black, hand cream from Buly 1803.