Home Styling at Christmas with Country Homes & Interiors Magazine

home styling at christmas country homes interiors magazine

Home styling at Christmas with Country Homes & Interiors Magazine at Stonor Park.

I exhibited at the Country Homes & Interiors magazine Christmas Fair last weekend in Henley on Thames and I absolutely loved it – I won their award for Garden Product of the year 2017. I was fortunate to meet Holly and Andrea from the magazine who shared the design inspiration for this year’s room set, which I will let you in on.

country homes interiors christmas decorations room set

There’s usually extra visitors in our homes this time of year, so to make everyone feel welcome, it’s lovely to add accessories and festive decorations for some cosiness and style to your living rooms. Their overall theme was fresh botanicals, heritage prints and frosted greens – all very appropriate for Border in a Box styling.

Country Homes & Interiors Christmas Fair 2019 – mood board by Nikki Hollier

Home styling Christmas ideas mood board country homes interiors christmas

The main room set had a cosy real fire by Charnwood with comfy armchairs and tactile throws. A large mirror adorns the wall above the fire with natural decorations of oversized branches and trailing ivy decorated with baubles and fir cones.

Top tip – update your room with velvet cushions, which are super tactile and are more cost effective than buying new sofas and chairs

The theme was carried through to the dining room and I loved the small Christmas trees in wicker baskets, simply decorated with paper honeycomb baubles and white lights. There were several of them – one on the sideboard and one on the floor in addition to the main Christmas tree.

dining table christmas country homes interiors

Photo of main table and hanging hula-hoops

The main table included botanical print runners, more foliage, with accents of berry baubles. This was replicated on the coffee table using eucalyptus (which smells fabulous) and brass and glass ornaments. The tableware was by Maxwell & Williams with simple white platters and bowls shown off with charcoal coloured plates and stemless glasses.

Above the table there were hanging brass coloured hula-hoops with green foliage wrapped around them and hung using velvet ribbon. These could also be used as door welcome wreaths too.

Top tip – use metallic washi tape to decorate terracotta flowerpots and fill with sprigs of foliage and/or fir cones and place on shelves and sideboards in groups of odd numbers.

The main wall had a montage of William Morris wallpaper. William Morris was a British textile designer, associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production in the 1800’s. If you do an internet search you will see his amazing designs.

coffee table christmas country homes interiors

Coffee table decorated to match the dining table

Stonor Park – The House

In the main house at Stonor Park, the doorway had a striking entrance with square planters either side of the door which contained lots of greenery including mistletoe, trailing ivy and multi-coloured twigs to give some height and drama!

Stonor Park christmas decorations front door

Once inside the door, the bannister surrounding the stairs was also decorated with sprays of greenery with clear glass baubles containing tealights hanging with multi-coloured ribbon. This idea would also work well on a mantelshelf – although it needs to be out of the way of the fire.

Stonor Park hallway bannister christmas decorations

Stonor park fireplace christmas decorations

The hallway led onto the room where the floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree was – WOW – I wasn’t expecting it. It was absolutely beautiful and decorated in a traditional and simple way.

christimas tree Stonor Park

Onwards to the Dining Room where Country Homes & Interiors had styled the table with a modern twist. Lots of natural seedheads and grasses grouped in vases placed on wooden slices with navy and charcoal coloured baubles hanging from twisted willow branches.

Stonor Park christmas dining table country homes interiors

The table was lit with hurricane vases and large candles and tealights which created a lovely glow along the linen tablecloth. The eucalyptus and echinops (commonly known as globe thistles) dried flowerheads weaved amongst the vases which added further texture and colour.

hurricane lamp dining table country homes interiors

country homes interiors dining table christmas decorations

As you can see it’s all natural and easy to re-create in your own home. If you don’t have foliage from your own garden, it can be easily purchased in either fresh or dried bunches from your local florist. Hopefully that has inspired you to create beautiful focal points throughout your home this wintertime.

Join my Garden Lovers Club – https://borderinabox.com/join-garden-lovers-club/ for ideas and inspiration for your home and garden.

Subscribe to Country Homes & Interiors magazine – https://bit.ly/35U3EC5



End of year review 2017 – the good, the bad, & the ugly!

starting & running a business


When I worked for a large company I always had an end of year appraisal to review the past year and see what was good, not so good, and create the plans and targets for the following year.  I always found them painful as they were so judgemental, but now I’m my own boss, I enjoy the process of looking back, reviewing what happened, the lessons learned and how to improve/grow for the coming year. It is so important to do this.

The idea for my business started several years ago when I moved into a new build property and had a garden that was turfed and surrounded by a wooden fence. It was soulless, boring, and uninspiring yet I had zero funds to do anything interesting with it. There must be thousands of people in the same boat so the seed was sown to create a business to solve the problem.  I retrained as a garden designer, left my corporate job, and started my business. So now I create planting plans for anyone who wants to create a pretty garden but doesn’t have the time, knowledge, or resources to do it themselves.

In 2017, I launched Border in a Box in March via Amazon Launchpad, with five ready-made garden designs, each in their own attractive tin box – perfect for any gift such as house warming, birthday, wedding, retirement etc.

Border in a Box gift tins

First steps

The process to get to this point was incredible and so rewarding.  I worked with a professional branding expert who designed the packaging. I spent many months creating the contents, working on planting plans, layouts, and choosing photos. I had no idea how long it would take to do each of these tasks. It was imperative to outsource those I wasn’t experienced in to create the space for those I was good at and to ensure the product was of a professional standard. It was overwhelming (and wonderful) when I saw my ideas turning into a physical product.

I was accepted by Amazon Launchpad (their program for start-ups like me). I thought it would be amazing and the orders would roll in. I had no concept of SEO at this point. Trying to understand how Amazon’s algorithms work and how to get the products and my business noticed are still baffling to me.  Needless to say, being lumped in with 116,000 products under the search term ‘gardening gifts’ it is tricky to stand out and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to pay Amazon to get my product onto the first page of search results.

At the time when I was launching, I got contacted by Dragons’ Den and asked to apply to the show – (see separate blog about this https://borderinabox.com/dragons-den-audition/).  This opportunity was out of the blue and added to the pressure of my product launch.

Building the brand

The next step was to get Border in a Box (BiaB) noticed in a crowded market place.  It was unique so people didn’t know how to search for it, or find the solution to their problem. This meant a whole lot of learning as I knew nothing about how to match search terms and questions to Border in a Box products and how best to market the business and use PR to get it noticed.

I quickly learned that traditional advertising is costly, especially when you have a minimal budget.  Trying to work out the Return on Investment (ROI) before parting with my cash was impossible.  These aren’t mistakes either; just part of the business journey.

So, I got started building my brand.

  • I write a monthly gardening article for a local newspaper, The Pershore Times, http://www.pershoretimes.co.uk/.
  • I joined a PR group by Janet Murray – whose insights and training have been invaluable to me. I’ve been featured in glossy magazines such as Period Living, Healthy, Modern Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Good Housekeeping, and Red and also in local & regional newspapers such as Birmingham Post, Worcester News, and the Evesham Journal.
  • I’ve done countless interviews and contributed to articles for Enterprise Nation, Flymo, and ACID + many more.
  • I regularly post on social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
  • I write a monthly newsletter.
  • I’ve also had sales tables at networking events.

Again, this all takes time and effort creating regular content.

To increase my business profile I applied for ‘Garden Product of the Year’ by Country Homes & Interiors magazine and won! The prize included a feature in their magazine plus mentoring by the owner of Garden Trading, which has been fantastic.

Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I also was shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year by NatWest which was hard to believe so early in my product’s life.  I met some very inspiring people such as Leanne Bonner-Cook, who has just been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours which is incredible and I’m over the moon for her.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I got chatting with one of the judges who initially was very helpful, but the conversation quickly started to get very uncomfortable with his ‘interrogation’ style of conversation. He asked me why I called my business BiaB and I told him the story. He hated all of it and couldn’t understand why or what I was doing. He became very animated and quite intimidating which was a shock as we were at a social gathering.  I replied that Alan Titchmarsh loves BiaB (which is true and is a story for another day!). This stopped him in his tracks for a millisecond. I had no idea who this person was and assumed he must have had an amazing business that he created from scratch and had sold it for millions. I read his biography the next day and there was no mention that he had ever started his own business, but interestingly it says, “And if you don’t know the answer don’t try and fluff him through something vague, he’ll tear you to pieces!”.  No kidding! It was the worst experience so far – I seriously considered giving up at that point. However, I knew I had a great product which many people love so onwards and upwards.

Great British Entrepreneur Awards

Extending the range

At the same time, I launched 2 more designs (making 7 in total), created a new website, became a Not On The High Street partner, and sold via the gift shop at St Peters Garden Centre and the Walled Garden at Croome.

I also had a garden design office at a local garden centre every weekend which gave me the opportunity to talk to people about their gardens and find out what they liked and disliked. I loved helping them create borders and containers with colour, texture, and plants they would never have considered before which they really valued, but didn’t pay for the help as they felt it was all ‘part of the service’ by the garden centre. It was a loss-leader but I learned so much.

Here’s my design studio that I created from an unused garden building at the garden centre – some elbow grease and paint makes a massive difference:-

Design centre at St Peters Garden Centre

interior garden design studio at St Peters Garden Centre


Lessons learned

It has been an incredible, amazing, awesome year so here are my top tips for anyone starting out.

  1. Time – I found that everything takes longer than I expected. My advice is to allow triple the amount of time to complete a task as something always happens mid-way through!
  2. Outsource – you can’t do everything yourself to a professional standard, so buy in expertise and outsource the tasks you’re not as good at as it will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Training – you will realise there are things you don’t like doing or are rubbish at so enrol on training to learn how to do them and improve your skills. Never stop learning. I’ve signed up for a content marketing course to help develop my blogging skills.
  4. Money – you can never have enough! There are always items to spend your money on which you hadn’t anticipated at the outset and cashflow is critical so also think about when you need to spend.
  5. Criticism – you need to develop a skin as thick as a rhino. It happens, so learn how to pick yourself up and take whatever lessons you can and stay true to your vision. Also ensure you build a network of like-minded people you can talk to.
  6. Opportunities – say yes to everything! You never know what opportunities it will create further down the line
  7. Give back. I love helping people and I became a mentor for Viewvo https://www.viewvo.com/ to help others who want to leave corporate life and change careers.
  8. Balance – there is good and bad in every situation – it’s all about balance. Sometimes you need to look deeper to find the good in some situations. It will all pass eventually.
  9. Development – I visit trade shows and garden shows to develop ideas and network.
  10. Be prepared for your business taking over your life – you will think about your business 24/7. This means some friends will naturally fall by the wayside but you will also meet and make some new and extraordinary new friends and acquaintances.
  11. Take care of yourself – burnout is easy when you’re trying to keep all the plates spinning

What’s in store for 2018…

More of the same really but I’ve got plans to develop my product range further.  I’ll be off to meet Theo Paphitis in February as he hosts an annual event for all the winners of his program to help small businesses. Most importantly, I will carry on helping people create their own beautiful borders from Border in a Box. Why not join them – https://borderinabox.com/shop/

Theo Paphitis small business Sunday

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Nikki HollierFounder of Border in a Box
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Nikki Hollier Border in a Box


Border in a Box awards


as seen in magazines

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