Designing a Magical Christmas House

September 16, 2019

Designing a Magical Christmas House

Oh, it’s nearly Christmas!

Don’t look at me like that. Okay, it’s still 14 weeks away but that’s only twice as long as the school summer holidays and look how quickly they disappeared!
Alright, maybe it’s just me who’s Mrs Christmas Excitable 2019, but we’ve been thinking about Christmas products all year round and have just finished our best ever range so you might have to forgive me.
So, let me tell you all about them. First thing you need to know is that I have a little bit of a ‘thing’ with tiny houses, intricate doll’s houses, little gingerbread style buildings, basically anything that looks like it could be home to a fairy or elf and I’m on board. I’m sure it speaks to the little girl in me, but those tiny homes really have a magical feel for me – it’s no wonder they are a popular sight in Christmas decorations.
I’ve wanted to design our own for years, but there has always been something in the pipeline that took precedence. This year though, this year we did it!

 

Aren’t they beautiful!
If you haven’t heard me ramble on about wood in a previous blog, then you’ve missed a treat. Here’s a quick summary though about the wood veneers that we use in all our Christmas decorations and wooden products.
We found a brilliant supplier right on our doorstep in Gloucestershire and sometimes we swing past on the school run to collect some wood sheets and other times they drop it round for us as it can be surprisingly heavy in bulk! The veneers they use are all FSC and PEFC certified, the mill themselves get 30% of their power from solar energy, the rest from a green electricity supplier, and they use wood off-cuts to heat the place in winter months. Oh, and by using veneers instead of solid sheets of wood you make the absolute most out of every tree that is felled and still keep that CO2 captured.
Wood delivery day is a very exciting day in the studio because the smell of new wood is something else. When we were choosing which veneers to use, there were three important characteristics. How beautiful the veneer was, how well it cut and engraved, and how it smelt. Cherry wood has a very delicate fragrance, light and kind of fresh. Cedar wood is more earthy and herby. If you’re passing – pop in and have a sniff, see what you think! We love them both and use almost exclusively those two types of wood, so we chose Cherry for these new houses.
As a pale wood it reflects light beautifully so it works brilliantly as a tea light holder. In the low light of the evening it takes on a golden hue, dancing with the flickering candle effect of our LED tea light!
With the wood chosen, we got on with the business of designing. It’s such a process! It normally goes like this:
Betsy: “I have this sort of a shape of an idea in my head, Rachel, can you see inside my head and make it please?”
Rachel: “Um, sure – how about this?”
Betsy: “Uh, well, I kind of meant a bit more like this… (tweak, tweak, nudge, accidentally delete, start again, here’s a sketch I drew on my phone on the tube last week – repeat for about three weeks)
Rachel: “So this then – this is the shape you need – now you add some pretty details”
Betsy: “Brilliant!” (goes crazy with all the personalisations and shapes”
Catherine: “I love this product, but we need to make sure the customer knows what it is and what they can expect every time”
Betsy: “Oh, but Rachel just saw it in my head, will our lovely customers not do the same?”
Catherine: “Well, they might, but just to be on the safe side let’s be a bit clearer. And what size boxes do we need to post them in”
Betsy: “Oh yeah, Santa can’t be relied upon for this job can he?”
I mean, I made it funny for you, but it’s actually not too far removed from the truth. We all bring our unique skills to the designing process and each one is as important as the other. It takes the creative weirdness of me, the spatial and technical skills from Rachel’s brain, and the practicality and grounding from Catherine to bring the dreams to reality. We really are the perfect unit. (Can you feel the love?)

We have three brand new wooden Christmas house for your decorative pleasures!

   
The first is a small hanging Christmas tree ornament. Perfectly sized to hold a single LED tea light. (obviously you’re not going to put a real candle in it, because you are clever and you understand that wood and naked flames are not long term best friends – but I think I have to keep saying LED tea light until I’m blue in the face just in case there happened to be a little too much sherry in the trifle or brandy in the butter, or fizz in your bucks over the festive period – if you know what I mean!)
The gorgeous little hanging house can be personalised with your family name on the wreath on the front door, your house number, your road name and we can even represent the dog or cat or plant in your life with a little illustration of each on the doorstep. In fact, all our houses can be personalised in this way. This little fella is strung with some red dotty ribbon, ready to hang on your tree. The back is open to allow super easy access to turn your light on and off. That was really important to me as I have a few light-up decorations on my tree that require a yogic like mastery to reach the switch once hanging!
We actually designed this house to hold a tea light on the inside, and fit inside a postal box we already had on the outside – because we hate waste and having packaging that is too big for the things they carry. It’s perfect and it comes in a fully recyclable cardboard box.
Our middle sized house can also hold a tea light (LED – obvs -sigh) and this one is a bit bigger and designed not for your tree, but for your mantlepiece or your table centre. The whole body of the house lifts off the base so you can turn the light on and off and there are lots more windows, allowing lots of twinkly light to escape. By the way, if you don’t want to put lights in these, you can be creative and leave wonderful little gifts in there instead. Why not tap into the magic quality of these pretty wooden buildings? My Mum used to pretend that fairies visited my dolls house whilst I was asleep and she’d leave tiny bits of sandwiches and thimbles of lemonade as proof that they had been. It’s still one of the best memories I have of my magical childhood.
  
Then we jump in size to our multi-purpose Christmas Eve box. If you’ve been frozen in carbonite for a few years then you’ll have missed the emergence of the Christmas Eve box. It’s a special little early gift that can be given the night before Christmas when you just can’t wait for the magical day. The best thing about it is there is no age limit, not in our house anyway. I don’t know if this is how it happens in every house, but in our house the Christmas Eve box comes from Mum and Dad, not Santa and actually Mum and Dad get their own boxes too. So, in our boxes go new pyjamas, or new cosy slippers or funky slipper socks. A good book or favourite magazine. Mr Betsy Benn likes Stuff magazine; Betsy Benn junior prefers a Fortnite tips and tricks special. There will be a little chocolate in there, maybe a grown-up miniature beverage too.
But up until this year we didn’t have a box to use. The ones I’d seen were all a bit uninspiring if I’m honest. A lot were cardboard and disposable, and who needs extra cardboard that’s glossy and not easily recycled at Christmas time? Most of the wooden ones we’d seen were very lightweight boxes that all seemed to have been sourced from the same factory in China and just had different things printed or engraved on.
So, really early on we decided that if we were getting into this arena, we wanted to dare greatly and try to make it the best possible Christmas Eve box we possibly could. It had to be big enough for at least a teenagers PJs – as that is what we have now – a teenager, oh Lord, help me. Plus a book or magazine and assorted other goodies. But it couldn’t be too big as it would make the box prohibitively expensive. That gorgeous smelling, beautiful looking, sustainable wood doesn’t grow on trees y’know. And of course, you need to be able to store it for the rest of the year.
The magic quality came back to me as the defining factor in what would make our bespoke Christmas Eve box special and the house design spoke to me immediately. But what would it be like if we could not only personalise the Christmas Eve house box with your name and your address and your pets, but we could also make it look a bit like the actual house you lived in? How would you feel as a 9yr old maybe, opening the Christmas Eve box that looked a bit like your house and had your name on it? And fast forward 16 years, how would that same 9yr old feel, having maybe just moved into their first own home (uni digs didn’t count) and unpacking their childhood home in box form for their first Christmas in their new house? Well, that gave us all the feels. Because, whatever else we hope and we design for, we hope that these boxes will live in your family for a long time and be loved and well used.
So, yes, if you send us a photo of the front of your house, we’ll do our absolute best to represent that in the design of the front of your Christmas Eve box. We can’t build a replica of your exact house. We’d be back in the realms of that being prohibitively expensive again. (But, if you want that, then get in touch and we’ll let you know how much it might cost). But we can put windows in roughly the right place and, the right shape and include an integral garage maybe. If we have any concerns that you won’t see the resemblance then we’ll let you know.
You can, of course, choose to have a generic house design as well and it will be no less magical when you pull open that velvet ribbon and lift out the roof to reveal the presents inside.
And, because beautiful design deserves more than one day a year in the limelight, we made the windows on the front and the stars in the roof and side as cutouts. So when Christmas Eve is over you can fill your box with LED string lights and create a beautiful light-up ornament for the rest of the festive season.
Did I mention how great they all smell?
If you'd like to see some of our other Christmas Tree decorations, why not read this.



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