Christmas in Colour: Butter Wakefield

Each December, celebrated garden designer Butter Wakefield transforms her West London home into a candy-colored jewel box of Christmas cheer
pink Christmas tabletop and kitchen decor by Butter Wakefield. KITCHEN - PINK TABLECLOTH, CANDLES, TULIPS, ANEMONES, RANUNCULUS
Butter Wakefield’s Christmas table mingles opulence and affability through a color combination that reads festive and fun.

Decorating the house for Christmas is a little like baking with small children—it sounds like a tender, beautiful experience but in reality demands the mental fortitude of a Navy Seal and a really good broom. There’s a lot of nostalgia, tradition, and expectation wrapped up in those nativity sets and tangled bundles of Christmas lights. Delivering the goods year after year can be daunting and, for even the merriest among us, take on a formulaic rigidity. So, what a thrill to witness the way Butter Wakefield, the award-winning, Baltimore-born, London-based garden designer, decks her own halls for the holidays, in a wild, joyous mash-up of color. Like the Wise Men departing from Bethlehem, Wakefield shows us an alternative route.

pink Christmas flower arrangement. (Right) portrait of garden designer Butter Wakefield
(Left) Pink anemones in her beloved lusterwares. (Right) Butter and her Border Terrier Wafer in front of her home, Ravenscourt Park.

“I am properly obsessed with Christmas decorating,” says Butter from her home in the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood of West London. “I long for the day when my four children say, ‘Mommy, don’t worry about the presents, just go totally overboard on the decorations and the food.’ ” While her children (all grown up now) may not have reached that conclusion just yet (“they still love their hand-stitched needlepoint stockings that took me two years each to make”), Butter still takes a maximalist approach.

In the drawing room, a vase of paperwhites and large arrangements “jammed with greenery” are among the designer’s favorites.

Starting in December, she drapes fairy lights in the garden and hosts wreath-making workshops for friends and clients at her kitchen table. Using natural materials like twigs, lichen, cypress, and eucalyptus, her creations have a rangy, rustic charm. “I like them to be really hairy and wonderful,” laughs Butter, whose personality exudes a wonderful bicameralism—an American sunny, optimistic can-do spirit infused with a Brit’s wit and way with words. “You won’t find a spray-painted acorn or roll of cinnamon anywhere here. I need something much fresher.”

kissing ball, paperwhites
(Left) One of Butter’s kissing balls in the foyer. (Right) Simple paperwhites are elevated on a gorgeous Mason’s Ironstone platter.

Along with the wreaths, kissing balls, and buckets full of greenery throughout the house, Butter introduces what she lovingly calls clashy colors. “I’m not really a red, gold, and green kind of girl,” she says. On December 22 she goes to the market and buys bunches of pink anemones, orange tulips, and paperwhites, which fill her gorgeous collection of pink lusterware. “I think Christmas is one of the times of year when you really should get out your best bits of china and use it. I love to set the table for fun and with color,” she says.

The mantel, full of greenery, candles, and natural materials, has a rustic charm.

Besides the lusterware, Butter’s home brims with other collections—framed botanicals in the kitchen, white and black Staffordshire dog figurines, vibrant art on the walls. “I feel what really makes a house a home are those found objects,” says the designer. “I’m very keen that the house is not full of bought standard items. Things with a bit of character, things that are a bit old and unmatched are more interesting,” she says.

front door wreath; (right) sunroom with black-and-white checkerboard floors
(Left) One of Butter’s hand-tied wreaths. (Right) The conservatory, with views of the garden, is painted a soothing gray with strong accents of green.

To be sure, Butter’s penchant for organic, wild greenery and flamboyant color combinations should not be mistaken for a kind of aesthetic gluttony. As with her award-winning garden design, which embraces whimsy within the confines of strictly edited structure, Wakefield’s interiors have a purposeful coherence. (Before studying landscape architecture, the designer worked at Christie’s and Colefax and Fowler.)  Black-and-white linoleum tiles serve as the foundation for the first floor, with gray paint in the drawing room that makes everything else pop. The color green infuses each room through fabrics, drapery, wallpaper, and accent paint (this is a garden designer’s home, after all, and “green just makes you feel better”).

Blue and green ornaments on a Christmas tree; yellow-orange tulips in a vase
(Left) The acid-green ribbon is from Tobias and the Angel, one of Butter’s favorite shops. (Right) Orange tulips, candlesticks, and citrus dazzle against the pink tablecloth.

Wakefield has lived in her home, Ravenscourt Park, for nearly three decades. It has seen her through the raising of four children, a burgeoning business, a divorce, and a new chapter of independence and success. “I’ve lived in this house for 28 years, and I’ve been busy making it my own ever since,” says Butter. Christmas at Ravenscourt Park, with its wild kissing balls and clashy colors, may break a lot of rules, but Butter casts a spell that is warm, authentic, generous, and joyous—the crux of Christmas in unexpected wrapping.

Christmas flower arrangements; (right) pomegranates
(Clockwise from above left) Silver mint julep cups full of nodding Lenten roses beside Christmas greenery. • A bowl of pomegranates at the table. • A handmade fairy sits at the top of the Christmas tree. • Pink anemones add a note of luxury and drama.
pink anemone; (right) Christmas tree topper

By Kirk Reed Forrester | Photographed by Clive Nichols


This story originally appeared in Flower magazine’s Nov/Dec 2020 issue. Subscribe to the magazine or sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Flower magazine November December 2020 cover