Steph Virgo’s house is getting dressed early for Christmas and even from the outside, bathed in winter sunshine rather than snow, it looks appropriately festive. The handsome 18th century lodge house with its stucco walls rather resembles a giant Christmas cake covered with snowy royal icing and is embellished with a holly wreath studded with scarlet berries on the door. Stepping into the hallway, the scent of pine cones and woodsmoke greet the visitor and the light from so many candles forms a soft and welcoming glow. The table is set for a pre-Christmas supper and Steph is tidying up her kitchen as her friends help with the seasonal preparations. “Some of my friends describe this as a bit of a mad house – don’t you?” laughs Steph, with a teasing look directed at her friend Nicky. “There’s always something going on here, because we’re a big family and we love to entertain. And this house just seems made for lots of people and good times.

TEST We put in the island unit, which is great when we’re entertaining because I can carry on with my preparations and cook on the hob here while I chat and then we can all eat at the dining table.

"We put in the island unit, which is great when we’re entertaining because I can carry on with my preparations and cook on the hob here while I chat and then we can all eat at the dining table."

TEST The open-plan kitchen and dining area, complete with open fire

The open-plan kitchen and dining area, complete with open fire

TEST Steph and her friend Nicky have dressed the dining table with cut crystal glasses and cranberry glass goblets

Steph and her friend Nicky have dressed the dining table with cut crystal glasses and cranberry glass goblets

TEST I like to decorate the whole house for Christmas and my friend Nicky here today is a really talented florist and stylist, so she helps me when we have a big party or special occasion.

"I like to decorate the whole house for Christmas and my friend Nicky here today is a really talented florist and stylist, so she helps me when we have a big party or special occasion."

TEST A simple arrangement of winter greenery surrounds a large church candle

A simple arrangement of winter greenery surrounds a large church candle

TEST The Christmas tree has been decorated with purple and gold ornaments

The Christmas tree has been decorated with purple and gold ornaments

TEST Tea lights in clear and amethyst coloured glass are arranged along the mantelpiece, their effect magnified by the large overmantel mirror behind them

Tea lights in clear and amethyst coloured glass are arranged along the mantelpiece, their effect magnified by the large overmantel mirror behind them

TEST In the drawing room a marble fireplace has been adorned with a swag of berried holly, dark evergreen leaves and white stargazer lilies. The Christmas tree has been decorated with purple and gold ornaments

In the drawing room a marble fireplace has been adorned with a swag of berried holly, dark evergreen leaves and white stargazer lilies

TEST The snug is painted a rich, dark and opulent aubergine. Stockings hang neatly above the open fire, whilst a gilt-edged mirror above reflects the candlelight around the room. A chandelier from Mister Smith Interiors hangs from the centre of the ceiling

The snug is painted a rich, dark and opulent aubergine. Stockings hang neatly above the open fire, whilst a gilt-edged mirror above reflects the candlelight around the room. A chandelier from Mister Smith Interiors hangs from the centre of the ceiling

TEST The master bedroom dressing area has been decorated in a gloriously exuberant Designer’s Guild floral paper. A door to one side leads into a wet room, where a window seat is upholstered in a duck egg blue GP & J Baker print, above which sit Chinese vases

The master bedroom dressing area has been decorated in a gloriously exuberant Designer’s Guild floral paper

TEST A door to one side leads into a wet room, where a window seat is upholstered in a duck egg blue GP & J Baker print, above which sit Chinese vases

A door to one side leads into a wet room, where a window seat is upholstered in a duck egg blue GP & J Baker print, above which sit Chinese vases

TEST A glamorous mirrored dressing table provides the focal point of Steph’s dressing area

A glamorous mirrored dressing table provides the focal point of Steph’s dressing area

TEST Son Charlie’s room features a brass and iron bed dressed with piqué white cotton and a plaid woollen throw

Son Charlie’s room features a brass and iron bed dressed with piqué white cotton and a plaid woollen throw

TEST The master bedroom

The master bedroom

TEST Younger daughter, Emily’s room has been papered in Osborne & Little’s ‘Walk in the Park’ flock wallpaper

Younger daughter, Emily’s room has been papered in Osborne & Little’s ‘Walk in the Park’ flock wallpaper

TEST Layla’s nursery

Layla’s nursery

TEST Daughter Laura’s room

Daughter Laura’s room

TEST A freshly-made wreath studded with jewel-red berries greets visitors to the front door

A freshly-made wreath studded with jewel-red berries greets visitors to the front door

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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