getting ready for christmas with my girlfriend marie paule

by Sharon Santoni


Christmas is only just around the corner and I have a list of good intentions that I wanted to share with you.   The past few months have been way too busy finishing the writing on my next book updating the website and of course preparing the launch of my subscription boxes (so excited about that!).  I have had less time for myself and for my home.

But now we’re at the 1st December the countdown is real.    The book is out of my hands now as it goes into production and I have more time to prepare for christmas and prepare  myself a little before the party season starts.


As we lead up to Christmas I asked my French girlfriend Marie-Paule Faure how she will be decorating this year, and whether she does a little detox before the holidays.   Marie-Paule has worked for many years as a stylist for prominent French home decor magazines and she has a great eye, and shares my love of country living.   I thought you may like to hear what she had to answer.  All the pictures are hers.

Bonjour Marie Paule, thank you for coming over today.   Can you tell us a little about how you prepare your house for Christmas?

Bonjour Sharon, thank you so much for inviting me on your lovely blog.   As for the Christmas decorations, I never plan things much in advance. Perhaps because of my job as a decoration stylist, I have been used of finding ideas sometimes at the last minute and I always enjoyed this challenge. I like the idea of managing with what I have at home and just a few purchases.

How do you like to lay your Christmas table?

I always start from a color. It’s really one of my favorite sources of inspiration. I am found of pastel colours, white, grey, light green, and they are lovely for Christmas tables. I also love to use touches of gold and silver, which immediately bring the feeling of something both elegant and luxurious. Last year I chose a very Nordic blue/grey, this year I think it will be a mix of light green and silver. I think!!..

christmas table laid in gold and grey

 Do you change your decorations each year, or do you love to re-use old traditional ornaments?

Both. I still have ornaments from my childhood and my daughter’s, but every year, I buy a few new ones, according to the colour, the style I chose.

Do you prefer the evening of the 24th or the day of the 25th December?

The 24th is more formal, it’s for the décor, the dinner, I tend to want everything to be perfect (though I have improved with the years!! I am much more relaxed today!!).  But the 25th in the morning, I let it go!! It’s the children’s and grandchildren’s day, and I love the mess of wrapping papers everywhere, toys, chocolate stains on children’s pyjamas. And a messy buffet lunch with all the leftovers of the evening before, with everyone picking what they want, any way, until four o’clock in the afternoon. And small children falling asleep, exhausted, with their new soft toys on the living room couch.

dessert ready for the christmas table

Do you decorate the whole house or simply around your table?

Mostly the table, since entertaining has always been my favorite topic. In my work and in « real life ». But I like to decorate a few spots in the house, the top of the fireplace, the stair, mostly with candles and greenery. Again, it’s very simple, very spontaneous.

And of course a Christmas tree, I like them as simple as possible. Sometimes, I try to overcome my taste for perfection, by letting my grandchildren do it. The result is sometimes… let’s say ‘strange’, but I love it, and never change anything.


 You are a very attractive, very French looking lady, can you tell us in a few words how you look after yourself, and whether you do anything in particular leading up to the festive season?

Thank you Sharon!!! I usually have a healthy-mainly veggie, organic way of eating, like most French women I know. Without any efforts since I love this kind of Food. But I sometimes indulge myself with « forbidden food », mostly cheese, which can drive me crazy and ‘gâteaux’. I love to bake, I love sugar.

When I feel I overstepped the limits -or when my weighing scale calls me to order- I stop eating anything with cream, cheese or sugar and only have a bowl of soup for dinner for a few days.  It usually re-establishes the balance. I try never to look at diets as a pressure, a punishment. Food is really something very cheerful to me. So is cooking.

tea time on a festive table

 And finally, I understand that you hold small ateliers at your home, can you tell us what kind of thing you teach?

Rather than « teaching », I like the idea of sharing with my guests what 25 years of work for decoration magazines, clients or brands taught me. The theme of ‘Mes petits ateliers’ is entertaining. I take them to the flower market to buy flowers, then we go back home, make flower arrangements, decorate the table and finally have brunch together.

The theme is always the main aspect of my work, how to make the everyday life a little more beautiful with, whenever possible, what I have to hand plus a few affordable purchases.

A big MERCI to Marie Paule….. hope you found her words and pictures inspiring

for more of her photos click here

gift on plate at christmas table

Photos by JB Pellerin, white cake photo by Louis GaillardEnregistrer




Taste of France December 1, 2016 - 8:54 am

These gorgeous photos are as elegant as your friend Marie Paule herself. I have the impression there’s such a frenzy about Christmas preparations, from shopping to decorating, and Marie Paule, in typical French style, is calm, understated, restrained. In a word, sane. It sounds like she knows what counts, which is family time.

Karen T. December 1, 2016 - 11:02 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this post and hope you will do more.

Our French Oasis December 1, 2016 - 11:09 am

She has just described our Christmas! Only ours is a day later! We stick to the English way of celebrating on Christmas day. The morning is about the children and stockings, followed by a slightly more formal lunch and then the afternoon is all about presents and paper! The next day, Boxing Day is just like Marie Paule’s Christmas Day, this is when we invite friends to join us, (I love introducing French friends to Boxing Day!) we have a big buffet of leftovers, children play, it’s all very festive but very casual.

Trish December 1, 2016 - 11:31 am

A lovely interview with a very lovely-sounding French woman.

Julie Robertson January 7, 2020 - 2:05 pm

Hi Sharon
After a busy Christmas & New Year I have given myself a quiet time to read this interview with
Marie Paule, a true stylist. Thank you for this post.

Hegdorka December 1, 2016 - 12:28 pm

We get and unpack the presents always on 24th evening and have a formal diner late evening.
On 25th the family is together again for an informal lunch and a typical walnut or poppy filled rolled cake. These are made for Christmas and Easter feast only.(with a long discussion how they were made and if they succeded this year or were better last year or not.)
Love from the Puszta in Hungary: Dorka

judy December 1, 2016 - 1:46 pm

My life has become so hectic recently and sadly our Dog was so bady injured he had to be put down. In 57 years of marriage it is an experience we have had to deal with in the past but always so difficult. While reading your post and admiring the simple yet so pretty decorations I actually felt a kind of relaxing of my very tense self and Remembered to appreciate Life in Peace and not so busy with too much that just is not all that important. It was like taking a very deep breath and feeling the weight of worry lift and let calmness prevail. Thank You…I needed this reminder

Valorie December 1, 2016 - 4:48 pm

I am so very sorry about your dog. May he/she rest in peace. May your memories comfort you in the days ahead. Sending love…

Colleen Taylor December 1, 2016 - 4:36 pm

These photos are so soft, serene & elegant. I love the white, silver & the gold packages. She’s quite the classic beauty. What a wonderful post of your friend Sharon.

Caroline Longstaffe December 1, 2016 - 4:44 pm

A beautiful interview wit a clearly delightful French lady! Thank you so much for sharing, I love this special time of year, the preparation and decorating being my favourite. Happy Christmas!

Nella December 1, 2016 - 8:37 pm

Sharon, I think this post is just lovely, as I get ready to begin my own Christmas decor….soft, simple, elegant…not overdone just so lovely…truly an inspiration ! Thank you for a look at a beautiful friend with exquisite taste..N.

Vicky from Athens December 1, 2016 - 10:30 pm

What a beautiful lady Marie-Paule is – stylish and elegant, for sure! And what beautiful blue eyes she has! Her photos are lovely. I’d love to visit her home at Christmas to take away some of her ideas. Everything looks exquisite yet simple and understated. I wish I could pull that off!
I signed up for information about your subscription boxes, by the way. Can’t wait to hear about them! And a new book? I don’t remember you mentioning a new book . . . well, I hope your next book tour brings you back to Atlanta!

Olga@Peaceful Mothering December 2, 2016 - 5:07 am

Mmmmm…. such beautiful photos and what an inspiration Marie Paule is, thank you for sharing them with us, Sharon. So elegant and beautiful. This is totally my style :).

I am so intrigued about the subscription boxes and new book, wonderful!!!

Michele December 2, 2016 - 12:58 pm

What a wonderful post! It exudes not just beauty, but a serenity and peace I was craving. I wish you could bottle it. Merci!Merci!

franki December 2, 2016 - 4:49 pm

Heart warmth with beauty! franki

Sylvie December 12, 2016 - 4:08 pm

A beautiful post ! Thank you. Sylvie

Brin de broc December 12, 2016 - 10:45 pm

Marie-Paule is really an exemple for me and she is so generous and talented !
One day i’m sure I will meet het and it will be a great pleasure !
(Sorry for my bad english…)

Paula December 13, 2016 - 5:50 pm

What a beautiful and elegant lady Marie-Paule is, and what sophisticated style she has. A wonderful read as always.

Una Tavola di Natale Campagne Chic | Shabby Chic Mania by Grazia Maiolino December 3, 2021 - 10:51 am

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