DESIGN PROJECT: Ercol Style Pod, Christmas 2020
The ultimate relaxed Christmas dining table – with ideas to steal.
How I partnered with Ercol to create a contemporary, luxe, inspiring and achievable Christmas dining room that's perfect for intimate celebrations.
By Nicki Bamford-Bowes @andthentheywentwild
Photography: Lol Johnson Photography @still_loljohnsonphotography
This year marks the 100th anniversary of British heritage furniture brand Ercol. To celebrate, the company has launched a Trend Pod in its beautiful new showroom. Here, interior stylists will be invited to showcase Ercol's modern yet timeless furniture in spaces that reflect their own personal style.
I was honoured to be the first stylist invited to create a room for Ercol and delighted to design and decorate a dining room for Christmas, my favourite time of year.
We all know Christmas will be different this year. Instead of a whirl of parties, travel or big family gatherings, it's going to be a season to rest and reflect and look forward to the promise of next year. But that doesn't mean it can't be special. In fact, in many ways, Christmas has never felt so precious. Scroll through Instagram, and you'll see that many of us started putting up decorations in November, craving the joyful light and colour of the season.
During lockdown, our homes have become the most important place for us. They have become our workplaces, the gym, a restaurant, even a school. And our dining tables have been central to all that activity. In many ways, it's been exhausting. So, now, more than ever, it's time to clear away that laptop, mute the Zoom, put away the homework books and reclaim the joy and simplicity of being with people we love.
This is why, when Ercol gave me the freedom to create any room using its iconic furniture, I chose to focus on the dining room. I immediately knew that my design concept would be 'Reconnecting & Reigniting'. I wanted to style an intimate, cosy setting around a dining table. To design a place where people could be together to eat, talk, laugh and celebrate, knowing that better times are coming.
Inspired by Ercol's love of natural, sustainable materials and artisan craftsmanship, I opted to create a warm, nature-inspired room, featuring with my signature floral statements, deep, warm colours, hand-made pieces and cossetting textures. Yet the space is also made festive, modern and optimistic with the luxe glamour of mirrors, sparkling pink glass and gleaming brass.
A cloud of natural greenery, made even more beautiful with pink and red flowers, lights and hand-blown glass baubles, hovers over the table. This is a modern and dramatic alternative to traditional garlands and wreaths. A linen tablecloth adds casual, modern luxury and candlelight makes everything magical.
My trademark panelling, painted in eco-friendly paint, hugs the walls, surrounding and embracing the people within. This contemporary space is designed to be beautiful, bold, comforting and inspiring.
It was also created to be equally inviting into the New Year and beyond. Switch the tablecloth, pack away the baubles for next year and fill the greenery with spring flowers, and this room will come to epitomise the optimism and promise of springtime.
Ercol's Corso dining table is the hero piece of the room. In a lighter wood, this elegant design with its A-framed legs has a beautiful Scandi feel. I chose the darkened finish for this cosy, intimate space. It is interesting to see how something as small as a different tone of wood can create an entirely different vibe. I also liked that this table came with a matching bench, the Corso bench in dark. I have a bench at my dining table at home. Its low profile gives a simple, uncluttered look yet also allows plenty of room for my whole family to gather.
I fell in love with the comforting curves of Ercol's Lugo dining armchair. While it's not strictly part of the same range as the table, this chair's mid-century elegance, A-frame legs and the deep, rich-toned tulipwood frame provided a perfect complement to the table. It's also extremely comfortable.
Behind the table is the Lugo Open Shelving Unit. This gives a strong vertical accent to the room and precious space to display beautiful items, including oversize baubles and glistening glassware. A red marble-based light also found a home here. This luxurious piece echoes the mid-Century theme and adds a note of opulence. The opal shade lends a pool of soft light to this otherwise dark corner. Even though this dining scene was created in a showroom, I wanted it to have the feel of a real home with lovely things on show. It can be challenging to hit that sweet spot between too many and too few objects on display, but when the items are as beautiful as this, it's hard to go wrong.
For the table setting, I combined informality with a soft linen tablecloth which was left gently crumpled – this is one Christmas when nobody has to try too hard. In this fantasy dining room, plump, sumptuous cushions in jewel-toned luxury velvet have just been gifted. They will no doubt find their way to a sofa later. Maybe once these exquisite artisan earthenware plates have been tidied away.
I've included accessories in shades of green. This is a traditional Christmas colour which also suggests spring. Pink and green is a colour combination I love and return to again and again.
My greenery cloud is a contemporary feature that is a twist on the Christmas tradition of bringing nature indoors. Hanging garlands and wreaths over a table give a sense of occasion, but I wanted a more free-form shape. This 'cloud' was created by genius florist @yolandachiaramello and suspended created with a cloud-shaped base out of chicken wire to insert and style the flowers from.
Flower details: Amaranthus in purple and biscuit colour. Limonium (also known as Sea lavender) in pink and reddish pink. Bracken. Rainbow foliage – Heather. Dried berried eucalyptus. Rosehips. Dried beech leaves.
Panelling was created simply by using half-round mouldings pinned to the wall with a nail gun. I love panelling because it is a fast and easy way to give plain walls texture and simple elegance. By opting for horizontal rather than vertical panels, the walls appear to hug the space creating a warm, embracing atmosphere.
I painted the upper part of the walls with a natural, eco-friendly paint in Marrakesh by Bauwerk. This is a limestone sediment wash which can give the illusion of bare, unvarnished plaster. I loved the depth, heart and soul this unique product gave to the showroom's previously featureless walls.
For the panelling, I chose Adventurer by Little Greene Paint Company. The deep, earthy red grounds the room and suggests the cosiness of winter, while the pink is redolent of the freshness of spring.
Wall lights are like accessories – use them as pictures, as beautiful objects in their own right. These simple, retro-styled examples, Hoxton Wall – from CTO Lighting from are gorgeous. The ribbed antique brass echoes the ribbing of the panelling and the candlesticks. Repeating textures in a room can be as effective as using colours as a way to tie a room's decor together.
The light is reflected against the wall. This gives a glow that flatters everyone in the room. Lights at eye level can be dazzling, especially if you are sitting opposite them. Wall lights avoid this issue. The art deco style is a gentle nod to Ercol's 1920s heritage.
Ercol's Ore side tables come in different heights and different finishes. I particularly loved the Lamp Table, with its slim, tall base. I've used it as the perfect spot for some Christmas bubbles. It's teamed with the Ore side coffee table and Ore side table. Groups of three also work well when styling your home.
The glossy round wall mirror contrasts with the plaster-effect wall, bringing a note of festive sparkle while keeping the mood relaxed. I chose a soft, rose-tinted glass to keep the feel low-key and subtle – plus it's very flattering.
The decanter and pink champagne coupes have gorgeous curves. I love the delicate detail of the twisted stems of the glasses and the ribbing on the decanter. They both glisten glamorously by candlelight. It is Christmas, after all.
Set design and styling: by me, Nicki Bamford-Bowes, & then they went wild @andthentheywentwild
Corso Dining table in dark
Corso Bench in dark
Lugo Dining armchair
Lugo Open shelving unit
Thank you to all brand partners.
Limewash paint: Marrakesh by Bauwerk